Prep Baseball Report

Game Recap: Mid Penn Doubleheader

By Mark Chimel
PA Regional Scout

Nathan Ocker  Zack SimsTy FriedrichMichael Geesaman
      Nathan Ocker                  Zack Sims                   Ty Friedrich             Michael Geesaman         

The Mid Penn Keystone schedule allowed for a full doubleheader of coverage with Bishop McDevitt playing at first place Lower Dauphin and Middletown playing at Hershey in a game under the lights. The second game of the evening would feature a pitching match up of two Division I signees, but it was an unsigned senior that had the best pitching performance of the day.

Bishop McDevitt at Lower Dauphin

Lower Dauphin pitcher Cole Backenstose took a no-hitter into the seventh inning with two outs before surrendering a single. Backenstose still finished with a one hit shutout and Lower Dauphin won 7-0.

After a four pitch first inning by Backenstose, Lower Dauphin got on the board early with three runs in the bottom of the first. Timmy Townsend, Michael GeesamanBlair Lewis, Ty Friedrich and Adam Domovich collected hits in the inning with Geesaman, Friedrich, and Domovich driving in the runs. 

After the first, the bats went quiet for both sides with neither team posing a threat until the bottom of the fifth. The top of the order again got things started for Lower Dauphin, setting the table for the clean up hitter, Friedrich, to collect two more RBIs on a single to left. Lower Dauphin then scored their sixth run of the game on a balk before Domovich completed the scoring in the inning with an RBI double. McDevitt reliever Joe Pensiero then shut the door on the inning with two strikeouts before completing a 1-2-3 sixth. 

After receiving the extra run support in the fifth, Backenstose shut McDevitt down in order in the sixth and gave himself the chance to complete his no-hit bid in the seventh. Backenstose got the first hitter of the inning to pop up to the shortstop before walking the next batter. The senior bounced right back from the free pass with another infield pop up bringing him one out away from a no-hitter. McDevitt elected to bring pinch hitter Joe Leibig to the plate who promptly collected the Crusaders' first hit of the day with a ground ball through the right side. Backenstose responded to this first hit by inducing a ground ball out to end the contest.

Backenstose finished with a one hit shutout while allowing only one walk and striking out two. A solid Lower Dauphin defense aided his effort with several nice plays. The Falcon offense was led by Friedrich as the Maryland commit finished 3-for-3 with three RBI. Geesaman and Domovich also added two hits a piece while adding one and two RBI respectively.

* For measurables and scouting notes on top prospects check today's Pennsylvania Scout Blog.

Middletown at Hershey

In the nightcap, the match-up of College of Charleston signee Nathan Ocker and UNC-Charlotte signee Gavin Hellman promised to be a classic pitcher's duel. However, the two bullpens ultimately decided the game with Hershey winning on an eighth inning walk-off single by Blake Smith, who also collected the win in relief. 

Hellman came out sharp retiring the Middletown lineup in order while collecting two strikeouts and topping out at 86 mph on his fastball. Ocker, fresh off a no-hitter in his last start, put the possibility of a repeat performance out of the question right from the start as the first three Hershey hitters collected singles. However, with the bases loaded Ocker bared down and retired the next three hitters aided by a diving catch of a line drive from Zack Sims.

After Hellman recorded another 1-2-3 frame, the Trojan line up again put the pressure on Ocker, this time pushing across a run with two outs on lead-off hitter Ryan Sullivan's second hit of the contest. After getting Hellman to ground out to end the 2nd, Ocker would feed the Trojans a steady diet of tight breaking balls and not allow another earned run in the contest.

Ocker then helped his own cause in the fourth inning with an RBI double to even the score. The tie would not last long, however, as Hershey scored on an error in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead. This lead would hold for a full inning as the promised pitcher's duel materialized.

With a noticeably tiring Hellman taking the mound for the top of the sixth, Sims set the table to tie the score with a double to right field. He then moved to third before eventually scoring the tying run on a wild pitch from Hellman. With two outs in the inning, Hellman was lifted for Smith who got the Trojans out of the jam.

Ocker's last inning of the day would be the bottom of the sixth and it may have been his sharpest. The Middletown ace recorded two strikeouts in the inning against the top of the Trojan order, one looking on a knee-buckling curve and the other on an 87 mph heater on his final pitch of the game. 

This set Middletown up to take the lead in the top half of the seventh. Smith loaded the bases for Brandon Harper who collected an unconventional go ahead RBI via hit by pitch. Smith would eventually get out of the inning while only giving up the one run, but the Blue Raiders headed to the bottom of the seventh with a 3-2 lead.

After catching for the previous six innings, Ethan Kell was called on to close out the game for Middletown. The Penn State Harrisburg commit came in firing heat that topped out at 84 mph, but struggled with command and ended up giving up the tying run on two consecutive hit batters with two outs in the inning. Kell was able to get out of the inning on a ground ball to the shortstop as the game went into extras. 

A scoreless top of the eighth by Smith set the stage for his final heroics. Facing Middletown reliever and York College commit, Jordan Flowers, the junior singled in Hellman to give Hershey the 4-3 walk-off win. 

The two Division I bound pitchers were as advertised with Ocker going six innings and striking out nine while allowing only five hits and one earned run. Hellman was equally impressive pitching 5 2/3 innings, striking out four and giving up no earned runs on just two hits. It was Smith, however, getting the win for Hershey and Flowers taking the loss for Middletown.

Hershey's offense was paced by Michael Basti and Ryan Sullivan who had two hits each. Sims, a Shippensburg signee, had two hits for Middletown in the losing effort. 

Lower Dauphin will take on Hershey on Friday in another game under the lights at Hershey. Meanwhile, Bishop McDevitt and Middletown will continue their Mid-Penn Keystone schedules on Friday against Susquehanna Township and Central Dauphin East respectively.

* For measurables and scouting notes on top prospects check today's Pennsylvania Scout Blog.

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