EPHRATA, Pa. - The entire Spring-Ford baseball team huddled around reliever Elliot Criss after the game yesterday. People in the Rams' cheering section stood in the bleachers and clapped in unison. A Spring-Ford fan yelled, "This feels like we are going to Disney World!"
It was a great moment for everyone associated with the Rams' program as Spring-Ford defeated Hempfield, 9-3, in the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal at War Memorial Field.
The Rams (19-9) advanced to their first state championship appearance.
At 1 p.m. Friday at Blair County Park in Altoona, Spring-Ford will face District 7's Cannon-McMillan, a 14-0 winner over Central Mountain, for the title.
"Unbelievable. This is the most amazing feeling," Rams pitcher Jason Ferrie said. "At the start, we were the only team that thought we had a chance to do this. Well, we made nonbelievers believers now. It's happening."
It's happening thanks to an eventful sixth inning by Ferrie and his teammates.
During the top half of the inning, the senior lefthander displayed why the Rams have so much confidence in him.
With the score tied at 2, the Black Knights (22-6) loaded the bases with no outs.
Staying calm, Ferrie struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning. And that was just a fraction of his dominant performance. Ferrie (11-3) struck out 11 batters and scattered four hits in six innings.
Following his lead, Spring-Ford scored seven runs as it batted around in the bottom of the sixth.
With runners on second and third and one out, Danny Custer produced the biggest hit of his career.
The junior centerfielder lined a single to center field, scoring Mike Haslam and Dan Larkin.
Hempfield pitcher Brett Houseal "gave me the first fastball, I think, all game," Custer said of the pitch. "I just sat on it. When I saw it, I was thinking: Take it up the middle."
Custer, who finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs, touched off the Spring-Ford outburst.
After walking the next batter, Houseal was relieved by Mike Schusko.
Schusko retired a batter on a fly ball to left field. The Rams scored another run as the reliever walked the next two batters.
In all, Spring-Ford scored seven runs on four hits and two errors in the sixth.
"It feels crazy," Custer said of reaching the final. "We've got to get the win, though. It's great getting there, but it will feel even better with a W."
Hempfield 101 000 1 - 3 6 4
Spring-Ford 000 117 x - 9 8 0
WP: Jason Ferrie (11-3). LP: Brett Houseal (9-3). 2B: HDerek Dornes. HR: HJon Moser.