They take different paths to get there, but Donegal and Lititz both reach the Midget semifinals
By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent
Two widely divergent pitching performances spiced up the opening night of the New Era Tournament Midget Division quarterfinals.
Darin Gorski threw a 1-hitter as Donegal (16-5) dominated the Lancaster Orioles 10-0 Thursday night at Ephrata War Memorial Field.
Earlier in the evening, the Lititz Oddfellows (12-10-1) accepted the generosity of two Hempfield Gray pitchers, scoring on seven of eleven walks issued by them in a 14-4 victory.
Lititz and Donegal will meet Monday in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. at the War Memorial.
The winners of tonight’s quarterfinal twinbill will play at 7:45 in the second game.
Gorski, a junior-to-be at Donegal, was 2-1 with 2 saves for the Indians’ varsity this past Spring.
The tall lefthander needed 42 pitches to get through the first two innings, then 43 the rest of the way as he improved to 7-0 this summer in a game shortened one inning by the mercy rule.
He surrendered only a first-inning double to Nate Lozano. The Orioles (9-5) had three other baserunners on a walk, an error and a strikeout/wild pitch. Gorski got three outs on popups, two on groundouts and two on deep fly balls to center.
He said those and Lozano’s double came when he “Left a few hang.”
He didn’t hang many as he mixed fastballs and forkballs. Everything he threw was hard.
And hard to hit.
While Gorski shackled the O’s, his teammates pecked away, scoring in every inning save the second.
Leadoff batter Matt Cafrelli was 4-for-4 with 3 runs scored. Charlie Carper was 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs, while Jordan Mellinger drove in 3 runs.
Greg Breneman knocked in one, and Drew Haubert’s solo homer added another.
Veteran Donegal coach Jerry Hess singled out Andrew Flattery’s 2-run single in the third as a key hit.
“It deflated them and picked us up,” he said.
“We had timely hitting tonight, which was pretty nice,” said Gorski.
He and Breneman are the only members of this squad with varsity experience.
Everyone else played on the Indians’ jayvee team that went 16-2 this Spring. Their easy camaraderie clearly carried over.
“They’re loose,” said Hess. “Whether they’re up 10 or down 10, it’s the same.”
Like their counterparts one level up on the Lititz American Legion team, the Oddfellows have had a rough summer, struggling to consistently field the same players and enough players.
And like their Legion brothers, the Oddfellows have blossomed in the postseason.
“It’s been a struggle all year,” said Lititz coach Frank Camera. “When we hit the playoffs we looked at it as a whole ‘nother season.”
They bounced Hempfield Black and Donegal from the Lanco School League playoffs before falling to Comet Blue in the finals.
That seemed like old news as they fell behind early to Hempfield Gray Thursday night.
Gray (14-3-1), the top seed from the Lanco Community League, took a 3-0 lead on Kiernan Farley’s RBI single and Brian Hungarter’s 2-run hit.
But Gray starter Brent Heller was unable to sustain his high-wire act of putting on baserunners and then picking them off first.
He walked the bases full to lead off the third inning, then gave up a 2-run single to Kent Gerdes. Jordan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly and Tyler Kline knocked in a run while grounding out.
The Oddfellows took command in the fourth inning, sending 11 men to the plate while scoring seven runs and chasing Heller.
Lititz got RBI hits from Zimmerman, Kline and Martin Sommers and also scored twice on wild pitches, once on an error and once on a steal of home.
One inning later, Zimmerman’s RBI double off Farley delivered the run that triggered the 10-run rule and ended the game.
Lititz’s Steve Elmer came on in relief of starter Steve Martin after Martin was ineffective. Elmer walked four but slammed the door.
“That’s the first time (Martin) has taken the mound since the league quarterfinals,” Camera said. “Elmer came down from church camp in the Poconos to pitch tonight.
“Part of what I wanted to do was get both of them some work tonight.”
Mission accomplished, with the added bonus of victory.
Another odd win for Oddfellows
By Jason Guarente
New Era Sports Writer
The game only lasted five innings, but it summed up the entire season for the Lititz Oddfellows.
Lititz was both impressive and confounding. It dominated at the end after sleepwalking in the beginning.
Coach Frank Camera has gotten used to his team and the roller coaster ride it often provides.
“For every win we get, we match it with the same number of losses,” Camera said. “There’s just no consistency.”
Lititz’s 14-4 victory over Hempfield Gray in the New Era Tournament Midget quarterfinals at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field Thursday night was the latest example. This was the game Lititz has been waiting for all season. Since the players first came together as a team, they broke every huddle by shouting “New Era” in unison. Getting here and winning has been their ultimate goal.
That’s what made their lackadaisical start against Hempfield Gray such a mystery. After two innings, Lititz, prohibitive favorites to advance, trailed by three runs.
“We needed to wake up,” Camera said. “You look at the scoreboard in the third inning and we were losing 3-0. You’re thinking, ‘This could be an embarrassment.'”
Left fielder Jordan Zimmerman agreed.
“That’s Hempfield’s B team,” he said. “We would have been the laughingstock of the New Era Tournament if we had lost to them.”
Maybe Lititz took this win for granted. Once it fell behind, it knew it had to quickly recover. Or else.
Lititz struck for four runs in the third inning to take the lead. It added seven more runs in the fourth. By time the fifth inning rolled around, the only question was whether or not it could enforce the mercy rule.
“In the games we did lose, we’ve come out flat,” said Zimmerman, who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs. “We make mistakes because we’re out of it mentally.”
With only 13 players on its roster, injuries and vacations have left Lititz playing short-handed much of the summer. Now that it has its whole team intact, it hopes to play its best.
Lititz’s record is 12-10-1, which doesn’t seem to indicate a contender. But the players and their coach believe they can run the table in this tournament.
“We have to be treated as a threat,” Camera said.
“If we play like we did the final three innings (Thursday) for the whole game, we easily have a shot to win the New Era,” Zimmerman said.
If … Those two letters loom large for Lititz.
The ingredients are certainly there. Lititz has three solid pitchers in Steve Martin, Steve Elmer and Zimmerman. The top of its lineup is also formidable, led by Zimmerman in the No. 3 slot and Kent Gerdes batting second.
Lititz already owns wins over Donegal and Hempfield Black – two of the other championship hopefuls. The only team it hasn’t handled is Comet Blue, losing all five meetings this summer.
As they broke their huddle after their quarterfinal win, Lititz’s players shouted “New Era” for the thousandth time.
The tournament they’ve been waiting for is finally here. Maybe this is when the inconsistency ends and Lititz puts it all together.
“It’d be nice,” Camera said with a smile. “It’d be real nice.”