At some point during Strasburg/Willow Street’s three-hour pummeling of Solanco Gray, a press box observer said, “Somebody forgot to tell SWS they were the eighth seed.”
Upstart SWS Blue (10-7) continued its sustained assault on the New Era Tournament Midget division bracket with a 17-7 demolition of fifth-seeded Solanco Gray, Tuesday night in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The victory returns SWS, the 2010 runner-up, to tonight’s championship game against the Lititz Oddfellows, set for 7. Lititz edged St. Leo, 4-2 in Tuesday’s second game.
“It’s hard work,” said second baseman John Gote, asked to explain Blue’s sudden prowess. “Hard work and our pitching coming on strong at the end of the season.
“We had no expectations, just come in, have some fun and see what happens.”
In a game that was marked by 10 errors, 15 walks and two hit batters, SWS stroked 14 hits. The attack was paced by Gote, who went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI and 4 runs from the leadoff position, his career-best production.
“I like to lead off,” he said. “I was feeling good tonight.”
As was Brett Brooks (3 for 4, 4 RBI, 3 runs) who pitched one out into the fifth inning to pick up his second victory of the tournament.
Batterymate Jason Lindsley plated three runs on a bases-loaded walk, a single and a sacrifice fly.
Oddly enough, Blue went scoreless — and hitless — the first two innings before finding its pace.
“We just wanted to see the pitcher,” said Gote, “see what he had and come on strong the next inning.”
In the interim, Solanco posted an unearned run to take the early 1-0 lead.
SWS came on strong in the third inning on Brooks’ RBI double and RBI walks from Lindsley and Anthony Witteman.
Blue battered four Gray pitchers, adding five in the fourth, four in the fifth and, after taking the sixth inning off, closing out the carnage with a five-run seventh.
Solanco (10-7) posted a pair of runs in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk and fielder’s choice and tacked on three more runs in the fifth, but lost the offensive battle, big time.
Darren Rutledge drove in his second run of the night off reliever Kohner Morgan in the bottom of the seventh to cap the scoring.Lititz Oddfellows 4, St. Leo 2: Continuing the hot streak that carried them from the brink of season-ending elimination to qualifying for the NET, Lititz used a 3-run sixth inning to eliminate St. Leo, the last high seed of the tournament.
Down 2-0 and down to their last six outs, the Oddfellows (9-6-2) struck for the winning rally as Caleb Metzler doubled into the right-field corner leading off.
Zach Hurst followed, doubling off the fence in right, but Metzler had to hold up and only got to third.
Losing pitcher Bryan Haberstroh struck out Robert Gerofsky, but hit Chris Wentzel, loading the bases.
He went full count to the next batter, Bradie Weiler, then got Weiler to pop toward left field.
“I was so mad,” he said. “I got under the ball, saw it going to left and thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to catch that.'”
Except the ball, which started out heading foul, curled back towards fair territory, clanking off the glove of leftfielder Patrick Kenney. Metzler scored as Weiler rounded first.
Ian Hart followed with a run-scoring single up the middle and Cody Kimmel plated Wentzel with the game-winner on an infield forceout.
Lititz added an insurance run on Wentzel’s bases-loaded walk in the seventh and Weiler closed out Metzler’s victory with two innings of one-hit relief, striking out five.
“I just threw as hard as I could, over the middle of the plate, and did what I had to do,” he said.
St. Leo (13-4) patiently built its lead as Andrew St. Clair scored on a second-inning wild pitch and Kenney drove in Joe Yourgal with an infield out.
But the Lions were plagued by three base-running mistakes in the early going and could not deliver the key hit in the late going.