Warrior Run wins 1st ever Section 3 championship
SELINSGROVE — One swing can change an at-bat. One play can change a game. One team changed history.
The newly crowned Section 3 major division baseball team coached by Derrick Zechman is not only the first team in Warrior Run history to win districts, but it is now the first team to win a sectional title, and it will look to add even more Little League banners to its growing collection next Sunday in the first round of the Pennsylvania state tournament in Camp Hill.
Unbelievable was the only way Zechman could describe what he watched from the dugout in the winner-take-all final with his team gutting out a 9-5 win over Orwigsburg at DeWalt Field at East Snyder Park on Wednesday night.
“I am going to remember this game for the rest of my life,” winning pitcher Chase Knarr said after taking photos with the banner by the scoreboard, cementing his team’s legacy at Warrior Run forever.
This team knows how to win. They were determined to win and they were not going to let the sour taste from Tuesday night’s loss to Orwigsburg define Wednesday’s performance.
Warrior Run was ready for Orwigsburg’s pitching Wednesday, as the offense that was slow on Tuesday was on full power display, connecting for three home runs from Brayden Gower (two-run home run), Knarr (three-run home run) and Tyler Ulrich (solo home run).
The offense got out to a quick 2-0 lead from the bat of cleanup hitter Gower in the first inning. Knarr hit a one-out single, followed by a pop fly from Griffen Harrington, Gower stepped in using a different bat because his go-to failed inspections. That did not matter because Gower powered his first ever home run 210 feet to dead center field. Knarr sent his first ever long ball to left field with Ulrich and Gabe Engel on second and third in the second inning, and Ulrich took a 1-2 count over the left field fence to lead off the sixth inning.
“I saw it going, I didn’t really think it was going out until it did,” Gower said with the ball in his hand, admiring the spot where he hit it.
His home run would put Warrior Run in the lead and got his team ready for the battle.
“That was my first home run ever and that started to boost my confidence in myself and my pitching when we went up 5-3 at that point,” Knarr said.
“When it came off the bat I was too busy watching the ball and missed first base so I had to run back and tag it before I started going around,” Ulrich said of his home run to start the four-run sixth inning that blew out all of the hopes Orwigsburg had of coming back.
Knarr followed Ulrich’s home run with a walk and Harrington smoked a double down the left-field line. Gower drew an intentional walk to load the bases before Landon Polcyn singled to score Knarr and Harrington. Then two fielder choice, ground balls from Cohen Zechman and Cooper Wilkins to the Orwigsburg shortstop scored Gower to make it 9-5.
“We played as a team (Wednesday). Tuesday we all had our heads down and we weren’t ready to play. Wednesday we were all pumped up from the home runs and we were all in as a team and it all went from there,” Ulrich said.
Between Warrior Run’s offensive firepower and the intermittent rain. Knarr pitched a gem in his four innings of work with eight strikeouts and using all 85 pitches effectively to allow four run to a just-as-potent Orwigsburg offense.
“I said (Tuesday) that I was going to pitch like it could be my last Little League game ever. I was myself out on the mound and I was really confident in my pitches, my defense, and everything just worked out,” Knarr said. “I was a little frustrated to begin the game. They were going to make contact but we fielded the ball and made outs. About the third inning after my home run I was able to settle down.”
“Chase had his pitch count up early and settled in nicely and had a solid performance, then Tyler Ulrich comes in a pressure situation, he hasn’t thrown at all in the tournament. It had been weeks since he’s even thrown and to have him in a pressure situation in the middle of their lineup was unbelievable,” Zechman said.
Ulrich was called in to pitch two innings in relief and gave up a run in the fifth with a hard hit Sam Walborn single to center that scored Wyatt Barnes, but that was the only damage Orwigsburg could do against Ulrich, who got Brayden Reilly to ground into a first to third double play to end the game.
Warrior Run pulled the rabbit out of the hat for that final play. Ulrich got the 4-6 hitters out to end it all. Ty Knaus popped out to shortstop. Ben Kritzer had a base hit up the middle. Then Ethan Frantz dribbled a ball down the first base line. Logan Polcyn gloved the ball on the bag and made a snap throw to Gower at third for the double play that made Warrior Run sectional champions.
“I don’t think anyone was ready for that,” Zechman said. “I was already focusing on the next batter and getting the next out at the plate and then Polcyn threw a seed right to Gower to put on the quick tag. It was just unbelievable.”
“Who would have ever thought this would happen to Warrior Run. Our goal was to be the first team to win districts. That happened. Then we reset at sectionals and here we are as sectional champs,” Zechman said. “It was a gutsy performance and I am so proud of the way these kids battled through it all and what they have accomplished.”
Warrior Run 9,
(SECTION 3 MAJOR BASEBALL FINAL)
Warrior Run 23 004 — 9 11 1
Orwigsburg 310 010 – 5 8 0
Chase Knarr, Tyler Ulrich (5) and Griffen Harrington. Makayla Keck, Drew Seaman (3) and Hunter Blankenhorn. W–Knarr. L–Keck. S–Ulrich.
Top Warrior Run hitters: Ulrich 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Knarr 3-3, HR, 3 runs, 3 RBIs; Harrington 3-4, 2B, run; Brayden Gower 1-2, 2 walks, HR, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Logan Polcyn 2-4, 2 RBIs. Top Orwigsburg hitters: Sam Walborn 2-3, 2 runs, RBI; Ty Kaunas 2-4, run, RBI.
Next game: Warrior Run vs. TBD in Pennsylvania tournament at Camp Hill, Sun.