Bulls-Creekers battle in BML semi
The Martins Creek Creekers and Limeport Bulls may be the first and fourth seeds in the Blue Mountain League playoffs, but most observers of the league figure that the BML Championship may have to go through one of those teams.
The Bulls came into the postseason as the two-time defending champions, while the Creekers led the league through the regular season, finishing with an impressive 24-6 record. The Bulls finished with the fourth-best record in the league at 19-11. As luck would have it, the two teams faced each other in the league semifinals.
Limeport got the series off to a good start when it beat Martins Creek on its home field last Thursday to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The biggest part of the 5-1 win was that the Bulls beat pitcher CJ Saveri, widely considered one of the best in the league. Saveri was out-pitched by Emmaus grad Adam Maini, who threw a complete game, allowing just one hit and surrendering two walks while striking out 11 batters.
“That was a huge win for us up there,” said Maini. “It’s a hike to get up there, but it was huge to steal one from a good team like that. I was just hitting my spots and staying low at the knees. My slider, curveball, change-up, everything was working and I felt really good out there and didn’t have any worries. I just focused on hitting my spots.”
Limeport had the opportunity to take a commanding lead as the series shifted back to its home field for game two, but pitcher Matt Smith had a differing viewpoint on how the game should go and this time it was the Creekers’ pitcher who dominated the game.
Smith, a Parkland grad, also threw a complete game, facing just 23 batters in a 6-1 win. The Bulls weren’t helped by the fact that they committed three errors that led to four unearned runs for the Creekers. Maini, who manned third base for the Bulls in the second game, was impressed by Smith, who shut down a previously hot Limeport offense.
“Matt Smith threw a good game, and we just didn’t capitalize on some mistakes,” said Maini. “We didn’t get enough guys on and we made some errors that hurt us.”
Another Emmaus grad, Trey Hinkle, had a base hit and a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt for the Creekers, who also kicked the ball around a little, making two errors in the game.
Hinkle, who did some pitching for Bloomsburg this past season, has been nursing tendinitis this summer and has bounced back-and-forth between the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Bulls, where he serves as the team’s DH.
Even when Martins Creek was a game down after losing the opener, Hinkle said the team didn’t have any real concerns for the rest of the series. The loss in the opening game was just the second home loss for the Creekers this season.
“We were loose and confident,” said Hinkle. “We just came in knowing that we had to win, because we didn’t want to go down 2-0 to the Bulls, especially in a five-game series, so we were really loose and came in with the mentality that we had to hit the baseball.”
Hinkle’s battles with tendinitis appear like they may be behind him. He took to the mound in game three and threw five innings to get the win in the Creekers 9-3 victory that put them up 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
In the other BML semifinals series, the Hellertown Royals grabbed an early 2-0 advantage, but dropped game three at home to the Iron Financial Orioles 7-6. After the Orioles grabbed an early 6-1 lead, Hellertown battled back to tie the game 6-6, but a home run by Whitehall’s Ryuta Amaike in the top of the seventh gave the Orioles a chance to play again as the series heads back home to Egypt.
While the Bulls have their backs against the wall, and Saveri likely to return for game four, they’re nowhere near ready to concede in their battle to three-peat in the BML.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” said Maini. “You can kind of flip a coin, because we’re both very good teams, so it all depends on who wants it more and how the end result plays out. We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s going to be fun.”