After they rubbed the stars from their eyes and got settled in, the lads in Donegal green had themselves a pretty good time.
Unaccustomed to success after a dismal season that saw the Marietta and Maytown programs, individually, total three wins last year, the programs combined to form the Donegal team, this year.
Success followed, but first time in the New Era is still first time in the New Era.
“We told them to relax … go out and have fun,” said their coach, Mike Kolenda. “But, they were still nervous.”
Taking an early shot from Mountville, Donegal (16-3) recovered and went on to subdue the perennial champion Indians, 8-5, in the first game of the midget-midget division of the 64th New Era Midget Tournament of Champions.
Donegal advances to Monday’s semifinals where it will face Manheim Maroon, a 1-0 winner over Hempfield Black in Thursday’s other quarterfinal.
Down four runs after an inning-and-a-half, Donegal threw a 4-spot at Mountville (16-17) in the bottom of the second inning to get back in the game.
“We started playing better, got hits when we needed to,” said Kolenda, “and we did what we did all last year, we didnt’t quit.”
Adam Kolenda’s 2-run triple to deep centerfield followed a 2-run single by Zaak Hall and Donegal was back in a game that had all the early makings of a Mountville rout.
The Indians put up 3 runs in the first inning on RBI singles by Nate Beck and Ben Miller and an error on infield grounder.
Mountville added a run in the second on an error on a rundown but as jittery as Donegal seemed on defense, they made the big plays when the had to, turning double plays to escape the first and second innings.
“If we don’t hit into that double play in the second inning, we probably chase Cameron,” declared Indians’ coach Bob Sauders, who added, “we’ve been doing that all year. That’s very frustrating, but it happens.”
More often when you’re playing a team largely composed of first-year, 11-year olds, as Sauders is this year.
“We knew we were going to give up some runs because we’re so young and we make mistakes out there,” he offered. “We needed to tack on some more runs and we didn’t do it.”
After tying the game, Donegal seemed to take a deep breath and gain renewed confidence.
“After we got our runs back, we felt pretty comfortable,” offered Ney. “I was thinking, ‘We’re right there. Let’s get our bats going.’ ”
Pinchrunner Chandler Colyer scored the go-ahead run for the Tribe on a wild pitch and, after Mountville tied the score on Michael Hernandez’s RBI squeeze bunt in the fourth, Derek Mohr plated the game-winning run in the bottom of the inning, scoring Ney on an infield groundout.
Donegal added a pair of unearned runs in the home fifth on a passed ball and a throwing error for the final margin.
“That’s a big step for us,” said Kolenda. “We’ll see how it pans out next week.”