Weekend travel ball commitments had limited Kris Pirozzi to just four innings pitching for SWS.
No. 2 seed Bears Blue found themselves wishing Pirozzi had a prior commitment Wednesday night, too.
Pirozzi took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and the Pioneers (9-6) — the No. 7 seed — upset Blue 2-1 in the first game of an LNP Tournament Midget quarterfinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
For complete coverage of this year's tournament, visit LancasterOnline.com/LNPTournament.
"My command got a little out of hand," Pirozzi said, "but I pitched to contact and my fielders helped me out."
The Pioneers will face the Lancaster Tornados in the nightcap of a semifinal doubleheader Thursday night back at Clipper. Lancaster beat the Ephrata Lions in Wednesday's second game, 8-0. Hempfield Black and the Lititz Oddfellows square off in Thursday's first semifinal, set for 5:15 p.m. The second game will begin 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
"Underdogs. No pressure," Pirozzi said of the Pioneers’ tournament approach. "It's a win-win scenario."
"When he's on the mound, you always have a good shot at winning," SWS coach Scott Eckman said. "One thing I like about him is his composure. You can't tell if he's down by 10 or up by 10."
Throwing mostly fastballs, and dealing with minor command issues —he allowed four walks — Pirozzi had the Bears (11-4) on their heels for most of the night, after a shaky first inning.
"He's the best pitcher we've seen all year," Bears coach Bill Templin observed, "in the school season and now.
"He's lights out. He was, literally, unhittable."
Austin Denlinger — who would break up the no-hitter in the sixth — walked with two out in the first. Nick Kreider reached on an error and Kyle Welch walked, loading the bases.
Pirozzi got losing pitcher Cole Patrick on a grounder to first to end the threat and the Pioneers turned double plays in the second and third innings as Pirozzi retired 14 in a row.
He had to be precise, as scoring opportunities — despite SWS stroking eight hits in the first three innings —were sparse.
Pirozzi doubled leading off the game, coming around to score on a double error (fielding and throwing) by Patrick.
The Pioneers loaded the bases in the second inning on hits from Aaron Snyder and Derek Eckman and Nevin Book's bunt single.
Douglas Schneider's fielder's choice forced Book, but Snyder crossed the plate with what turned out to be the winning run.
Pirozzi got the first two outs of the sixth, but Denlinger ripped the first pitch into left to break the spell.
"He was sitting dead red and I threw him a fastball," Pirozzi said. "No. 3 hitter there, I probably should've started him off with something off-speed. He knew it was coming and put it into play."
Denlinger took third on a throwing error while stealing second and Pirozzi then walked Kreider. But he raced into foul territory — in front of the SWS dugout, to gather in Welch's foul pop.
Regrets over losing the no-hitter?
"No. We got the win and we're playing tomorrow night. We're going for something bigger."
Blue had a chance to go bigger in the seventh as Patrick doubled into the corner in left leading off the seventh.
Pirozzi struck out Michael Baker on his 100th pitch, signaling the end of his evening.
Joshua Howells came on in relief, giving up Anthony Funk's two-out RBI single, but got Cole Livingston on a fielder's choice to finish off the win.
In the nightcap, taking advantage of Lions starter Nate Young's inability to find the plate in the first inning — and the Lions’ inability to field the ball cleanly in the third — Lancaster (12-4) scored twice in the first and five times in the third to blow the game open.
Dylan Esh went the first five innings for Lancaster. The McCaskey junior-to-be allowed just two hits while striking out eight, walking one.
He had Ephrata off balance all night and strung five straight strikeouts looking from the first to third innings.
"Dylan's good at locating, he has movement," Tornado coach Zack Polito said. "He knows what he's good at and he pitches to his strengths."
"I go out there and throw strikes, my defense backs me up and we get hits," Esh said, "and it just rolls."
"This is a big deal for Lancaster baseball," Polito told his team after the game.
And it is. It's the first LNP Tournament (or New Era Tournament, for that matter) win for a city midget team since 2001. Which is all ancient history and has little to do with this bunch. Still.
"We wear that (Lancaster) shirt every year," Zack Polito said. "It's a big deal for the fans, the parents, and even the guys who work with these kids all spring."
Young walked the first two batters he faced — Andrew Stauffer and Mason Lee — then hit Alex Dominguez to load the bases. Esh hit into a double play, scoring Stauffer, and Young could see his way out.
But he walked Alex Polito, then gave up an RBI hit to Aaron Rivera and it was 2-0, Tornados.
"When a couple things go our way, it's easy to keep our heads (up)," Zack Polito said. "We've been working on … how to handle failure."
Meanwhile, issues stalked the Lions, even after Young seemed to have found his groove with a 1-2-3 second inning.
It was a mirage. Dominguez singled leading off the third. Then the wheels fell off. Esh reached on the first of four errors in the inning by the Lions (9-6). When the smoke cleared, it was 7-0 Tornados and Young was gone, relieved by Jacob Zimmerman.
Esh singled leading off the fourth, eventually scoring on a wild pitch — one of three thrown by Zimmerman —to make it 8-0.
Young, with a two-out infield single in the first — and Dylan Embiscuso, with a two-out single in the fourth, had the only hits for the Lions.
Esh walked Blake White in the third — and promptly picked him off — and Dominguez, who pitched the sixth, walked Justin Brubaker, for Ephrata's other baserunner.