---- — By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
HERNDON -- Berwick may have been the favored team on paper, but it took about half a game for it to show on the scoreboard.
In an American Legion contest between two short-handed squads with one substitute each, Berwick (3-2) shook off an early deficit and found its stride in a huge fourth inning to defeat Line Mountain (1-4), 18-6, in 6 innings.
Berwick's fourth frame yielded 11 runs in 15 plate appearances.
It all started when starting pitcher Clay DeNoia led off the inning with a double into left field. After a ground out and a walk, Berwick's bats came alive, racking up four consecutive hits before reliever Zach Bobb stepped in and walked Kevin Laubach to load the bases.
After Cody Talanca reached on a fielder's choice, DeNoia came to the plate again and had another double drop in center field. DeNoia and three more runs scored before Bobb forced a ground out to end the inning.
Line Mountain coach Sam Strause said he thought pitcher T.J. Harris, starting for the first time, was simply fatigued on the mound during the rally.
"I figured Harris would probably go about five innings, maybe," Strause said. "And I was trying to think what we could do after Harris, since we have a few pitchers away."
"He was getting a little bit tired," Strause added. "I brought Zach in to try and hold it where it was hopefully, and it just didn't work out."
The 2-for-2 inning highlighted an impressive day for DeNoia, who finished 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
"He normally doesn't bat. If we would've had more guys, he wouldn't have hit today," Berwick coach Joe Papada said. "He just had a great game at the plate."
Facing a 14-4 deficit entering the bottom of the fourth, Line Mountain needed to plate at least one run to keep the game going. It did just that, on a two-RBI double to right field by Matt Howerter that scored Garrett Hepner and Danny Adams.
"I was happy. I was hoping we'd be able to play the whole game out," Strause said.
When Berwick pushed across another run in the fifth and three more in the sixth, though, Line Mountain could not respond again and the game ended in six innings.
"We played hard the whole game, and the boys have a lot of pride, but sometimes it just is what it is," Strause said.
Despite the staggering final score, Line Mountain held the lead early on.
After Berwick scored one run to start the game, Line Mountain plated three runs in its half of the first inning.
Line Mountain took advantage of DeNoia's early control problems. Adams was hit by pitch to lead off, and DeNoia then loaded the bases with two walks. Clean-up hitter Brady Renn hit a broken-bat single to drive in two runs, and Wade Wetzel followed with an RBI single to right field.
"[DeNoia is] normally on," said Papada, who said he did not know what made DeNoia struggle early. "Him walking that many batters early was really surprising."
Line Mountain also scored a run in the second inning to take its largest lead, at 4-1.
DeNoia eventually settled in, though, and struck out six in four innings of work.
"We knew it would happen," Papada said of DeNoia improving on the mound.
With several players missing from his lineup due to various reasons, Strause saw the eventually-lopsided game as a good experience for those who did play. Papada also said he was happy about how his younger players who stepped in performed.
"It was good experience for the young guys, no doubt about it," Strause said.
"They get a good look at better competition. It's a good measuring stick for the young kids."