Fatigued in their fourth game in two days, the West Deptford Senior League All-Stars finally faltered, losing to Upper Moreland, PA, 17-9, in the loser's bracket final in the Senior League Eastern Regional at Tuesday night.
In what was a three-hour pitching war of attrition—the two teams combined to use eight pitchers, several of whom were throwing for the first time in the postseason—the Eagles simply ran out of arms, after having to burn through most of their staff in the previous three games.
“The tournament's really set up to stay in the winner's bracket a little longer than we did,” manager Ed Essig said. “You start pitching on fumes.”
At the outset, it looked to be a wild offensive game—West Deptford held an 8-5 lead after two innings, thanks in part to a seven-run second, where the Eagles scored four straight runs on bases-loaded walks.
But missed chances on the base paths and eight errors as a team put even more pressure on a taxed pitching staff. Tyler Garrison battled through 2-2/3 innings, but was chased when Upper Moreland came back to tie it at 9 in the bottom of the third.
He gave way to Dave Strout and Conor Goggin, who got the Eagles through the fifth, giving up just four earned runs combined—but the fielding and throwing errors contributed to another four unearned.
“It was a tough loss,” said Dave Strout, who scored twice and drove in two runs for West Deptford. “We gave it our all...but you can't win a game with eight errors.”
Bob McSorley, who came on in the sixth, ended up being West Deptford's strongest arm, striking out three with no earned runs in his time on the mound.
“Every time Coach (Sean Garrison) went out there and handed somebody the ball, they grabbed it out of his hand and gave us 100 percent,” Essig said. “As a manager, that's all you can ask for.”
But between having to play four opponents since 9 a.m. Monday and facing their fifth elimination game since Game 2 of the District 15 championship series last week, it was a challenge to find a way to keep fighting, Essig said.
“It makes it hard even just to keep the intensity up,” he said.
Though the loss ended West Deptford's run, it marked the best effort by a West Deptford team in the Senior Regional since 2006, when that team also made it to the loser's bracket final before being eliminated.
Not a bad effort for the hosts, who only have to win the District 15 title, instead of making a run through the state tournament. While Strout said it's understandable they might get somewhat less respect for that distinction, it doesn't ring true with this squad.
“We have a hell of a team here, and we showed it this tournament,” he said. “We showed that we can make it this year.”
And potentially next year, as well, with roughly half the team a lock to come back, thanks to being just 15 years old.
For Essig, the run through the Eastern Regional was an exclamation point on a season of perseverance, and he praised his players for their ability to succeed despite the pressures, for some, of multiple teams and multiple sports this time of year.
“I was very impressed with the boys,” he said.
Upper Moreland, meanwhile, will play in Wednesday's championship game against Auburn, MA, at 5 p.m., with a deciding game to follow if necessary.