New Oxford coach Scott Anderson was not going to dwell on his squad’s disappointing late-inning loss Saturday at the American Legion Region 4 Tournament.
Instead, the New Oxford skipper was about looking forward with a simple mantra—let’s make it to Monday and see what happens.
Anderson’s club went out Sunday and earned themselves that chance, riding a five-run second inning and a complete-game outing from Aaron Smith to claim an 8-6 victory over Red Lion. The win pushed the Ox into the tournament’s final four and returned the optimism that a title-game berth was within grasp. [TK MONDAY SCHEDULE] “The bottom line is, Aaron Smith came up big,” Anderson said. “He’s a guy who’s thrown an inning here, an inning there. We’ve put him in spots where he can get us three outs, get us five outs. But he’s never extended like this.”
The lefty took the ball in a must-win spot, and with little bullpen help on the horizon should trouble arise. He responded by working with a quick pace and consistently hitting the strike zone with both his fastball and his off-speed pitches. He allowed three runs through the first six innings, just one of them earned.
“I’ve always been a pitcher that tries to work fast,” Smith said. “I think it keeps the defense in it more and keeps it lively. I think it can also mess up timing for the batters, maybe get them behind or to roll one over. My catcher (Coy Baker) and I definitely clicked pretty quickly today. I trusted him and I knew what (sign) he was going to put down before he even threw it.”
A pair of early New Oxford errors led to Red Lion runs in both the first and the second innings, putting the Ox in a 2-0 hole. But the fielding bug also bit Red Lion in the bottom of the second, and New Oxford took full advantage. The Ox’s first three batters reached via error-hit batsman-error, and it jump-started a five-run frame that allowed New Oxford to go ahead for good.
The first run came home on the latter of Red Lion’s errors, and then Smith looped a single to left for an RBI. Run-scoring groundouts by Jacob Little and Jason Stewart followed, and Mason Weaver capped the frame by bombing an RBI double to Memorial Park’s spacious centerfield.
New Oxford made it 6-2 in the third when Adam Pascoe led off with a walk and later scored on Smith’s groundout. Red Lion got one back in the fifth on Ryan Stabley’s RBI double, but the Ox pushed it to 8-3 in the sixth on Weaver’s RBI triple to the rightfield wall and Coy Baker’s RBI single.
Then, though, as with the Ox’s prior Region 4 outings, the seventh was white-knuckle time. Red Lion’s Sam Koons led off with a single. A defensive miscommunication allowed another runner. Then a one-out walk loaded the bases. Stabley’s sac fly cut the lead to 8-4, and Shane Guise’s single brought home a pair to make it 8-6. Smith had the answer, though, getting a flyout to left to end it.
“I just kept trusting my stuff, kept pounding the zone,” Smith said. “I knew the defense was going to come up clutch for me. They just had to get settled in after those first two innings. We had a couple of errors early but after that we were solid. I got a little nervous in the end there, but I just kept trusting my stuff. I knew they couldn’t keep hitting gaps every time.”
Upper Dauphin 3,
New Oxford 2
New Oxford had been knocked into the elimination bracket Saturday when Upper Dauphin scored a pair of runs in the seventh inning to take a 3-2 victory.
Ox starter Jesse Bitzer was on the verge of turning in a strong complete-game effort on a brutally hot and humid day when defensive snafus gave life to UDA. A missed infield pop-up with one out, two wild pitches, and two errors produced the runs, with the winning tally coming home via the second of the errors.
“The most frustrating thing is, that’s not who we are,” Anderson said. “When we have a chance to win, we usually win. Unfortunately, I feel bad for the guy who was out there in 100 degrees who threw his rear end off. You’re not going to get a better effort. I don’t know how he could have pitched better.”
UDA had scored an unearned run in the sixth to take a 1-0 lead, but New Oxford rallied in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs to go ahead. Smith singled with one out and later scored on Luke Rickrode’s sac fly, and Joe Fuhrman followed with an RBI single that put New Oxford ahead.
Bitzer allowed four hits and no earned runs in his seven innings. UDA starter Tate Etzweiler was dealing as well, allowing four hits and striking out six while allowing one earned run.
American Legion Region 4 Tournament
Memorial Park, Mechanicsburg
New Oxford 8, Red Lion 6
Red Lion 110 010 3 — 6
New Oxford 051 002 x — 8
Ryan Stabley and Sam Koons. Aaron Smith and Coy Baker. WP: Smith. LP: Stabley. SO-BB: Stabley 1-3. Smith 1-1. 2B: Red Lion, Stabley; New Oxford, Mason Weaver. 3B: New Oxford, Weaver.
Upper Dauphin 3, New Oxford 2
Upper Dauphin 000 001 2 — 3 3 0
New Oxford 000 002 0 — 2 4 3
Tate Etzweiler and Brock Troutman. Jesse Bitzer and Grant Jacoby. WP: Etzweiler. LP: Bitzer. SO-BB: Etzweiler 6-3, Bitzer 3-3.