Franklin Township captures title
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Franklin Township captured the District 4 15-year old championship by defeating Valley on Thursday. Franklin Township now advances to the state playoffs.
DRUMS - Win and in.
An undefeated Franklin Township squad accomplished just that, eliminating Valley with a 7-2 victory in the District 4 15-year old Babe Ruth Tournament.
The win sends Franklin to the Pennsylvania 15 year-old state tournament next week in Williamsport. The team also made an appearance in the 13-14 year-old tournament last year.
"The kids have been working so hard since they were eight years old, trying to win a district tournament," Franklin coach Brad Niehoff said. "It took from eight years old until last year at age 14 to finally accomplish that. To do it again is just icing on the cake."
The win didn't come easy. Franklin faced a very game Valley squad that suffered its last and only loss in the tournament to the same Franklin team in the opener.
Since that loss, Valley went on a three-game tear, outscoring opponents 52-14 coming into the matchup.
Franklin worked with an early advantage, taking a 3-0 lead heading into the top of the third.
But knowing Valley's offensive potential, the early run support didn't calm Niehoff's nerves.
"It was critical to get a couple of runs early and jump on them, but I still didn't feel comfortable," said Niehoff. "Each inning I wanted to build on that; even if it was just one run. Keep building because it's never enough. In this game, against a team like that, its never enough."
The coach's intuition was right. Valley battled back in the top of the third with two runs to cut the deficit to 3-2.
With the outcome and a trip to Williamsport hanging in the balance, Franklin answered.
Ben Cordova started the fourth inning by slamming a double to the outfield gap. Ryan McCullough came up with a clutch, one-out single to bring in Cordova.
Jordan McElmoyle followed with a single to move McCullough into scoring position and KJ Snerr cashed in with an RBI single to score McCullough.
Cleanup hitter Brady Niehoff capped the four-run inning with a two-run double that scored McElmoyle and Snerr, putting the game out of reach for Valley.
After allowing the two runs in the third, Franklin starter Wyatt Clements settled in and allowed only two hits over the final four innings. Clements defense played a nearly flawless game behind him.
"Our defense was picking me up the whole game," Clements said. "They saved me so many times. If it wasn't for them, it would have turned out very, very differently."
The rock on defense was Brady Niehoff, who turned three unassisted double plays in the contest to wipe out a number of potential Valley scoring chances. Niehoff was determined to step up his game when it mattered most.
"We knew what we had to do," said Niehoff. "We knew we had to come out and play a solid seven innings. We played them (Valley) before and didn't play that well, but still got the win.
"I had a rough game the first time and I knew I had to come out and change. I just stepped up at the plate at the right time and made my plays. That's all I can ask for."
What's at stake now is redemption after making it to the semifinals a year ago.
Win or lose next week, Niehoff knows his squad has established itself as one of the premier teams in the state.
"Making it to states again, my goal is to try and make it to the championship game," Brad Niehoff said. "If it happens, that would be awesome; if not, I'm still proud of the kids. We're just going to try our best."
Valley 002 000 0 - 2 7 1
Franklin 210 400 x - 7 11 1
Rinehimer and Sterenchock; Clements and Snerr. W - Clements. L - Rinehimer.