WESTMINSTER — Dusk lurked on the horizon Sunday as Ascension Episcopal took the field against Jerusalem Lutheran with the Carroll County Church League's postseason softball tournament championship on the line at Carroll Community College.
Not wanting darkness to cut things short, tourney director Tom Smith checked to find out whether the lighted CarrollCounty Sports Complex could be used if Jerusalem, which had come outof the losers' bracket, beat Ascension and forced a second game between the two teams.
But those bulbs never got turned on.
Westminster-based Ascension turned out the lights on Jerusalem, 14-2, to win the tournament crown for the second time in three years.
Jerusalem won it last year-- but that was then. This time, the defending champs were virtuallydead on arrival.
They trailed, 6-0, before coming to bat, and were down 10-0 after four innings.
"I told our players we had to jumpon them early and make them catch up, and we did," explained Ascension manager Glenn Speicher afterward.
Ascension did so with devastating effect.
But until then, underdog Jerusalem, which finished third in the regular season in the league's Red Division, had made big postseason waves, one of which almost engulfed Ascension.
Jerusalem went 3-0 in Saturday's tournament games. Then, in Sunday afternoon's winners' bracket finale, it had regular-season Blue Division champ Ascension on the ropes, 7-6 in the seventh.
But Keith Rabush tied it with a single, and Ascension went on to win, 9-8.
Jerusalem then met Union Bridge, and continued to show its spunk in the losers' bracket final game.
Jerusalem rallied from a 12-7 deficit with five runs in the home fifth to tie Union Bridge.
Jerusalem then scored three runs in the sixth, with Paul Pitrone's RBI three-bagger puttingthe team ahead for good, and held on to win, 16-13.
Then came undefeated Ascension, which had squeaked by Jerusalem earlier in the day.
Ascension had won two fairly easy games Saturday, leading all the way in topping Carroll Community Church, 16-11, then clubbing Westminster Baptist, 15-3.
Ascension had a rougher time against Jerusalem and Union Bridge, beating the latter by only 9-8 after barely surviving a five-run Union Bridge seventh.
But despite consecutive close calls, Ascension was still unbeaten, and Jerusalem had to win twice to take the crown.
Nevertheless, Jerusalem manager Chris Green thought he could do it.
"We'd beaten them, 10-6, (in the regular season). I thought we had a chance," Green said.
But it quickly turned out that they didn't. Ascension rattled out seven singles to all sectors of the burnt-dry Community College outfield in the top of the first inning to go up 6-0.
Ascension shortstop Craig Harshey boomed a line drive two-run home run to right to make it 8-0 in the second.
Two more scored in the fourth, one on a sacrifice fly by Harshey, who had four RBI in the game, to make it 10-0.
After Kevin Welshdoubled and scored for Jerusalem in the fifth, Craig Walker's two-run single capped a three-run Ascension sixth, making it 13-1.
With nothing for his team and its supporters to cheer about, Jerusalem player Don Pennington at least lent a little humor to his team's grim, 12-runs-down situation in the home sixth.
"We need more innings. Can we cheat?" he kiddingly asked a couple of spectators.
Alas, his team would have needed a warehouse full of crooked decks to steal this one away.
It was over not long after.
Speicher said his team managed to avoid a major bugaboo in this final game.
"We always have one bad inning, but in this game we didn't have it. We had a greatdefense, and everybody backed everybody else up," Speicher said.
"Last year I had to present the championship plaque to Jerusalem. This year, they gave it back to us," said Speicher.
Green said that his team had also played well defensively, but "Today, they (Ascension) just hit the ball.
"We dug too deep a hole (for themselves) against too good a team."