New Era Correspondent
Call it an answered prayer.
With his team down a run in the bottom of the seventh, but with two runners on base, Ben DeMora asked for some Divine Assistance as he approached the batter’s box.
And while it’s likely the great manager in the sky was otherwise occupied with matters of greater importance, Demora stepped in and lined a 3-run homer over the left field fence to give the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox a dramatic 6-4 victory over the defending New Era Junior-Midget champion Mountville Angels Monday night in Mount Joy.
It was the second home run of the game for DeMora, who drove in four runs for the White Sox.
Hoping to maintain their positive momentum, the Sox (13-10-2) return to Kunkle Field tonight at 7 p.m. to play Manheim Township Black in the J-M championship game.
MT Black (15-12) punched its title ticket by outlasting Hempfield Black 3-2 in Monday night’s second game.
DeMora’s second blast made a winner of Chad Babcock, who bulled his neck and gave his team a chance to battle back from an early 4-0 deficit.
Mountville (21-3) jumped in front in the first, loading the bases on a single and two walks. Catcher Nate Beck stepped in and crushed Babcock’s first offering over the fence in right for a grand slam.
“I hung a curveball,” said Babcock, “And that was my only mistake the whole game.”
Babcock quickly settled down, fanning 11 of the next 13 batters he faced — including seven in a row. He finished with 15 strikeouts in all, raising his New Era Tournament two-game total to 30 in 12 innings of work.
Hitting his spots and keeping the ball at the knees or lower, Babcock had total command against Mountville.
“From my experience, they’re not a good low-ball hitting team,” he said.
Mountville would get runners to third more three times, but Babcock was equal to the task, with an assist from catcher David Adams in the sixth inning.
Eric Macik tried to score from third on a wild pitch in the sixth, but Adams quickly tracked down the ball and fed Babcock for the tag at the plate.
Given how effective Babcock was, trying to steal a run there was the only thing Mountville could do.
“(Babcock) kept the ball down nice,” observed Angels’ coach Jeff Ream. “He spotted his pitches and that’s the most strikeouts we’ve had all year against us.”
While Babcock was holding Mountville at bay, his teammates had their own worries.
“We were a little worried because when Mountville gets up, it’s tough to get back on them,” said Sox coach Bill DeMora.
The White Sox nicked Macik for unearned runs in the first and third innings and DeMora got it to 4-3 with a solo shot in the fifth.
With Macik matching Babcock, the White Sox were running out of innings. They faced their last turn with the bottom of their order.
“Before the (seventh) inning we said we need one one guy on base to get to the top of the order,” Bill DeMora recalled.
He got his wish when Danny Snyder, after fouling off three 1-2 pitches, took a 2-2 fastball square in the back.
That brought Jon Carlson to the plate and Jeff Ream from the dugout with the hook for Macik.
“He was at 103 pitches,” Jeff Ream said. “Kyle (Ream, Jeff’s brother) told me to leave him in, but I over-ruled him.”
Jeff Ream handed the ball to his ace — and son — DJ, who quickly buried Carlson in an 0-2 count. Carlson reached out on the next offering and poked it in the hole at short for an infield single.
Bringing Ben DeMora to the plate and a date with fate.
The second game was similar to the opener — a pitcher’s duel, making runs a precious commodity.
Township took a 1-0 lead in the first when leadoff hitter Carlos Medina laced the second pitch he saw over the fence in right — his third opposite-field homer in five at-bats in the New Era Tourney.
But Hempfield (16-14-1) battled back to take a 2-1 lead in the second, as Chris Wise drove in a run with a single and Brandon Hinkle added an RBI groundout.
Township regained the lead for good in the third, taking advantage of some shaky defense from Hempfield.
Danny Way walked to lead off the third, and Mark Jones followed by grounding back to Houseal, who threw the ball away at second.
Medina hit an infield single to short to load the bases and Quinn Bertel knocked in the tying run on a ground out to second.
“The guys know, if they’re on third base, they’re breaking right away if the batter can get the ball to the opposite side of the field,” said Township coach Mark Good.
The other runners advanced on the out and, after Tyler Deshong struck out, Houseal’s first pitch to Kyle Karpinsky bounced away from Lenhard and trickled just into the Hempfield dugout area, out of play, with Lenhard in pursuit. That allowed Jones to touch home with what proved to be the game-winner.
While Houseal allowed just four hits and finished with 15 strikeouts, Hempfield, unlike SWS, couldn’t bail out its hurler.
“At 3-2, the whole time I thought we were going to score a run at some point or another,” lamented Hempfield ocach Gary Stepanchick.
That’s because Jones had settled in for Township, retiring nine straight hitters after allowing Hempfield’s two runs in the second.
But Jones had some great defense behind him — especially in the fifth innning.
Jones let Hempfield load the bases with one out in the fifth, but was bailed out by a fine defensive play from Karpinski, who made a sliding catch of Houseal’s fly ball to left and made a brilliant throw from his knees to the plate to retire pinch runner Ryan Rohrer, who was trying to tag up.
“Bases loaded, one out I thought something could happen,” said Stepanchick. “They played excellent defense. They’re fundamentally a very sound team.”
“It was a team effort tonight,” said Good, still swept up in the tension of the game. “I don’t know if I’ll ever sleep tonight.”