Ever since Hanover lost to Cashtown in five games in the South Penn League championship series a year ago, the Raiders’ driving force has been to get another crack at taking home a title.
They’ll have their chance now that they’ve vanquished New Oxford in four games in the semifinals, winning the Game 4 clincher, 6-4, Sunday afternoon at Diller Field in Hanover.
It will be Hanover’s fifth consecutive trip to the championship series and they’ve lost the previous four; the first two to New Oxford and the last two to Cashtown.
The two-time defending champion Pirates stand between the Raiders and their first league title since 2004. That championship ended a run of three South Penn crowns in the span of four years for Hanover.
Cashtown punched its ticket by knocking out Biglerville in the other semifinal series in four games, holding of Biglerville 6-5 on Sunday.
Game 1 of the best-of-five championship series is slated for Thursday at Cashtown at 6 p.m
“Cashtown is the giant in the league right now and we respect them tremendously,” Hanover manager Mark Lomenzo said. “Beating them would be very satisfying, but it’ll be really tough and we’ll have to play very well to have a chance to do it.”
Lomenzo wasn’t sure who was going to take the ball for him when his planned starter, Beau Deatrick, notified the skipper on Saturday night that he was sick and wouldn’t be available to pitch.
Enter Andrew Burke, the Raiders’ top pitcher since joining the team in 2017. Burke hadn’t pitched in over a month due to a knee injury, but he volunteered to give it a go on Sunday.
“I didn’t even consider using Andrew, not with the injury,” Lomenzo said. “He felt like he’d be letting his teammates down if he didn’t try to pitch, so he offered to pitch.”
Burke gave the Raiders five innings of work and allowed three earned runs and eight hits with four strikeouts and four walks. He threw 101 pitches, 57 of them for strikes.
“Andrew wasn’t at his best, but he gave us all he had,” Lomenzo said. “Fortunately, our bats came through enough for us.”
Hanover (23-11-1) trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth when New Oxford lifted starter Alex Emlet in favor of Danny Shafer.
Shafer retired two of the first three hitters in the inning, but ran into trouble when he walked Kenny Horney with two down.
Jon Karlheim followed with an RBI single that plated Rick Estes before Austin Kibler worked a walk to bring up Pat Brady.
Brady then rapped a two-bagger that scored Horney and Karlheim to push the hosts in front for the first time in the contest, 5-4.
“They were coming through the middle of their order for a third time,” New Oxford manager Scott Meckley said of pulling Emlet. “His pitch count was getting a little up and he hasn’t thrown a lot of innings for us this season.”
Emlet allowed two runs and eight hits with two strikeouts and one walk. He threw 69 pitches before exiting.
“I wasn’t surprised by the move they made,” Lomenzo said. “We’ve had trouble hitting Shafer in the past, so I can see why they made the move that they made.”
Brady relieved Burke to begin the sixth and retired in the Twins in order, then took the mound in the seventh with a 6-4 lead.
New Oxford (23-9-2) received a double from Mitch Collins to begin the seventh and had the tying run at the plate, but Brady retired the next three hitters to slam the door and earn the save.
“Our bats were quiet this whole series and we picked a bad time to stop getting key hits,” Meckley said. “We’d done well all year with getting key hits, so it was surprising that we weren’t able to do that in this series.”
Hanover’s 13-hit attack was paced by two knocks apiece from Kibler, Brady, Karlheim, Clint Roche and Mark Phillips. Meanwhile, the Twins received two hits each from Collins and Kevin McManama.
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas
New Oxford 002 110 0 — 4 9 1
Hanover 001 131 x — 6 13 2
Alex Emlet, Danny Shafer (5), Jeff Deveney (6) and Austin Roth; Andrew Burke, Pat Brady (6) and Kenny Horney. WP: Burke. LP: Shafer. SO-BB: Emlet 2-1, Shafer 0-2, Deveney 0-0; Burke 4-4, Brady 1-0. 2B: NO-Mitch Collins, Shafer; H-Brady.