5th crown in 6 years for Manheim, as VFW wins LNP Midget title

Manheim VFW manager Jeff Mummau shows off the LNP Tourney’s Midget Division trophy.

By Dave Byrne
LNP Correspondent

And the beat goes on.

The Boys from Baronville did it again Tuesday night as Manheim VFW defeated Manheim Township 7-2 to win the Midget Division championship game at Lampeter-Strasburg High School.

It was the fifth LNP title in six years for Manheim teams across the three classifications.

For three members of the ’98 Midget champions it is their fourth tournament championship. Tanner Strickler, B.J. Kauffman and Mike Kernisky were all members of the ’93 M-M champs and also played on the ’95 and ’96 J-M winners. A fourth member of this team, Craig Smoker, played for the ’93 and ’96 champs.

Then there’s their manager.

After coaching the incredible ’94-’96 J-M three-peat, Mummau moved to the midget level this season, rejoining many of those players. The rest is, as they say, history.

And Mummau reminded them of a little history before the tournament started. While Manheim had enjoyed success at the M-M and J-M levels, no Manheim team had won a Midget championship since the back-to-back titles of 1953-’54.

“You have to have goals in baseball,” Mummau said, “and I put that out as a goal. 1954 is a long time and they met the challenge. It’s a special group.

“I’m just thankful and grateful for the kids I have. Baseball is 100 percent chemistry. A lot of it is just knowing the kids you’re dealing with. And those kids know me.”

Boy do they know him. In addition to any past relationship they might’ve had, they’ve seen Mummau’s smiling face every day since March.

Mummau served as a junior varsity assistant for the high school this year and coached most of these players. The end of the scholastic season just merged into summer ball.

“It’s been a really long year and we put in a lot of time,” said winning pitcher John Lentz, the ace of Mummau’s ’96 champs. “Since March I’ve probably played in something like 70 games (counting American Legion). When it comes to winning a championship, you just have to give it your all and let it all hang out.”

Lentz didn’t leave much hanging out over the plate for Township (29-7) to hit. Of the 25 balls put into play by Township, 16 went to the right side of the diamond.

Rightfielder Jared Martin made six putouts, including two great running catches to his left for VFW (26-2-1). After the game, Mummau couldn’t say enough about the job Martin did.

“I knew Jared was the right guy for tonight,” Mummau said. “There’s a kid who didn’t play a lot of competitive baseball. He played in our “B’ leagues. I had him on the jayvee team and kind of took him under my wing.

“He’s a kid who never played in a big game in his life. In my mind, for the circumstances, he was our MVP for the game and I gave him a game ball. He’ll remember this for the rest of his life.”

As will Lentz. He dominated the top half of the lineup, as the number 1-through-5 hitters were a collective 0-for-17 with one walk.

It was the bottom half of the lineup that was most productive, with all of Township’s hits (6-for-12), paced by Greg Lausch and Wayne Deaven, both 2-for-3, scoring Township’s two runs in the second inning.

“Maybe I concentrated so much on the top guys that I just didn’t focus on the bottom guys as much,” Lentz offered. “But all those guys, 1 through 9, can just rip the skin off the ball.”

While he’s enjoyed his success on the mound this summer, Lentz knows where his future lies.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it as a pitcher. I think I’m going to stick to being a shortstop,” said Lentz, who was a very good shortstop for Hen Bell’s Barons as a sophomore.

“He’s an unbeleivable shortstop,” observed Mummau, who knows a little bit about the middle infield. “He’s a cat, and he’s only going to get better.”

The infield proved to be Township’s undoing Tuesday, and pitcher Jordan Arena was the unlucky victim. Five of Manheim’s seven runs were unearned, as six Township errors contributed to Arena’s downfall.

Arena got the party started in the first inning when his throw, on Mike Kernisky’s fielder’s choice comebacker, pulled John Snyder off the bag at second.

Lentz singled to left to load the bases, and Brandon Bosch’s infield single scored two. But Arena avoided further damage with a strikeout double play and settled into a decent groove over the next two innings.

After Township tied the game in the second, VFW went ahead to stay in the fourth inning. Jeremy Hershey lived on Andy Sapovchak’s error at third to start the inning and Tanner Strickler singled him to third.

After two popups, Arena could see his way out, but a passed ball scored Hershey and Strickler came home on Martin’s hit to left.

An error by Jonathon Dochterman on Kauffman’s grounder to second and Arena’s bobble of Kernisky’s sacrifice bunt set the stage for the weirdest play of the evening and for the only time Township retired Lentz.

Lentz, who was 3-for-4 with a run scored, slashed a ball down the right-field line that Andy Miles caught up to, but couldn’t catch. Kauffman, running all the way, scored easily, but Kernisky, unsure if the ball would be caught or if it was even a fair ball, hesitated and was forced at second base.

Worse, for Township, it was now 5-2 and it became 6-2 the next inning when Tanner, who singled to third base and went to second on Sapovchak’s throwing error, scored on Dochterman’s two-out error.

Strickler (3-for-3) doubled home Lentz in the seventh to hang the hardluck loss on Arena.

“He (Arena) had a really good breaking ball, it had a nice loop on it,” said Township manager John Dochterman. “(But) he threw the fastball down the middle, and they’re too good a hitting team.

“We played them tough in a Memorial Day tournament and went nine scoreless innings with them in their own tournament , so I knew we could play with them. Talentwise, we were equal, but we just have to make a play. I guess nobody plays perfectly, but if we play our best defensive game of the year, we’d be hard to beat.”

Asking Mummau which of the four titles was the sweetest was like asking a man with four kids which one he like the most.

“This tournament is so tough to win, I think it’s sweeter each time,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, the first one was very sweet, but as you get older, you appreciate each one a little bit more.”

Manheim VFW teammates sandwich winning pitcher John Lentz.

Co-worker buddies square off in final

By Toby Therrien
LNP Sports Writer

There is a knock at the door.

It’s around noon, so Charlene Mummau has to answer it. Her husband, Jeff, is still in bed after working thhe late shift at Intelligence Printing on Eden Road.

It’s John Dochterman again, with his son, Jonathan.

“Hi John,” Charlene says. “You guys can go on down. I’m sure Jeff will be down when he wakes up.”

So the Dochtermans head down to the basement, where the Mummaus have a batting net set up in their Manheim home near Bent Creek Country Club.

Dochterman works the late shift at Intelligencer, too, but he doesn’t sleep quite as well as Mummau. Why waste time tossing and turning when you can spend it playing soft-toss with your boys?

Dochterman didn’t sleep very well on Tuesday.

Maybe that’s because the evening brought his first shot at a LNP Midget Baseball Tournament title. He played for Willow Street in the late ’60s, but never made it to a final. Now he coaches Manheim Township’s midgets, the same group of players he helped coach on Township’s junior varsity team this past spring.

As if his first championship-game appearance wasn’t enough to ruffle his sleep, Dochterman also knew he would battle his good friend and co-worker.

Jeff Mummau also played in the LNP Tournament, part of an extended baseball family that includes his younger brother, Rob, a utility player in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor-league system.

As a coach, Mummau has had plenty of success in the finals, winning three straight Junior-Midget titles from ’94 to ’96. Many of the players on this Manheim VFW team were on the championship team in ’96. They also played junior varsity this spring at Manheim Central, where he is an assistant coach.

If you’re thinking about becoming a baseball coach, call Dochterman and Mummau first.

Or better yet, talk to their wives, Denise Dochterman and Charlene Mummau. They’ll fill you in. They’ll be the first to tell you John and Jeff have been on the field or in a batting cage nearly every day since the high school season started in March.

Raking fields.

Lining the base paths.

Lugging the equipment around.

Stuck on the phone arranging rides.

Listening to the next-best excuse for missing practice.

“I couldn’t even guess at how many hours I’ve put in since March,” says Dochterman.

Sounds like a real bundle of fun, doesn’t it?

“You have to love what you’re doing,” Mummau says. “If you don’t really love it … you don’t see a whole lot of good young coaches nowadays.”

Why not?

“There’s a lot of grief,” Dochterman answers. “If you’re going to have parents in the office questioning a varsity baseball coach, then you know they’re hollering at the summer coaches because we’re just volunteers.”

Volunteers who just happen to spend as much time on the baseball diamond as they do at home. Between the two of them, Dochterman and Mummau coached 65 midget baseball games this summer.

It’s no secret why these two teams squared off for the LNP title.

The players are dedicated to winning and the parents are supportive.

And they have two coaches who are willing to lose a little sleep just to get in a little more batting practice.

That’s what it’s all about.

“I think it’s a big accomplishment for Jeff to come in here his first year (as midget coach) and handle the different situations and go the whole way,” says Dochterman. “He has a quality team, but he has quality coaches and, really, the whole support system there is terrific.”

“Not a whole lot changed,” says Mummau, whose club won the LNP Midget crown Tuesday with a 7-2 victory over Dochterman’s squad. “I just put in a system and then stepped back and watched it run. These kids know me. A lot of it is just knowing the players you’re dealing with. Baseball is 100 percent chemistry.”

Now comes the vacation, the break from the game, right?

Well, Mummau might get some rest.

But Dochterman is still chasing away his sleep. He drives to Harrisburg this afternoon, where he’ll coach the Blue Mountain Region team at the Keystone Games. There will be two more games on Thursday, and another one Friday.

Then on Saturday he’ll host a tryout for Township’s fall baseball team.

And sometime in the middle of next week, Charlene Mummau shouldn’t be too surprised if Dochterman and his son come knocking on the door.

The champs of Manheim VFW.