Garden Spot made its way to the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game, bringing its 16-6 record to War Memorial Stadium to face Lancaster Catholic on Thursday evening. The Crusaders were coming into the league championship game after crushing Elizabethtown 11-1 in the semifinals on Tuesday.
And the LC bats kept their momentum going in an 11-3 defeat of Garden Spot, raising the league trophy for the first time since 2013.
The Crusaders led 4-0 after three complete but the Spartans closed the gap to one with a three run rally in the top of the fourth. That, however, did not last as Catholic responded with a five spot in the bottom half to take control. They scored again in the sixth but only out hit the Spartan 8-7 on the night. Garden Spot committed two errors and gave up five walks while only striking out five in the loss.
Garden Spot had taken an impressive path getting to the league title game.
The keys to winning baseball games are to get timely hits, play solid defense and to have your pitchers in command of their game. These factors were all working for Garden Spot in the first two playoff games, beginning with Monday's game against Lampeter-Strasburg, which was also at War Memorial Field.
Jordan Petersheim scattered seven singles and allowed only one walk as Garden Spot won the quarterfinal game 6-2.
What was immeasurably important was that Petersheim kept his team in the game. The Pioneers plated one run in the top of the first inning and another in the fifth. The Spartans trailed 2-0 heading into the home half of the sixth inning where they hit their stride offensively and avoided bowing out of the league championship quest.
Dylan Crossan drove in three runs with a bases-clearing double. It was his second hit of the day. He also scored one run.
Brock Kauffman also doubled and came around to score. The Spartans also got one hit each from Aiden Bracken (1 RBI), Kyle Martin, Freddy Santos, and Zach Skinner (1 RBI).
Ryan Smith was the winning pitcher in the Spartans semifinal game the following night. He went six shutout innings and allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out four in a 5-0 victory over Penn Manor at War Memorial Field.
On offense, Smith was on base all four times with three walks and a hit. He helped his own cause with a two-run single in the top of the sixth inning - part of a three-run rally. The Spartans went up 1-0 in the first and kept the lead until the three spot.
Kauffman, who came on to pitch the final frame and strike out two Comets, went 4-for-4 with a run and an RBI. All of Garden Spot's hits were singles, including the two by Martin, who also knocked in two runs, and the two by Bracken, who scored a run. Crossan and Skinner each singled and scored a run.
The only offensive highlight for Penn Manor was Dylan Frey, who went 2-for-3 with a double.
The victory was the Spartans' 10th in their last 12 league games.
Next up is a road game at Lower Dauphin High School as the District Three Class 5A playoffs get underway. The sixth-seeded Falcons are 17-5 overall hosting number 11 seed Garden Spot (16-7 overall).
The Spartans suffered a first-round loss in the L-L League playoffs. Though Monday's 17-2 defeat at the hands of Section Three champ Donegal may have seemed.., well, defeating, the Spartans wiped the dust off their uniforms and are looking forward to the District Three Class 5A playoffs.
"We are ranked 12th and we will play the fifth-seeded team - Spring Grove," head coach Kim King noted. "We never went lower than 13th all year. It was nice to qualify for districts and I'm happy with our seeding."
As for the Donegal game itself, the Indians improved their record to 19-3 overall with the win. The game was played at Warwick and saw Garden Spot score a run in the top of the first.
"We came out hitting early in the first inning," King recalled. "After they started hitting the ball and we made a couple of errors. We just got down on ourselves.
"They're probably the best hitting team we've seen all year," King added.
The Spartans knew that it was going to be a hard battle facing the perennial Section Three champs.
"I think Donegal and Lampeter-Strasburg really fought it out for the section in years past," King pointed out. "But they beat L-S 10-2 before they played us."
Indeed that 10-2 victory was a tiebreaker for the Section Three crown, which went to Donegal.
"We knew going in that we were going to see a very good team," said King. "It wasn't our best game of the year."
The Spartans offense did get a boost from Elizabeth King, who went 2-for-2 with a run batted in. Desiree High stroked a double. Brandi Clark, Abby Foor and Sydney Nichols each singled.
"We took a couple of days off," said King. "I told the girls to rest up and refuel. We made league playoffs, which was one of our main goals.
"It's very tough to make leagues," she added. "We'll scrimmage Northern Lebanon before districts."