A perfect end to a perfect summer

By Jake Shellenberger
’95 Tournament Participant

I played for the 1995 Mountville Indians that won the Midget-Midget New Era title. I graduated in 2001 from Hempfield, where I played football, swam, and of course baseball. I saw this website in the paper and figured I would take a look. It’s so odd to see my name and pictures on here; it brings back the memories of that amazing summer, so I figured I would share some of them.

Our first game in the tourney was against Akron. We didn’t know much about them except for they were in a different league and played by different rules regarding the running game, so we tried to use that to our advantage.

We all played well and my curveball was working. I think I struck out 16 that game. It was ironic, too, because later on I would swim against their starting pitcher, Bryan Strohl, in the Lancaster County Summer Swim League. I also became friends with Rodney Hawk, who later went on to become a great lefty while at Ephrata High School.

Our second game in the tourney was against Hempfield Black, which had knocked off Willow Street, probably the best team in the entire county and the definite favorite to win the tourney that year. Willow Street had been the thorn in our side the entire year. We only beat them once, a game in which Matt Baker pitched an amazing game, throwing mostly knuckle balls and curve balls. Baker later went on to star in volleyball at Hempfield, helping to guide them to a state championship in 2001.

It was the only way to beat their hard-hitting lineup. We had played them earlier in the year and had lost pretty bad, we made quite a few errors and it wasn’t a good situation. We knew we could beat them, however, and it was a good game all the way around. Little did we know that in 3 short years we would all be teammates for Hempfield High School.

Dave Bechtold is one of my best friends and now pitches for Division 1 Liberty College. Craig Denlinger, another good friend, pitches and plays the field for Lebanon Valley. I still keep in touch with all the guys; throughout high school we became great friends. It was fun to look back and joke about how we played against each other when we were only 12.

Our next game in the final was East Pete. We had split two meetings earlier in the year, and their ace, Jeremy Kauffman, was not at the game. It was a relief for us; he had beaten us before and we just couldn’t figure him out. It was an amazing game, and we never doubted ourselves. Even being down by two going into the last inning, we knew we were going to win. Like the sun coming up tomorrow morning, we just knew.

We ended up scoring 12 runs in the final inning and the tourney was pretty much over. It was a perfect end to a perfect summer. East Pete also fielded quite a few future teammates of mine in high school, including Sam Minder and Ben Murray. Minder was a great ball player at Hempfield, and Murray was an All-America swimmer and also teamed with Baker to help win the state volleyball championship in 2001.

Our coach was Bob Sauders, a local legend who has been coaching the M-M’s in Mountville for longer than anyone can remember. He has guided numerous teams to New Era Tourney wins and countless more appearances. He is a special person and a special coach.

One of the secrets of a successful coach is getting your players to play for you, and he was perfect at doing that. We wanted to win for him as much as we did for ourselves.

He was exciting and fun to watch. He pumped us up and got us excited to play. He always believed in us and always had a positive attitude, something that we fed off of and I believe something that we have carried on with us as we grow older.

I’m confident in saying that every member of that 1995 team has learned something in life from playing ball for Bob Sauders. I still talk to him to this day, and he has inspired me to become a coach myself _ not in baseball but in swimming, where I’m the head coach of the Mount Joy summer swim team of the Lancaster County Summer Swim League.

The lessons I have learned from him carry over to my own coaching duties, and I can only hope that I can inspire and help shape lives like he has been doing in Mountville for so many years.