By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE -- Macklin Ayers took a powerful cut on a ball on the outer half of the plate, ripping the pitch for a three-run home run.
Ayers' home run kick-started Upper Dauphin's offense in the second inning en route to a 9-3 victory over Danville in the loser's bracket final of the Section 3 Age 10-11 Division tournament at Lyter Field.
The win gives Upper Dauphin another crack at Montoursville, whom it lost to in the opening round of the Section 3 tournament, today at Lyter Field at 5:30 p.m.
Ayers had some good fortune in front of him in the lineup as Hunter Lentz doubled and Conner Reed reached safely on an error at first base.
With two men on and no one out, Ayers made the most of the situation, sending the ball to right-center field with enough height to carry over the fence.
"(Ayers' home run) was the shot we needed," Upper Dauphin manager Jeff Lentz said.
Ayers' blast gave Upper Dauphin a 3-1 lead and his teammates did not let up. A single between two miscues on defense loaded the bases with one out after a pop-up following Ayers' home run.
The next play was an indication of the way that the bounces were falling for Upper Dauphin on Sunday. On a sacrifice fly, Maison Grow retreated to second base and headed to third as the throw came into the infield. With Bo Raho caught in a run-down between first and second, Grow broke for home and scored while Raho was safe at second.
Danville headed back to the dugout two batters later, trailing 5-1, faced with the task of rallying against arguably Upper Dauphin's top hurler, Sam Kerwin.
Kerwin nearly worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the third as Danville looked to string hits together to pull closer. Drew Sassaman hit into a fielder's choice, scoring Colton Sidler from third but Kerwin shut down the rally one at-bat later.
"We played a tough game today," Danville assistant coach Mike Kopelcheck said. "We hit the ball hard. We just didn't find any holes."
Danville hit balls hard against Kerwin when it managed contact, but more often than not, Upper Dauphin fielders were there to make the play.
It also didn't hurt Upper Dauphin that Kerwin was in a rhythm after allowing a solo home run to Sidler in the first. Kerwin went the distance for Upper Dauphin in a must-win game, striking out four to grab the victory.
"I was hoping I could use (Sam) for six innings," Lentz said. "He's a big part of our pitching staff."
Lentz nearly wasn't able to use Kerwin for six innings as Danville started to rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, trailing 9-2.
Danville has fought for wins earlier this season and appeared poised to have one more comeback in its bats. Down to its last out with a runner on first, K.J. Riley hit a fly ball down the rightfield line with Coleton Gessner running over to try and record the final out. Gessner dove but the ball glanced off of the edge of his glove, giving Riley a double.
Sidler singled home Mavin James from third but Kerwin induced a fielder's choice to end the game.
Upper Dauphin extended its lead on the strength of a four-run fifth inning in which it sent 10 hitters to the plate. The first six batters reached base safely in the inning to put pressure on the Danville defense.
Despite facing a 9-2 deficit, Danville did not pack it in defensively. On a hit by Gessner in the top of the sixth, Sidler came up firing in right to nail Gessner stretching a single into a double to end the inning.