The late stages of a scoreless baseball game is no time to be conservative.As ABBA sang, you gotta take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance.
Hempfield Black coach Jeremy Morrison took a chance with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Lititz Oddfellows coach Bill Weismandel took a chance with one on in the top of the sixth.
Weismandel’s gamble paid off. Morrison’s did not.
Lititz’s Luke Hackman threw out Derek Manning at home, trying to score on a sacrifice fly in the aforesaid fifth inning.
With Hackman on first in the Oddfellows’ sixth, Weismandel gave him the steal sign, then watched him get picked off and survive a rundown.
Hackman then scored the only run of the game on a dropped two-out popup as the Oddfellows (17-4-1) won the 68th Lancaster Newspapers New Era Midget Baseball championship, 1-0, Thursday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
With Hackman on third, Grant Zimmerman popped Jon Peterson’s 1-0 pitch high behind first base.
“That was a sky ball,” Hackman said. “Wow, geez, that was hit high.”
“I dropped my hands and just missed it,” Zimmerman said.
“But, you’ve just got to run it out.
You never know. Stuff happens.”
What happened was Black’s Andrew Corso drifted back, then dropped the ball as Hackman crossed home plate and Zimmerman crossed first.
The tally made a winner of Tim Griest, pitching in relief of starter Chase Gilbert.
Griest closed the door with four innings of one-hit baseball.
“It’s the defense, our defense is phenomenal,” said Griest. “We turned a bunch of double plays, didn’t make any errors.”
Lititz turned three double plays, a large part of why Hempfield (16-2) left 11 on base while loading the bases in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
The twin killing saved Gilbert in the third and when Hempfield’s first two batters reached in the fourth, Griest got the call.
First baseman Evan Havemann turned Brant Oberholtzer’s squeeze bunt into a force at home and Griest caught Tim Gailor looking at a pitch on the outside corner.
When Griest walked the bases loaded with one out in the fifth — Lititz pitching issued eight free passes — Morrison doubled down when Corso lifted a deep fly to right.
Weismandel watched the ball sail towards Hackman and thought, “I hope (Morrison) sends him, because he has the best arm on the team.”He also thought, “Luke, don’t throw it 20 feet over Justin’s head!”
Hackman’s throw to catcher Justin Smith was true, and in plenty of time. Manning, realizing his options were limited, tried to pirouette away from Smith.Unsuccessfully, he crashed to the ground wide of the plate.”I let him go, waited until he landed and walked over and tagged him,” Smith said. “I wasn’t going to hurt myself.”
“That’s baseball,” Morrison said. “At that point we needed a run desperately.”Their defense made a very good play, the right fielder made a strong throw and got our guy.”The putout, and Zimmerman’s ensuing gift, made a prophet, of sorts, of Weismandel.
“Honestly, I was joking around with few of the kids today and I said, ‘You know what … we shut them out, we can find a way to score a run.’ We did. I still can’t believe it.”
Almost as unbelievable was Lititz’s tournament line as the Oddfellows won 3-2, 2-1 and 1-0.
“We asked our guys to be aggressive,” said Weismandel. “Put the ball in play. Try to limit our strikeouts.”
Peterson did strike out seven, and did not walk a batter until there were two out in the seventh.
Still … “When you put the ball in play, things happen,” said Weismandel. “You have chances. Luckily we got … just enough.”