New Era Correspondent
It is said Heaven helps those that help themselves. Which certainly held true Monday evening for Lititz VFW’s Brent Stoltzfus. However, Heaven was powerless to help Hempfield Black.
Stoltzfus ripped a grand slam home run in the first game of a Junior-Midget doubleheader at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field. It was all the support he would need to pick up the win in a 5-2 verdict over Manheim Township Black in the New Era Tournament.
The Mountville Angels slugged five homers, including two by winning pitcher D.J. Ream, to bounce Hempfield Black 12-4 in the nightcap.
Lititz and Mountville will meet at Kunkle Field tonight at 7 p.m., weather permitting, to decide the J-M championship.
Oddly, in a time where local teams run into each other every weekend in tournaments, this will be the first meeting this year between the champions of the Susquehanna League – VFW (32-5-1) – and the Penn Manor League champion Angels (29-0).
VFW’s championship invitation hung in the balance in the sixth inning as Manheim Township Black protected a 2-1 lead.
Lititz had taken a 1-0 lead on Zach Snyder’s third-inning single, but Black (24-9) tied the game on a fiA grand old time: Brent Stoltzfus smacks a grand slam to lead Lititz VFW into J-M final, where the Mountville Angels awaitrst-and-third balk by Stoltzfus in the fourth and Carlo D’Angelis’s bases-loaded single in the top of the sixth.
Stoltzfus avoided further damage, getting the next hitter, Pat Kelley, to ground back into an inning-ending double play.
Meanwhile, Township starter Tyler Stoltz had held Lititz to one hit through five innings.
He got the first out of the sixth, then walked Zach Shank. Black coach Larry Bires visited Stoltz, then waved Carlos Medina in from second base.
Snyder greeted Medina by singling into the left field corner and Freeman walked to load the bases.
Stoltzfus offered a weak check swing at Medina’s first pitch, then took two balls. Finally, he got a fastball down the middle – just what he was looking for.
He didn’t miss. The ball took little time to escape over the left field wall.
It’s another magical comeback for Lititz VFW
By Jason Guarente
New Era Sports Writer
Joe Noll couldn’t stop smiling.
Who could blame him?
His team’s come-from-behind victory had just been completed and he was still soaking it in.
As he answered questions about the game, he naturally started talking about how Lititz VFW always believes it can make a comeback.
That’s because the players are always at ease.
“When you get nervous and you press, it shows in your swing,” Noll said.
And when you relax?
“You hit the ball out there.”
Noll pointed in the general direction of where Brent Stoltzfus hit his grand slam. Who knows where it landed? It was out of sight, at least 50 feet beyond Kunkle Field’s cozy left-field fence.
Stoltzfus’ blast was the difference as Lititz VFW defeated Manheim Township Black 5-2 in the New Era Tournament Junior Midget semifinals Monday night.
Noll runs his team with the kind of rah-rah spirit you’d want in a youth baseball coach. He offers instruction and is stern when he needs to be, but most of what he says is designed to build up his boys’ confidence.
That was evident when Lititz fell behind Manheim Township 2-1 in the sixth inning. After his players jogged off the field, Noll offered this succinct bit of encouragement.
“We can do this,” he said.
There were reasons Lititz might have experienced a flicker of doubt. The team’s bats had been silent the entire game – producing just three hits.
But once the players gathered outside of their dugout, you had a sneaking suspicion that a rally was on the way.
“One thing we started since Day 1 is we come in here and meet in a huddle after every inning,” Noll said. “What just happened in the field stays in the field. We’re on offense now.”
Were they ever.
It took four batters, the heart of Lititz’s lineup, about 10 minutes to break the game open.
Zach Shank walked. Zach Snyder doubled. Michael Freeman walked. Then Stoltzfus hit his majestic home run.
It was the kind of home run that keeps boys tossing and turning with anticipation at night. The kind we all imagine, but so few of us get to hit. Lititz’s season-long goal was to play for the New Era championship and Stoltzfus clinched it with one clutch swing.
Talk about a thrill.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Good fortune brought Stoltzfus to the plate at that moment, but perhaps he earned it. With six strong innings on the mound, he had kept his team in the game. After he put Lititz in front, Snyder got the final three outs in the seventh to seal it.
Comebacks are nothing new for Lititz. Noll’s team has put together a bunch this season, including one game against Ephrata where Lititz rallied from 9-1 down to forge a tie.
When it came time to bat with the season’s goal at stake, Lititz never blinked. It didn’t tense those muscles.
“I knew we had the players to do it,” Stoltzfus said.
That’s because they’ve done it so many times before.