New Era Correspondent
The youngest team in Bob Sauders’ long and successful tenure as coach of the Mountville Indians was playing the way young teams often will.
And, as a result, the Indians were on the ropes.
Trailing Maytown/Marietta Blue by four runs after three innings, the perennial New Era Tournament contenders rallied for an 11-7 win, vaulting them into Monday’s Midget-Midget semifinal opposite Mt. Joy Blue.
Blue, the defending M-M champion, rallied past the Warwick Phillies 5-4 in the first game of a quarterfinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field.
Mt. Joy and Mountville will meet in the second game of Monday’s semifinal twinbill, scheduled for 20 minutes after the conclusion of the 6 p.m. first game featuring Manheim VFW Maroon and the Norlanco Redbirds.
With seven eleven-year olds on the team, Mountville (39-13) can sometimes play greener than a sack of limes.
Such was the case in the third inning Friday night.
Maytown/Marietta (12-16), which had split a pair of previous meetings with Mountville, took advantage of errors — physical and mental — to stage a six-run rally and grab a 7-3 lead.
Michael Banwell began the inning with a double to center. When he appeared to tweak his back, Terry Tirko came on to pinch run.
Blue’s leadoff man, Joey Jaskot, was hit by a Colton King pitch, and both runners advanced on stolen bases.
King got Matt Hixon and Michael Carlin on strikes, but threw a wild pitch to Zach Bauer. As catcher Gordie Barnier struggled to pick up the errant ball, Tirko scored.
While Barnier was mentally berating himself and his coaches were trying to lift his spirits, Jaskot realized the ball was still live and stole home for another run.
“It was a page from their book,” said Blue coach Bill Jones, referring to Mountville’s penchant for stealing runs by taking advantage of its opponents’ mental errors. “Luckily they weren’t paying attention.”
“It was a smart play,” said Sauders, “and we’re going to talk about that.”
The rally wasn’t over. Bauer drew a four-pitch walk, chasing King in favor of reliever Willie Welsh, who promptly gave up another walk and served up an RBI single to Martin Dietrich.
Alex Eichleberger followed with a high chop in front of the plate that Welsh pounced on and threw over the fence behind first base, scoring Rodenhauser and Dietrich.
Eichelberger then scored when pinch-hitter Kyle Bohan was safe on another error, and it looked like Mountville’s wheels had completely come off.
“We were down for the count, man,” said Sauders. “You have those innings every once in a while. You can see they have the ability. And they don’t quit.”
Mountville had grabbed a 3-1 lead with RBI hits from Barnier and Welsh in the first and a double and run scored by Adam Law in the second, but suddenly they were trailing.
They fought back against Bauer, who took over for starter Adam Dickson in the bottom of the third and set Mountville down in order.
But Bauer lost the strike zone in the fourth, walking Ian Bentley and Law to set the table for a five-run inning on RBI singles by John Wilt and King, and a two-run hit by Welsh.
Bentley and Law worked walks once more to open the fifth. Jake Hartman followed with a single to left, scoring Bentley. Bryan Haberstroh and Wilt added RBI groundouts to cap Mountville’s scoring.
“We were just a little bit short,” said Jones. “We had that one bad inning.”
After his team rallied to take the lead, Welsh settled in and retired the last ten batters he faced, helped by shortstop John Wilt.
Wilt robbed Rodenhauser in the fifth inning with a great diving catch to his right on a sinking liner in the hole. That came just after he cleanly picked a ball that had ticked off Welsh’s glove, headed for left field, for one of his three assists.