Defending champ Mount Joy rallies to reach semifinals

Michael Robinson delivers for Mount Joy Blue.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

During a pre-game chat, a reporter asked Mount Joy Blue coach Ron Wagner if his team had crossed paths with the Warwick Phillies, the team Blue was minutes away from playing in the New Era Tournament Midget-Midget quarterfinals.

“Three times,” Wagner said, leaving the question hanging.

Turns out all three meeting resulted in Warwick wins.

So with the Phillies holding a two-run lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning, and with righthander Tommy Reapsome seemingly in control, Blue’s chances of defending its NET title seemed remote.

But never count out the Energizer Bunnies in blue T-shirts. As Wagner noted of his team later in the evening, “They never quit. They just keep going.”

And now Mt. Joy (29-6) is going to Monday’s semifinals after pulling out a 5-4 victory over Warwick.

The 2005 NET M-M champions will battle 2002-04 champion Mountville in the second game of a doubleheader at Kunkle Field.

First pitch is scheduled for 20 minutes after the conclusion of the Manheim VFW Maroon-Norlanco Redbirds contest, which is set for 6 p.m.

Protecting a 4-2 lead, Reapsome retired the first two Mt. Joy batters of the fifth inning on a foul out and a strike out, and it didn’t seem dangerous when Chris Robinson — who caught his brother Michael for the first four innings of the game — worked the only walk Reapsome gave up.

But it was the start of a game-changing rally.

Eric Ebersole, who had struck out twice to that point, singled Robinson to third and took second on the throw into the cutoff man.

That brought to the plate Dylan Houseal, a player Wagner calls “Mr. Clutch.”

“Oh man,” said Wagner, “that kid just comes through all the time.”

This time was no exception. Houseal took a strike. Took a ball. Then took Reapsome to right field for a two-run single to tie the game.

Wild-pitched to second, he came home with the winning run on an infield error on Michael Robinson’s grounder to second.

“Hat’s off to Mt. Joy,” said Phillies’ coach Jan Reddig. “I thought there in the fifth inning we had ‘em.”

Mt. Joy took an early lead on an RBI single by Michael Houseal, Dylan’s cousin and the kid brother of Donegal softball pitching ace Sami Houseal.

Warwick (17-12) forged ahead in the third as Shawn Mearig singled home Tyler Morris, then scored in front of Brian Eshleman, who redirected a Michael Robinson fastball beyond the leftfield fence.

Trey Reddig singled in Warwick’s fourth run in the fourth inning, giving Reapsome a three-run cushion.

Dylan Houseal got that back in the bottom of the inning by hitting a leadoff single and scoring on Justin Prescott’s hit.

The rally made a winner of Adam Frey, who followed Michael Robinson with two innings of no-hit/one-walk relief.

“Being down like that the whole game, two outs yet, and coming back and going ahead. What more could you want?” asked Wagner.

Understandably, Reddig had a slightly different take.

“It’s a heartbreaker,” he said. “(But) we have nothing to hang our heads about.”

Michael Houseal of Mount Joy attempts to make the play on Warwick’s Justin Nolt as Dylan Houseal backs up the play.

Brian Eshleman of Warwick gets home run congratulations from his teammates, led by Trey Reddig.

Warwick’s Derek Adams leads off first base …

… before drawing a pickoff throw to Mount Joy first baseman Nick Tufarolo.

Mount Joy’s Jerel Sensenig attempts to field a ball in centerfield.