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Berry slams the door on St. Mary’s as Williamsport rallies for victory

Owen Berry did not pitch the way he hoped last season. And his Williamsport teammates did not produce the season they wanted.

So they did something about it. They went to work.

Berry was one of several Millionaires who played a lot during the summer and kept grinding throughout the offseason. Now, Berry looks like a different pitcher and he showed off his progress at the perfect time Saturday at Logue Field.

Berry threw three brilliant innings of scoreless relief after entering in the fifth with the tying runners on base. He surrendered just one baserunner, struck out five and also made a spectacular run-saving catch while playing at shortstop as Williamsport rallied for a 6-3 win over St. Mary’s. Dallas Griess doubled twice, Adam Aldenderfer drove in two runs and Griffin Vollman threw four quality innings for the win as the Millionaires (2-1, 2-0 Central Penn League) took another step forward.

“We worked hard all summer. We didn’t have the best year last year but everyone here has been working their butt off all year,” Berry said. “That really motivated us to be better ball players, teammates and people in general. That’s starting to show in the win-loss column.”

St. Mary’s took a quick 2-0 first-inning lead but the Millionaires tied it in the third inning and scored three two-out runs in the fourth to go up 5-2. St. Mary’s immediately answered when the first three batters reached to open the fifth and Conner Straub’s RBI single made it 5-3. Williamsport coach Kyle Schneider called on Berry at that point and the senior right-hander started changing the game’s complexion.

As soon as St. Mary’s started that fifth-inning fire, Berry extinguished it. Throwing hard, moving the ball well and working ahead, Berry opened with a strikeout before inducing a fielder’s choice and a flyout to end the threat. He grew stronger from there and surrendered just a sixth-inning single while striking out four over the last two innings. Berry looked especially dominant in the final inning, retiring the side on just nine pitches and fanning two more.

“I have confidence in my teammates to score runs and make the plays behind me. It’s nice to have a good group of guys to trust no matter where you’re at, whether hitting, fielding or pitching,ã Berry said. “I think I’m used to it at this point. Over the summer they’d always put me into tough situations. I’ve gotten used to the pressure.”

“He made them make the outs, and the last two innings he had a leg up on him. That was great to see,” Schneider said. “Ever since the offseason started, that’s kind of the role that we talked about and he likes that role of coming in, throwing hard and getting us out of jams. He likes being that guy. If he can do that throughout the season that’s going to be reassuring for us knowing that if we can get to the fourth or fifth inning, we then have Owen to come in and pump it.”

Vollman pumped it well, too, following a shaky start. St. Mary’s opened the game with three straight singles, but Vollman settled down and induced three straight grounders to end that inning. The left-hander kept the Dutchmen off balance from that point on, striking out four and giving his offense a chance to warm up against a pitcher who it started hitting well the second time through the order.

Williamsport scored four two-out runs and the first of those came in the second inning when Aldenderfer hit an RBI single. Griess led off the next inning with a double and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game and the Millionaires really went to work in the fourth, scoring three two-runs while going ahead to stay.

After two fast outs were recorded, Williamsport sent six straight batters to the plate. Vollman smashed a game-tying RBI double before Griess followed with an RBI double. Three batters later, Atreyu Murray capped the rally, hitting an RBI single and putting the Millionaires up, 5-2. Tommy Aversa doubled in the fifth inning before scoring Aldenderfer’s grounder, capping the scoring and making it, 6-3.

“They’re handling adversity much better than they did last year. We started down 2-0 and we got right after it,” Schneider said. “It took us one time through the lineup to get on that guy, but once they did we were able to score runs and score runs with big doubles and playing small ball, too. That’s good to see that we can produce more than just one way.”

Williamsport complemented its pitching and hitting with strong defense. The Millionaires played error-less baseball and Berry made the play of the game in the third inning. St. Mary’s was trying to extend its 2-1 lead and had two runners on with two outs when Carter Price lofted a pop-up into no man’s land in shallow left field, near the line.

Berry raced over from shortstop, fully extended his body as he dove, caught the ball and held on while tumbling to the ground and rolling over. It was a huge play, one which prevented St. Mary’s from going up two runs and having runners on the corners.

“Me and (third baseman) Cayden (Robertson) have good communication skills over there and have been playing next to each for a while now. He let me know he wasn’t going to get there, so I gave it my all and I came up with it,” Berry said. “You always look for that kind of stuff. Everyone notices the highlight plays and stuff, but it’s the fundamentals that win games.”

Williamsport is executing those fundamentals well early this season. The Millionaires opened the year with a win against perennial contender Bellefonte and its lone blemish is an extra-inning loss at 2019 Class AAAA state champion Selinsgrove. Much work remains but this team is showing it likes to work and the energy feels much different than at this point last year when the Millionaires were 0-3.

“We were solid, especially with field conditions and how the ball was getting stuck in the infield they handled it well. We made the plays we needed to make,” Schneider said. “I have nothing but good things to stay about today.”

St. Mary’s 200 010 0-3 9 0

Williamsport 011 310 x-6 6 0

Brady Nussbaum, Logan Maiser (5) and Carter Price. Griffin Vollman, Owen Berry (5) and Adam Aldenderfer. W-Vollman, (1-0). L-Nussbaum. SV-Berry, (1).

Top St. Mary’s hitters: Maiser 2-3, R; Christian Coudreitt 2-4, R; Conner Straub 2-4, 2 RBIs. Top Williamsport hitters: Dallas Griess 2-4, 2 2Bs, RBI, 2R; Atreyu Murray 1-3, RBI; Tommy Aversa 1-2, BB; Aldenderfer 1-2, 2 RBIs; Vollman 1-2, 2B, RBI.

Records: Williamsport 2-1, 2-0 CPL. St. Mary’s 0-3.

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