Littlestown was not undone Monday by five innings of facing hard-throwing Hamburg ace Hunter Shuey. Nor were the Thunderbolts stopped by a pair of high-traffic opening innings that saw the Hawks grab a quick lead.
Those two things, though, created no room for error for Littlestown. And in the sixth inning, the Thunderbolts finally exceeded the limit.
No. 10 Hamburg received five innings of no-hit ball from Shuey, scored three critical insurance runs in the sixth inning, and held off a late Littlestown comeback bid to claim a 5-3 victory over the No. 7 Thunderbolts in a District 3 Class 4A first-round baseball playoff game at Littlestown Area High School.
The Hawks’ win advances them to Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 2 Eastern York. Their ace, who drew pro scouts to Monday’s game, set them off on the right foot.
“We’ve been preaching all year about getting your foot down, just working on your timing,” Littlestown coach Robert Rohrbaugh said. “We grinded out some at-bats there, but you don’t see too many guys like that in the York-Adams league. We had a chance to win at the end, we just didn’t quite put it together. We had too many defensive miscues there. Hopefully the kids learn from it and come back next year.”
Shuey, who did not allow a ball out of the infield all night, was sharp from the get-go, as he opened with two perfect innings comprising 23 pitches; in the third, an error and two walks loaded the bases for the Bolts but Shuey notched a strikeout to end the frame. On the other side of the ledger Hamburg was filling the basepaths against Littlestown starter Andrew Olvera. Despite the traffic, Olvera limited the damage to a pair of second-inning runs on an RBI groundout by Drew Weidenhammer and an RBI single by Connor Licklider.
Olvera settled in after the rough start, shutting out the Hawks over the next three frames. His sixth inning did not see hard contact, but an error and two bunt base hits loaded the bases for the Hawks and sent Rohrbaugh to the ‘pen for lefty Michael Henrie. Licklider led off against him and delivered the game’s biggest at-bat: a nine-pitch appearance in which Licklider fouled off four two-strike pitches before delivering a two-run single to make it 4-0.
“Our 2-3-4 hitters are sophomores, and for them having to come up after not having baseball last year says a lot about the type of kids they are,” Hamburg coach Nick Evangelista said. “They compete, they believe in each other, and they believe in themselves. He battled there. He had a plan, and whether the plan was right or wrong he was going to stick to it and execute it. And he did.”
Hamburg tacked on one more run on Nate Gilbert’s bunt base hit, the third of the inning for the Hawks and the second in which defensive miscommunication left the base uncovered.
“They got down some bunts and put a little pressure on our defense,” Rohrbaugh said. “We were preaching that there was going to be a lot of small-ball in this game, and we just didn’t rise up to the occasion. They were able to get the hits when they needed the hits, but we still had an opportunity at the end, and that’s all I can ask from my team.”
With the five-run lead and with Shuey maintaining a pitch count that would allow him to return this week, the Hawks went to their bullpen in the sixth. Littlestown’s Braden Unger welcomed reliever Jacob Fegley by lining a single to center, and he would later score on a balk. It was part of a funky three-run inning for the Bolts, who scored runs via balk, wild pitch, and error to pull within 5-3.
Henrie worked a quick seventh to keep Littlestown within two runs, but Fegley rebounded with a sharp 1-2-3 bottom of the inning that stopped the Bolts’ comeback hopes short.
Hamburg 020 003 0 — 5 10 3
Littlestown 000 003 0 — 3 1 3
Hunter Shuey, Jacob Fegley (6) and Nate Gilbert. Andrew Olvera, Michael Henrie (6) and Ryan Jones. WP: Shuey. LP: Olvera. SO-BB: Shuey 8-2, Fegley 3-1, Olvera 8-2, Henrie 5-1.