LEMONT - In a five-game series, the lower seed is forced to win on the opposing team's home turf. And for Lewistown, that task just got a lot tougher.
In Game 3 of the best-of-five series in the Centre County League playoffs, the Predators, coming off an 8-4 win over Lemont Sunday in Lewistown, couldn't keep that momentum going as a handful of errors and nine men left on base resulted in a 9-5 loss to the Ducks.
Lemont now holds a 2-1 lead in the series. The first elimination game will be at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Lewistown.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
A ball rolls by Lewistown’s Ryan Keefer at third base, left, allowing Lemont runner Ben Sallade to reach base in the first inning. Sallade did not score in that inning, though.
"That's what happens when you're the lower seed," Lewistown player/manager Abner Druckenmiller said. "You have to win on their turf. It's baseball. We beat them here before and we can do it again."
Indian Valley graduate Cody Heane took the loss for the Predators. He went the distance. Lemont's Seth Whitehill took the win in seven innings of work.
Lemont used an 11-hit attack to victimize Lewistown. The Ducks didn't have more than three runs in any inning, but were able to score at least two in four of those innings.
But it was Lewistown that had the upper hand from the get-go.
Tanner Kibe delivered a two-run double in the first that plated Jay Hartman and Ryan Keefer. Hartman reached on a walk and Keefer singled in his first at-bat.
Just like that, the game got back to an all-square situation in the third game of the series.
Heane struggled early. A leadoff single by Nick Corothers was followed by Kyle Wright's run-scoring triple to left. That wasn't all the damage Lewistown suffered in the first. Wright scored on an error by Kibe, the shortstop.
Whitehill and Heane seemed to settle down over the next couple frames. Combined, they face seven batters in the second before the runs started again. A three-run third, which included a sacrifice bunt by Mount Union grad Johnny Martinez, propelled the Ducks to the lead.
Lewistown chased two more runs across in the fifth inning with another two-run single. This time it was Jay Hartman's hit to left that plated Andy Georgeson and Jonathan Worley.
"We started off early hitting the ball well," Druckenmiller said. "It seemed like he was able to keep us off balance late in the game."
And that's exactly what Whitehill did. In the final three innings, he gave up just three hits and only a single run.
But Heane and the Predators couldn't seem to stop the Duck offense. Two more runs in the fourth and another pair in the fifth blasted open the game and did Lewistown in.
Keefer finished the game with a pair of singles and Hartman had a pair of hits as well. Kevin Reigle's seventh-inning double was the only extra-base hit the Predators mustered up in the loss.
"We have to come together and play no matter who's here," Druckenmiller said. "We're going to come back Thursday with an upbeat attitude and we're going to go right at them."
But for Druckenmiller and the Predators, this might be familiar territory. Over the past three seasons, Lewistown has forced a Game 5 in each. This series has a chance to be no different. With Game 4 coming Thursday in Lewistown, the Predators are certainly still alive.
"We've been down before," he said. "We know what it takes to come back and win and force that Game 5."