By Brian Markley
The weather at Comet Field couldn’t have been more perfect for the Comets home opener against the Spring Grove Rockets on Thursday, March 24. The Comets opening day starting pitcher was junior Jeff Taylor, and rivaling him on the mound was Spring Grove pitcher Matt Brooks. After allowing a leadoff single, which was one of the two hits the Rockets had all day, Taylor settled in. The first out of the inning came from a sacrifice bunt that moved the runner to second. Remaining calm, Taylor kept his composure and went on to strike out the next two batters to end the first inning.
Penn Manor scored the first run of the game in the second inning. Senior catcher Eric Snyder reached first base safely due to a dropped third strike. Junior Connor Bitts replaced Snyder as a courtesy runner, and used his speed to make it all the way home due to a few pitches that got past the Spring Grove catcher. The second inning continued with senior Dan Wolf drawing a walk to first, and then scored by a single from senior Nate Brown, making it 2-0 for the home team. Taylor, helping his own cause, added another run, but was then caught in a run down that ended the second inning. The Comets took a 3-0 at the end of the second inning.
Spring Grove wasn’t able to get much done with the bats all throughout the day. Taylor struck out the first two batters of the third inning, and then got the third to ground out to the shortstop. The Comets then made the score 4-0, with senior Collin Whiteside scoring on a ground ball hit by senior shortstop Nate McFarland. The Rockets were able to manage their second hit of the game in the fourth inning, but were unable to do anything with it. The Comets tacked on their fifth run of the night thanks to a hard-hit single up the middle off Whiteside’s bat.
Taylor pitched six innings. Senior Jeremy Miller came in for the seventh inning to close the door and secure the first win of the season for the Comets.
When asked how it felt to finally get back out on the mound, Taylor said, “It felt so refreshing. To be back on the field with the boys again is a feeling like no other.”
Taylor had a strong outing, recording 10 strikeouts and only allowing one walk. He was also backed by a solid defensive effort. At the plate, both Brown and Whiteside had solid nights. Brown went three for four with a batting average of .750 and scored a run. Whiteside also went three for four with a batting average of .750 and also drove in a key RBI in the fourth inning.
The Comets’ second game of the season was on a cold, windy day on Monday, March 28 at Comet Field against the Lebanon Cedars. On the mound for the Comets was senior Jacob Herr, and he was consistent all day for the Comets, starting off the game by striking out the first three batters. However, Herr did face a bit of adversity in the second inning. He was able to get the first batter of the second inning to ground out to second and got the following batter to strikeout. He then hit both of the next two batters, giving the Cedars an early scoring opportunity. But Herr battled back and struck out the last batter of the inning.
Offense was hard to come by as the weather really played into the struggles for both teams’ bats. The Comets were able to score the only run of the game in the third inning.
Whiteside started the inning off by drawing a walk, followed up by junior Grant Gale who drew a walk of his own. McFarland dropped down a key sacrifice bunt that moved the runners into scoring position. Following McFarland, junior Jeremy Burkholder was able to hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield that scored the runner and put the Comets up by a score of 1-0.
One run was all the Herr and the Comets were going to need. Herr threw a complete game shutout and recorded 12 strikeouts. The Comets’ pitching staff maintains a 0.00 ERA over their first two games of the season. Brown once again had a strong day at the plate, going two for three and stealing a base. The Comets’ next game will be away at Wilson on Wednesday, March 30, and they will return to Comet Field on Friday, April 1 to play host to Dallastown.