SELINSGROVE – Warrior Run’s jaunt through the elimination bracket of the District 13 Little League Major Division Tournament can be attributed to many things.
Strong pitching and defense, plus timely hitting are just a few of them. And then you have the play of Warrior Run substitute player Zamir Keyes.
And when Warrior Run needed a spark to get going in Sunday’s district championship game against Central Columbia, Keyes provided it.
Keyes hit a three run home run in the fourth inning as Warrior Run took a 10-3 victory over Central at East Snyder Park’s DeWire Field.
The win by Warrior Run forces a decisive game 2 against Central at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Warrior Run manager Derrick Zechman, whose team had 14 hits in the game – its best effort of the tournament. “We started a little slow moving the ball, but Keyes coming in off the bench (hitting the home run) was clutch.
“Once that happened the kids seemed to loosen up a little bit – they were a little tense today,” added Warrior Run’s manager.
Facing an undefeated Central team in the district final would make any team tense, but with one swing of the bat Keyes took care of that.
With the game scoreless going into the fourth, Warrior Run put two runners on base in a hurry as Landon Polcyn and Cohen Zechman both singled.
Then with one out Keyes, batting for Gabe Engel in the order, picked up two quick strikes, but he wouldn’t let another one get past him as he pounced on a fastball and drove it over the wall in center to give Warrior Run a 3-0 lead.
“I mean, it felt good. My team needed me,” said Keyes. “I was a little anxious, but I just needed to calm down. I like it when my teammates cheer me on and pick me up – especially when I had two strikes on me.”
“Zamir’s homer was huge. He stepped up in a big way – with two strikes and putting the bat on the ball and moving it, especially coming off the bench cold,” said Zechman. “Actually, Zamir’s been hot. I believe he’s gotten three hits in a row coming in these types of situations. He’s stepping up huge for his team.”
Central got a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Gage Gombert scored on a wild pitch, but Warrior Run began to take control of the game an inning later.
Three more runs came home for Warrior Run in the fifth to result in a 6-1 lead. James Keifer hit an RBI single plus two more runs scored as the result of errors.
Central later halved its deficit to 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth behind a bases-loaded walk by Cole Swisher and a fielder’s choice RBI from Chase Reynolds.
Warrior Run only extended its lead from there as Chase Knarr hit an RBI double in the sixth to precede an RBI single from Griffin Harrington, plus RBI fielder’s choices from Polcyn and Zechman.
Knarr, along with Tyler Ulrich, both batted 3-for-4 to lead Warrior Run on the day.
“We come out here with so much energy. If you go up to the plate and you’re determined in yourself, and if you think you can do it – you can – but if you don’t it’s just not going to happen,” said Knarr. “I was just going up to the plate doing it for the fans. Like, they’re all screaming. If I think I can do it – I can do it.”
Now, Warrior Run and Central will get one more game to decide the champion and the District 13 representative for the upcoming Section 3 Tournament.
“Anything can happen. We played good (Sunday), but Central is a good team and they play great defense and they are well-coached,” said Zechman. “If we continue to hit the ball like we do and get some pitching (we’ll be all right). We got to clean up some errors. We got out of some jams, luckily, that we were fortunate the defense did step up.
“Overall, the kids played well and (Tuesday’s game) should be a good game and hopefully we can find a way to win one more,” added Warrior Run’s manager.
District 13 Little League
At East Snyder Park’s DeWire Field
Warrior Run 10
Central Columbia 3
Warrior Run 000 334 – 10-14-4
Central Col. 000 120 – 3-8-4
Brayden Gower, Chase Knarr (2), Landon Polcyn (4), Gabe Engel (5) and Griffin Harrington, Engel (4), Harrington (5). Parker Day, Janson Sarisky (4), Alex Zeisloft (5) and Sarisky, Evan Brokenshire (4).
WP: Polcyn. LP: Sarisky.
Warrior Run hitters: Tyler Ulrich, 3-for-4, run scored; Knarr, 3-for-4, double, RBI, 2 runs; Harrington, single, walk, RBI, 2 runs; Gower, single, run; Polcyn, single, RBI, run; Cohen Zechman, single, 2 RBI, run; Alec Frey, run; James Keifer, 2-for-3, RBI; Zamir Keyes, HR (4th, 2 on), 3 RBI; Engel, single.
Central Columbia hitters: Aidan Smith, 2-for-3, walk; Day, single; Sarisky, 2 walks; Zeisloft, single, walk, HBP, run; Gage Gombert, 2-for-3, walk, run; Noah Costa, single; Landon Costa, walk; Cole Swisher, single, walk, RBI, run; Chase Reynolds, RBI.