What started out as a pitcher's duel took several unexpected turns late as Ship Legion battled it out against rivals Chambersburg Thursday under the lights at Shippensburg Memorial Park.
Chambersburg spoiled a terrific outing by Ship starter Ethan Stouffer by plating a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning, giving the visitors a late 4-2 lead. Ship came back to tie the score twice, once in the bottom of the seventh and again in extra innings, setting the stage for an improbable walk-off balk in the bottom of the ninth to win it, 6-5.
“That's what we're built for,” Shippensburg head coach Jake Stine said of the late inning fireworks. “They need to have stamina and they need to keep on working, even if you lose you've got to go out 100-percent. They rose up to the challenge. It was a great win early in the season”
Stouffer was flat out dominant, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning and recording 11 strikeouts. His final line did not do his performance justice, he lasted 6.1 innings and was charged with 4 runs (3 earned).
The Ship lineup provided Stouffer with some early run support in the bottom of the third. A lead off single by Andrew Kitner coupled with three walks and a hit batter gave the hosts a quick 2-0 edge.
Reliever Spencer Seaman came on to quiet the Ship bats, and Chambersburg got some timely hitting late to tie it and eventually take the lead.
Bryson Byers began the top of the sixth with a bloop single. After a walk, an error on a throw from the outfield allowed both baserunners to advance into scoring position. The miscue turned out to be huge, as Max Armstrong connected on a two-out, two-run single to even the score at 2-2.
Stouffer started to unravel a bit in the seventh, issuing a single and a pair of free passes to load the bases with only one out. The Ship righty got to two-strikes on Chambersburg lead off hitter Joey Maun, but Maun shortened up his swing and sent a liner past the drawn in infield for an RBI single that gave Chambersburg a 3-2 lead.
Andrew Kitner took over for Stouffer with the bases still loaded and only one out. His first offering skipped past Ship catcher Nic Weltz for a wild pitch, allowing Chambersburg's Orlian Roman-Reyes to cross home plate for an additional run.
Down 4-2 entering the bottom half of the seventh, lefty-swinging Scott Witter brought life to the Shippensburg bench and kick-started a last-chance rally by lifting a long fly over the fence in right for a solo homer.
Levi Yeager kept Ship's hope alive with a one-out walk, and Chandler Durf later completed the comeback, poking a two-out double just inside the line in right to plate the tying run, 4-4.
The back-and-forth continued in extras as the two teams traded eighth inning runs. Chambersburg took a temporary 5-4 lead on an RBI single from Byers in the top half, while Weltz scored on a wild pitch during Ship’s next turn.
Kitner pitched around an Armstrong single while striking out the side in the top of the ninth, opening the door for Shippensburg to win it.
Ship second baseman Noah Jumper initially squared to bunt before lacing a single to left to begin the bottom half of the frame. Jumper then stole second base easily, and a Durf sacrifice put the winning run just 90-feet away with still only one out.
Jumper's lead at third base caused the Chambersburg reliever to flinch. The umpire called a balk, allowing Jumper to score the game-winning run.
“It felt good. Ethan pitched a good game, but we always seem to not hit as well whenever he pitches. I don't know why. We just knew that we had to come back and keep fighting,” Jumper said afterward.
Shippensburg improves to 1-0-1 on the season with the victory. They return to action Tuesday evening when they play host McConnellsburg at Memorial Park. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.