Solanco baseball set up Wednesday's showdown with Ephrata by edging Conestoga Valley 6-4 Monday afternoon, April 29.
The visiting Buckskins threatened in both the sixth and seventh innings, but Mules pitchers Haydn Fox and Cory Stively were able to minimize the damage with help from the defense.
Trailing 5-2 in the sixth, CV got a run on a single off the second base bag. Fox struck out the next batter before shortstop Sam Buckwalter dropped to a knee to field a sharply hit grounder and started a 6-4-3 double play.
"Huge," Fox said of the twin-killing. "Who knows what could've happened after that."
Solanco tacked on an insurance run in the home half of the sixth to make it 6-3. Dawson Kreider doubled down the right field line with one out. After the second out of the inning, Tim Fetterman delivered an RBI single through the hole.
Fox retired the first hitter in the top of the seventh before walking two sandwiched around a hit batsman. Fox hit his pitch count limit and Stively entered the game. Stively fanned the first batter he faced before yielding an RBI single. He ended the game by getting the next hitter on a fly ball to the right fielder Fetterman.
CV capitalized on two Mules miscues to tally twice in the top of the first.
Solanco responded with three runs in the home half to take the lead for good. Kreider and Seth Harnish each walked and Fetterman singled to center to load the bases. Mike May followed with a two-run single to center to tie the game. Joel McGuire knocked in the go-ahead run with an infield single on a smash which could not be fielded cleanly by the CV second baseman.
"That makes it a whole different ballgame," Fox said. "It's like a 1-0 game. That's the mentality you got to think about."
Solanco added two more in the second. Kreider walked again, moved to second on a one-out wild pitch, and scored on May's clutch two-out single through the hole. After McGuire walked, John Murray supplied an RBI single to left-center. McGuire was cut down at the plate but the Mules led 5-2.
"Our defense wasn't real sharp behind Haydn early," Solanco coach Tom Fish said. "We made a couple nice plays late, which helped us big time. That double play was a huge play. Little sloppy early which led to them being in the ballgame. I did like how we scored three runs right off the bat, answering their two."
After allowing the two unearned runs in the first, Fox retired 12 of the next 13 hitters he faced. The only baserunner reached on an error and was promptly erased on a 5-4-3 double play.
"It was just a matter of getting out of that inning," Fox said. "After that, I started rolling. You've just got to put that stuff behind you."
Solanco hosts Ephrata Wednesday in a game with with league playoff implications and then travels to section leader Lampeter-Strasburg for a Friday night game.
"We're going to have to sharpen up defensively if we're going to have a good rest of the week," Fish said. "We'll be ok. These guys have played good defense for three years."