New Era Correspondent
Occasionally, preconceived notions about the outcome of a baseball game can be dead wrong.
But you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict how Friday’s New Era Tournament Midget quarterfinal games would play out.
Hempfield Black and Manheim Township Black in the second game? Expect a tightly played, squirm-in-your-seat battle.
The result? Township, 1-0, in eight heart-stopping innings. A victory that derailed Hempfield’s quest for an unprecedented fourth straight NET Midget title.
In the first game, in one dugout was Penn Manor’s Comets Blue, a group that won NET titles at the Midget-Midget and Junior-Midget levels under the flag of Safe Harbor.
Across the way was Terre Hill, invited to the dance when Cocalico, the eighth seed overall, backed out with personnel issues.
It was, as expected, Christians vs. lions time, and the lions were hungry. Comets 25, Terre Hill 1.
Once the grounds crew had tidied the coliseum, er, Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, the Montagues and Capulets of Lancaster County sport put on a show.
Hempfield starter Ryan Walters pitched four scoreless innings, allowing Township (14-6) two hits while walking four.
He escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth with a strikeout and a groundout.
Geoff Dornes came on in the fifth and strung zeroes for three more innings, dodging a bases-loaded, one-out trial in the sixth inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
If possible, Township’s Grant Wiest was even better. Through six innings he held Hempfield (11-5-1) to two hits, skipping out of a first-and-third, no-out situation in the third with a pair of fly balls and a forceout.
“This is the hardest he’s thrown all year. He was mixing everything up,” said his catcher, Pete Fisher. “Everything he wanted to throw was right in there, and he put his fastball right on the black.”
It looked like Wiest might’ve hit the wall in the seventh inning. After running only three three-ball counts through six innings, he had four in a row, staggering a pair of walks around a strikeout.
What’s more, he had drifted up in the zone.
“I was losing my release point,” Wiest shared. “I was trying to overdo it ’cause I really wanted the win.”
His 2-1 pitch to Josh Houseal was wild, moving Shane Dougherty and Ryan Enoch to third and second respectively, and ball three was high.
But he induced Houseal to foul out to first on the next offering, and it was off to extra innings.
Leading off the Township eighth, Fisher drove a ball to right that appeared to be a sure single. Tyler Swezey dove to catch the ball, missed, and it was off to the races.
“I saw (Swezey) lay out, noticed the ball got past him and I thought there’s no way I’m not getting a triple on this,” Fisher declared.
Fisher pulled into third as the throw from right came up the line. Dornes got Nick Downey on strikes, then went to work on Kyle Kauffman.
Kauffman fell behind 0-2 but got it back to 2-2 as Dornes couldn’t locate his curveball. Sitting fastball, Kauffman then singled to left to score Fisher.
“I knew I was going to hit him, because I just had it set in my mind he wasn’t going to strike me out,” Kauffman said.
After the inning ended, Wiest came out to protect the narrowest of advantages.
And was quickly pushed to the edge by his defense.
Going solely with curveballs to Charlie Parker, Wiest got him to half-swing a bouncer to third. Peter Savage couldn’t field the between hop.
After getting Keith Unton on a foul tip strikeout, Wiest fed Dornes nothing but deuces.
Dornes poked a soft liner to short. Hershey got handcuffed, just before the ball dropped to the ground. Safe all around.
Hershey redeemed himself on Matt Metcalf’s fielder’s choice to short, flipping to Bernie Zaritzky for the second out.
Then Wiest reached for his last fastballs, getting Robbie Devereaux on a soft fly to left to end the game.
“That’s classic Township-Hempfield,” noted Hosler, a veteran of many of those scrums as a player. “I’m just happy we came out on top.”
Comet Blue (16-5-1) sent 17 men to the plate in the first inning, bolting to a 12-0 lead.
While Terre Hill (8-4-1) committed only one physical error in the inning, it gave the Comets seven outs.
Manor didn’t need the help. The Comets scored seven more runs in the second inning and closed with six in the third.
Andy Drexel knocked in seven runs for the Comets and Curran Blevins four. Three others hitters knocked in two apiece.
Drexel, Blevins, Mike Dommel and Jordan Graham scored four runs apiece.
The recipient of this batting largess was Keith Rutt, who limited Terre Hill to a run on two hits in four innings.
Kylan Hoover drove in that run for Terre Hill, doubling to the fence in left to score Jordan Martin.
Exhausting game for Township’s ace hurler
By Jason Guarente
New Era Sports Writer
Even after the ball floated harmlessly into his outfielder’s glove, Grant Wiest still didn’t know it was over.
It was only after his teammates cheered and he took a quick glance at the scoreboard that he realized his masterpiece was complete.
After eight trying innings, the longest outing of his career, Manheim Township Black’s ace was tired and disoriented. In the heat of the moment, he lost track of how many outs there were.
When Hempfield’s Robbie Devereaux lifted a routine fly to left, it was the final out. Wiest, after a quick delay, could rejoice.
“I’m going to be really tired tomorrow,” he said Friday night. “Not just my arm. That was mentally and physically draining. I nearly fell over after that last out.”
Wiest helped Township edge Hempfield Black 1-0 in the New Era Tournament Midget quarterfinals at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
It was a classic pitchers’ duel, the kind that gets you biting your fingernails and watching every moment as if it might decide the outcome.
Through seven innings, the teams had combined for five hits. Despite several scoring chances created by walks, nobody was able to push a run across.
Every moment was pressure-packed. Every pitch mattered.
Does Wiest like these kinds of games?
“Not really,” he said at first.
Then, as he applied ice to his weary right shoulder, he reconsidered.
“Yeah, if we win,” he said.
The final three outs were the toughest. Township broke a scoreless tie with a run in the top of the eighth. Knowing how close his team was to victory, Coach Lyle Hosler stuck with his starter for one more inning.
“He had a good fastball and it kept getting better as the game went on,” Hosler said.
Wiest was at 108 pitches. Hosler set 130 as the limit.
As Hempfield tried to rally, putting runners on first and third with two outs, Wiest admitted he was running on fumes.
“The last inning I was really tired,” he said. “I couldn’t feel my arm. It didn’t hurt, but it just wasn’t very strong.
“I was trying to fight as hard as I can. That’s all I can do when I’m tired.”
Wiest’s breaking ball was gone and he didn’t want to risk throwing a hanger. He mustered up the energy for one last fastball and Devereaux couldn’t get on top of it.
Hosler was impressed with his ace’s performance.
“That was his best game of the year by far,” Township’s coach said.
As with every pitchers’ duel, there are two sides. One ends with elation, the other dejection. Hempfield used two pitchers to keep Township quiet. Righty Ryan Walters threw the first four innings and lefty Geoff Dornes tossed the second four.
It was an effective strategy used by Hempfield.
“Not only are they two top pitchers, but they throw from different arm angles,” Hosler said. “That made it especially difficult.”
Wiest was masterful all by himself. He went through the heart of Hempfield’s lineup four times and only surrendered three hits.
The gutty righthander earned this victory. He earned all those pats on the back. He earned that ice pack on his shoulder.
And, most importantly, he earned some rest.