Barton gem lifts Hornets
EPHRATA – The last time Konner Barton had faced Lancaster County Christian slugger Josh Burbaker, Brubaker fouled off five two-strike pitches, then deposited one into the stands in left field.
Nursing a one-run lead with two outs and none on, no one would have blamed Barton, who was already around 100 pitches, if he was careful or even decided to just put Brubaker on.
Barton, though, wasn’t having it that way.
“We wanted to go after him,” Barton said. “No, we didn’t want to walk him.”
Juniata Valley’s bulldog junior right-hander didn’t give in and struck Brubaker out to end the inning, then went on to finish it out as the Green Hornets made their first-ever PIAA baseball playoff appearance one to remember by stunning the District 3 Class A champion, 2-1, on Monday at Ephrata War Memorial Field.
“It feels good. It’s pretty awesome, actually,” Valley senior outfielder Jesse Claar said.
It was Claar’s two-out liner to left in the sixth scored Barton with what proved to be the winning run. Before that inning, the Green Hornets only had two hits off Lancaster Christian starter Jensen King, but they strung together three in that inning – Barton drove in Zack Faubert, who drew a leadoff walk, with a single after Bryce Hensor reached on an infield hit.
Hensor was called out on a close play at third for the second out of the inning before Claar came through.
“It was a matter of time,” Claar said. “It just took a while to start.”
The timely hitting made sure Barton’s terrific pitching wasn’t wasted. Barton threw 118 pitches, and the only hit he allowed was Brubaker’s home run – his eighth homer of the season. He struck out 10 and walked two as Valley earned a trip to the state semifinals, where it will take on District 11 champ Schuylkill Haven on Thursday at a site to be announced.
“Great pitching effort. Great pitching effort by him,” Juniata Valley coach Bill Peters said after the Hornets improved to 17-4. “He emptied his gas tank.”
The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Barton struck out Lancaster Christian No. 3 hitter Josh Mayer on seven pitches after falling behind in the count 3-1 to start the bottom of the seventh. King, though, reached on an infield error, and second baseman Kordell Collins just recovered from another bobble to get Blake Petersheim at first, putting the potential tying run in scoring position.
Barton, though, threw all strikes to Cory Eavenson, eventually striking him out on the fourth pitch. He said the performance ranked only behind the no-hitter he tossed in the first round of districts against Conemaugh Valley.
“I felt pretty good [coming out for the seventh inning] because I had the runs behind me, and the defense,” Barton said, “but I was running out of gas.”
Claar never doubted his pitcher.
“He always goes seven innings. He just goes forever,” Claar said.
Claar helped Barton out in the sixth when he dove forward to snare Chandler Petersheim’s one-out looper. Had it fallen, Barton would have had to face Brubaker with a man on first.
Barton struck out Brubaker in the first inning on a curveball, but Brubaker bounced back in the fourth when he fouled off five two-strike pitches – including a couple deep to left – before he deposited one that Faubert could only watch go over the fence with one out.
Barton met with his pitching coach and teammates on the mound before facing Brubaker again in the sixth. The decision was to pitch everything outside, although Barton’s second pitch was a fastball almost right down the middle for a strike.
“My curveball’s not my strongest pitch,” Barton said, “but I struck him out [with it] the first at-bat.”
It was a resilient effort for the Hornets, who had lost a tough one to Bishop McCort in the District 6 finals. That, however, might have planted the seeds to Monday’s upset, Barton said.
“We took it more as confidence than in a negative way,” Barton said. “They were the No. 1 team in the state at one point, and we played them tough. If it hadn’t have been for one error.”
King showed a lot of movement on his pitches and struck out six before giving way to Lions ace Kyle Ebersole with two outs in the sixth. Lancaster Christian finished 15-2 after winning its second consecutive District 3 championship.
“They did what they had to do, and they came through on top,” Lancaster Christian coach Ron Brubaker said.
JUNIATA VALLEY (2): Collins 2b 300, Hensor ss 301, Barton p 211, Claar rf 301, Taylor cf 300, Singer c 300, Beam 3b 302, Leydig 1b 000, Gildea dh 300, Faubert lf 110. Totals 24-2-5.
LANCASTER COUNTY CHRISTIAN (1): C. Petersheim cf 300, Brubaker ss 311, Mayer 3b 300, King p-2b 200, B. Petersheim c 200, Eavenson 2b-1b 300, Dixon rf 200, Ebersole 1b-p 200, Blevins lf 000, Glessner dh 200. Totals – 22-1-1.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Juniata Valley000 002 0 – 2 5 1
Lancaster Christian000 100 0 – 1 1 2
E-Ebersole, Eavenson, Collins. LOB-Juniata Valley 3, Lancaster County Christian 2. HR-Brubaker. RBI-Brubaker, Barton, Claar. SB-Barton. CS-King, Beam. PO-Beam.
Barton (WP)7 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 10 SO
Lancaster County Christian
King (LP)5 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 SO
Ebersole1IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, BB, 2 SO
Records: Juniata Valley (17-4); Lancaster County Christian (15-2).
Umpires: Bill Meyers, plate; Joe Havanas, first; Doug Wagner, second; Mike Lauer, third.