Noah Hogan was nearly denied the chance to make his mark on Emmaus baseball history.
With the Green Hornets tied 5-5 against Nazareth in extra innings of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship game Thursday night at DeSales University’s Weiland Park, discussion began that the title may have to be decided at a later date.
After a lengthy meeting prior to the ninth inning between league officials, umpires and coaches, and a more brief meeting prior to the tenth inning, play continued and Hogan delivered the hit that helped Emmaus repeat as EPC champions with a 6-5 victory.
With two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning and runners on first and third base, Hogan hit a dribbler toward the gap between first and second. Nazareth second baseman Aaron Leopold bobbled the ground ball before tossing it towards first baseman Zach Smethers and Hogan was ruled safe as junior Zach McEllroy crossed home plate, ending a game that lasted more than three and a half hours.
“Before that at bat, I just told them I was going to win that game. I was going to end it right there,” the sophomore said. “That was an exceptional game. Hats off to (Nazareth), they played great. Still taking it all in.”
It was Leopold who sent the game into extras as the senior bombed a triple to score junior Preston Warne from second and tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the seventh.
Emmaus (19-4) trailed 3-0 and 4-1 early on but rallied thanks to two-run innings in the fifth and sixth.
“These guys, we just never quit. We knew that going into this game we were going to win and that we wanted to win, and nobody wanted it more than us. We just proved it right there,” Hogan said.
The infield single seemed to be a fitting conclusion to a game that featured a combined nine errors from two of the most defensively sound teams in the area.
“It took weird things to go our way, but weird things go their way too that we didn’t do right. It was a bizarre game, but our guys just found a way,” Emmaus coach Jeremy Haas said.
Nazareth (16-7) registered six errors while the Hornets had three.
“This is uncharacteristic of our defence. We played pretty fundamentally sound defense all year long, I think we averaged under 1.5 errors on the season,” Nazareth coach Bryan Wolf said. “It’s high school baseball, kids gave their best effort. I just love my guys. They gave us as a coaching staff, and us as a community, their best effort.”
The Blue Eagles took advantage of two Emmaus errors in the first inning. Sophomore Aidan Butz led off for Nazareth and reached first base when his grounder skipped past third baseman Tyler LePage. Warne then laid down a bunt and managed to beat the throw while moving Butz to second. Butz scored on an error from Hornet’s shortstop Anthony Viola before Warne gave the Blue Eagles a 2-0 lead by going home on a wild pitch.
Warne helped Nazareth extend its lead to 3-0 in the second inning with an RBI single.
McEllroy sparked the Hornets in the fifth inning with a single that dropped in shallow center field. Junior Jackson Brand then earned a walk from a full count and junior Ryan Latchford came on to pinch run.
With senior Jaden Gallagher at the plate, Nazareth junior Jake Dally’s low pitch got past Warne behind the plate. Warne attempted to throw McEllroy out at third but his toss went into left field, allowing McEllroy to score and Latchford to move to third. Gallagher brought Latchford home with a sacrifice fly to left field that cut Nazareth’s lead to 4-3.
Viola help the Hornets tie the game in the sixth. With sophomore Cohen Schadler on second and McEllroy on first, Viola took a strike in the first pitch of his at bat while trying to lay down a bunt. On the next pitch, the senior chopped a single to right field, scoring Schadler and moving McEllroy to third.
“The first pitch was supposed to be a sac bunt, obviously didn’t get it down. The next pitch, we went to a pivot and hit. I felt really comfortable with my approach, we worked on that all year,” Viola said.
McEllroy scored when sophomore Josiah Williams hit into a double play.
LePage took the mound at the top of the eighth and pitched all three extra innings. The senior gave up no hits while striking out six and was credited with the win.
“It’s a little nerve racking, but I’ve been there before so I just have to relax, take a deep breath and just worry about me and the catcher,” LePage said.
For seniors like LePage and Viola, its their fourth title in the last two years after the Hornets captured both league and District 11 Class 6A gold last spring and the Lehigh Valley baseball tournament title during the summer of 2020.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience, truly,” Viola said. “It’s amazing to have the opportunity to play with all these guys, these coaches.”
“I’m soaking it in, it’s amazing. This team, they’re just a bunch of great players. I’m so proud of these guys. This was a big team win,” LePage added.
we play on
Both coaches agreed that it was best to continue playing until the end of the game due to a crowded schedule for both programs.
“(Nazareth) have prom tomorrow,” Haas said. “Then, it’s the day after prom on Saturday, we didn’t want to do that, and even Sunday, I didn’t realize, we have our end of the season banquet. It was going to be weird, it’s a weird game, it’s a weird ending.”
The lights at Weiland Park, which usually shut off at 11:30, were kept on until midnight.
“I tip my cap to (DeSales baseball coach) Tim Neiman in letting us finish this game tonight, we were just unfortunately on the losing end of it,” Wolf said.
After completing a marathon of a league championship, it’s hard to imagine when either team could experience a similar game but they may get the chance next week.
They could be set to play again in districts should Emmaus, the top-seed, and Nazareth, the fourth-seed, both advance past the first round.
“I hope it’s nothing like this one. I hope we win, but I hope it’s nothing like this one,” Haas said.
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Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com†