New Era Sports Writer
Sure it was Friday the 13th, but nothing goofy happened on the second night of the New Era Midget-Midget Tournament at Kunkel Field in Mount Joy.
Just some solid pitching, some clutch hitting and, in Hempfield Black’s case, a lot of base stealing.
In the second set of midget-midget quarterfinal games, Hempfield swiped 11 bases on the way to a 12-3 win over the Penn Manor Comets, who took the side door into the tournament when Rheems Blue had to drop out earlier this week because of lack of players available for the quarterfinal round.
And in the nightcap Friday, righty Devin Eberly pitched 5 1/3 solid innings and helped himself out at the plate, as Rheems Gray topped the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals 6-2.
End result: Hempfield Black (31-5-1 overall) will take on Rheems Gray (14-9) in a semifinal game back here at Kunkel Field Monday night, 20 minutes after the other semifinal game, pitting Mount Joy Blue (28-7) against Mountville (41-12-1), which is set for 6 p.m.
The midget-midget final is on tap for Tuesday, also at Kunkel Field.
Hempfield and Rheems took nearly identical routes to the semifinals, both scoring a bunch of runs early, and then turning things over to their ace pitchers.
In the opener, Hempfield jumped out to an 8-0 lead, knocking out PM starter Taylor Skelley with one out in the second.
Shaun Corso led the hit parade for Hempfield, going 3-for-4 with a double, four RBIs and three runs.
He also shared the mound duties with lefty starter Nick Yarnell, who went the first three innings, allowing just one run on three hits.
“I just wanted to throw hard and throw strikes,” said Yarnell, who struck out four.
“And it was a lot easier pitching with a big lead because all the pressure was off.”
Corso, a righty, pitched the final three frames and allowed two runs while striking out seven.
He was credited with a save.
“We were patient at the plate and we were all hitting the ball,” said Corso, who had an RBI single in the first and a two-run single in Hempfield’s five-run second-inning uprising.
“Now we get to play another game and keep having fun,” he said. “We’ve worked hard all season to get to the New Era Tournament and to be one of the top seeds.”
Hempfield certainly played like a top seed Friday.
Patrick Kenney and Cory Gantz swiped three bases apiece and Kenney went 3-for-3 at the plate with a run and an RBI double, which made it 8-0 in the second.
Harrison Lutz went 3-for-4 with a double and scored twice and Nolan Myers and Anthony Dornes had two hits each for Hempfield, which pounded out 15 hits.
“It’s always nice when you can swing the bats and get some runs early on,” Hempfield coach Bob Gantz said. “And we pride ourselves on our pitching, and those guys threw strikes, got ahead of hitters and let their defense play behind them.”
“They had two very good pitchers, and I give them 100 percent of the credit,” PM coach Brian Snyder added. “They hit us with the lefty (Yarnell) and then the righty (Corso). They were both awfully tough.”
As was Eberly, who pitched a gem for Rheems.
Using his trusty double knuckle curveball, he limited SWS to two runs on two hits while punching out nine.
After throwing 96 pitches and allowing two walks and a single in the bottom of the sixth, Eberly gave way to Allen Toth, who wriggled out of a bases-loaded pickle, got the final two outs and picked up a save.
“It made it a little easier with those early runs,” Rheems coach Allen Toth said, “but it’s good we jumped out early like that. You have to do that in a game like this.”
Rheems did, jumping on SWS starter Joey Sinopoli for four runs in the first, highlighted by Eberly’s two-run triple to deep center.
Eberly went 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs and T.J. Drescher went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI singles to spark Rheems’ offense, which made the most of its eight hits.
Eberly did the rest, mowing down SWS with his secret-weapon pitch.
“It looks like a balloon,” Coach Toth said of Eberly’s double knuckle curve, “but you can’t hit it.”
Because the pitch, when thrown properly, is like a sinker. It starts up around your eyes, but quickly plummets to the dirt.
“His knuckle curve killed us,” SWS coach Mike Yeager marveled. “I thought we might be able to catch up to his fastball, but his knuckle curve was outstanding.
“We were chasing it in the dirt the whole game. So you have to give (Eberly) a lot of credit. The kid pitched a great game.”
Jake Sweger had a pair of hits and knocked in a run for SWS, which finished its season 17-18 overall.
Penn Manor finished its season 7-16.