SELINSGROVE — When the Warrior Run Major Division All-Star baseball team set out on its current journey in the beginning of June, the squad was looking to make a little history by simply capturing its first District 13 title.
However, Warrior Run was hungry for more than just a district title.
A season for the ages continues for Warrior Run as the squad hit three home runs in the game to defeat Orwigsburg, 9-5, and claim the PA Section 3 Tournament Wednesday at East Snyder Park’s DeWire Field.
“I’m just so proud of every kid. It’s been an unbelievable journey. We set out to make history just by winning the first district title,” said Warrior Run manager Derrick Zechman. “After districts we reset our goals and thought, ‘Hey, if we play our game we should be in the thick of things.’ Then playing one game at a time we ended up in a good spot, and the kids started believing and having confidence (in themselves).
“It’s is a big, big win. This is big for our Little League, it’s big for our program, but bigger for the kids, and it’s awesome to see the support we have from the community. It’s great, and I just don’t want it to end,” added Warrior Run’s manager.
Now it’s on to the PA State Tournament in Camp Hill for Warrior Run, and the team will face Section 4 champ East Pennsboro (out of District 6) at 7 p.m. in the fourth and final game of Sunday’s opening day.
“We started this journey at the beginning of June, and we’re still playing and it’s July 17,” said Zechman. “So, we’re going to enjoy (the Section 3 championship) for a day or two, we’re going to reset and we’re looking forward to heading to Camp Hill.”
Wednesday’s matchup was a complete 360 from Tuesday’s contest where Warrior Run couldn’t match the intensity and the desire to win that Orwigsburg had.
Warrior Run certainly got off on the right foot when Brayden Gower hit a two-out, two-run home run over the center field wall to stake his team out to an early lead.
“I didn’t know the ball was going to be going over (the fence), but it went over and it got our team excited after that,” said Gower. “It felt really good (to give us a spark), because after that we were all pumped up and ready to go.”
An error and two bases loaded walks put Orwigsburg in front 3-2 in the bottom of the first, but the lead didn’t last long for the District 24 champs as Warrior Run answered right back — with another home run.
Chase Knarr, who singled and scored on Gower’s homer, did the honors this time around as his three-run blast cleared the left field fence to put Warrior Run back in front, 5-3. Gabe Engel walked and Ulrich doubled — both doing so with outs — to set the stage for Knarr.
“It feels good (to be Section 3 champs). I had to step up and pitch, and I also hit that home run,” said Knarr, who struck out eight and gave up four runs off four hits in his four innings of work before giving way to Ulrich in the fifth.
“We had a lot of energy, and three of us stepped up today (with home runs). We have to have the bats rolling. We didn’t have many pitchers left, and I just had to step up there (in the second inning) — and I did.”
Orwigsburg got a run back in the second on an RBI double by Ty Kaunas before the team tied the game at 5-all in the fifth by plating another unearned run.
Ulrich changed all of that in a hurry. With one swing of the bat he hit a solo homer in the top of the sixth to give Warrior Run a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I was just looking to get a base hit and give us a baserunner. If you have baserunners then you’re looking to score runs, so I was just looking to get on base and have a good game,” said Ulrich.
“It’s feels great (to be Section 3 champs). Not many people get this opportunity, and we were lucky and we pulled it off. It’s never been done before (by a team from Warrior Run), so it feels really good.”
“We stress on moving the ball and choking up with two strikes, but we got some serious power tonight with three home runs and that’s huge,” said Zechman. “Anytime you can hit a ball over the fence (is big), and some different guys stepping up and doing that (was also big). Those home runs were momentum shifts.
“On Tuesday when we played the ball wasn’t carrying and the humidity was knocking the balls down. But give credit to our kids for (putting the barrel of the bat on the ball) and hitting it over the fence,” added Zechman.
Following Ulrich’s homer, Landon Polcyn hit a two-run single and another run came home on a fielder’s choice to give Warrior Run an insurmountable 9-5 lead.
Ulrich then closed it out with a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth that included a game-ending 1-5 double play to send Warrior Run into its first state tournament.
“You can’t ask for a better ending. I didn’t think we even had a chance — I was just worried about getting outs. We got the out at first and then Polcyn threw a seed and Gower was there, he made a perfect tag and it ends the game. It was a close play and an unbelievable way to end it,” said Zechman. “Ulrich entered in a pressure situation — he hasn’t thrown in the tournament and it’s been weeks since he’s even thrown at all — when Orwigsburg had the meat of their order up. Then not only (did he pitch his way out of it), he hit a home run in the top of the sixth to give us the lead. It was unbelievable.”
“Today is a total 360 from where we were (Tuesday). We challenged the kids. We thought Orwigsburg wanted (Tuesday’s game) more, and our kids proved they wanted (Wednesday’s game) more. It was a gutsy performance and who would’ve thought (we’d be here),” added Zechman.
But now that Warrior Run has reached the state tournament, Zechman doesn’t want his boys to rest on their laurels.
“Worst case scenario, we don’t want to be satisfied of just being at states,” said Zechman. “Regardless, we’re in the top eight (teams) in the state and it’s a great feeling.”
Section 3 Tournament
at East Snyder Park, Selinsgrove
Warrior Run 9, Orwigsburg 5
Warrior Run 230 004 — 9-11-3
Orwigsburg 310 010 — 5-8-0
Chase Knarr, Tyler Ulrich (5) and Griffin Harrington. Makayla Keck, Drew Seaman (3) and Hunter Blankenhorn.
WP: Ulrich. LP: Seaman.
Warrior Run hitters: Ulrich, 2-for-4, double, HR (6th, solo), 2 runs scored; Knarr, 3-for-3, HR (2nd, 2 on), 3 RBI, 3 runs; Harrington, 3-for-4, run; Brayden Gower, HR (1st, 1 on), 2 walks, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Landon Polcyn, 2-for-4, RBI; Cohen Zechman, 2 walks; Gabe Engel, walk, run.
Orwigsburg hitters: Sam Walborn, 2-for-3, walk, 2 runs scored, RBI; Aidan Grace, single, HBP, run; Ty Kaunas, 2-for-4, double, RBI, run; Ben Kreitzer, single; Ethan Frantz, single; Johnny Fessler, walk, RBI; Seaman, single; Wyatt Barnes, walk, HBP, RBI, run.