Donegal, Lititz VFW favorites in junior-midgets

Sports Writer
A look at the competitive balance among the ten teams in the New Era Tournament’s junior-midget division gives a pretty good idea of which two teams will appear in the championship series at the end of this month.

In head-to-head league competition, Donegal and Lititz VFW have set themselves apart from the remainder of the field, earning the finalist favorites’ role.

Of course, one might ask the 1998 West Lampeter Pioneers how being the overwhelming favorite worked out. Or ’98 J-M champion Hempfield Black.

For if there’s one thing for certain, nothing is certain when the 14-and-unders take to the cathedral of New Era Tournament baseball, Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.

While fashioning a 18-2 regular season mark, Donegal went 10-2 against the other nine teams in the NET field. VFW, 14-5-1 in league play, was 7-3.

Seven of the remaining eight teams were .500 or a game below against each other, while Penn Manor played its way in by feasting on the league’s bottom dwellers.

The junior-midgets begin the long march toward local immortality on Tuesday evening when the No. 7 seed Manheim Township Blue Streaks host 10th-seeded Penn Manor and the No. 8 seed Mountville Angels welcome the ninth-seeded Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox in a one-game play-in.

Tuesday’s victors advance to the Lancaster County Youth Baseball 14U Section One New Era Tournament qualifying series, beginning Thursday, July 10.

Top-seeded Donegal and No. 2 see Lititz VFW await the winners in best-of-three series.

Also competing in the qualifying series are the third-seeded Garden Spot Spartans, who host the sixth-seeded Manheim Lions, and No. 4 seed E-town Navy, which hosts the Warwick White Sox.

The best-of-three series shift to the lower seed’s home field Monday, July 14, with a third meeting, if necessary, set for July 16.

The J-M tournament then goes on hold for a week while the Midgets jump ahead in line — to accommodate the home schedule of the Lancaster Barnstormers, who graciously open the gates of Clipper Magazine Stadium to the NET.

The Junior-Midgets will play a quarterfinal doubleheader at Kunkle on July 23, with a championship semifinal set for July 24.

An elimination semifinal will be contested July 25 with the championship game on July 28.

A second, winner-take-all championship game will held July 29 if necessary.

Following are preview capsules for the New Era Tournament games.

14U Play-ins

Penn Manor at Manheim Twp. Blue Streaks

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Penn Manor, the 2013 J-M runner-up, finished tenth overall in the Lancaster County Youth Baseball’s 14U Section One, fifth in the National division. Manheim Township nabbed the seventh seed overall, placing fifth in the American division. Township won the only head-to-head meeting of the LCYBL season, 5-3.

ABOUT PENN MANOR — Penn Manor (8-10-2) returns one player from last year’s J-M runner-up, Dalton Landis. Pitcher Corey Claire (.429 avg), Brett Beiler (.482), Caleb McFarland (.429), and Brandon Harris advanced from the 14u Section 2s while Brady Hinkle and Cade Thorout moved up from 12u.

ABOUT MANHEIM TWP. BLUE STREAKS — Township (12-8) returns one player from last year’s Section 1 team, which did not compete in the NET: Jake Cummings. Travis Kraft (.458 avg, 11 RBI), Ethan Kile (.446, 16 RBI), Jack Marchant, Rece Bender (.421, 15 RBI), Tom Cesarone, Braden Rishell (.426, 13 RBI), Josh Long and Pacey Kashar moved up from the Section 2 ranks. Additionally, Juan Rosario did nit play LCYBL baseball in 2013. Ben Demarco is the lone 12u promotee. Kile (7-2, 4.31 ERA) and Long (2-2 with 2 saves) handle the bulk of the pitching.

SWS White Sox at Mountville Angels

HOW THEY GOT HERE — The No. 9 seed in the LCYBL 14Us, the Sox placed fourth in the National division. Mountville’s third-place finish in the National was good enough for the eighth seed overall. The teams split the regular season with Mountville winning 10-3 and SWS taking a 14-1 verdict.

ABOUT SWS WHITE SOX — The Sox (9-9-2) return second-year 14u players Steve Greenwood (.310), Todd Shelley (2.30 ERA) and Trent Petersheim with Cole Garver (.310), Matt Heiser (.327), Aaron Jacoby (.414 avg, 1.85 ERA) and Luke Weigle moving up from the Section 2 ranks. the Sox strength lies in its first-year players as Connor Blantz (.424, 17 RBI) and Patrick Holmes (.426) lead the team, respectively, in RBI and average.

ABOUT MOUNTVILLE ANGELS — Mountville (11-7-2) returns three players from last year’s Section 1 team: Jeremy Brubaker, Logan Givler —who share pitching duties — and Nick Buchwalder. That trio is joined by eight players from the 2013 NET M-M runner-up Mountville Indians, paced by pitchers Ty Vaughn and CJ Saylor. Brubaker, Vaughn and Saylor are the top hitters in the lineup, joined by first-year player Connor Waughtel.

14U Playoff Series

Donegal vs. previous round winner

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Donegal, the National Division champion, earned the top seed overall out-pacing the field in the LCYBL. Along the way Donegal defeated Penn Manor twice, 8-1 and 9-6, but was handed one of its two defeats by Township, 9-6. The Manheim Lions accounted for the other loss, 8-6.

ABOUT DONEGAL — While Donegal (18-2) did not respond to requests for information, one can gather the Donegal offense is prolific as it averaged just over ten runs a game with a plus-minus differential of 130 runs.

Lititz VFW vs. previous round winner

HOW THEY GOT HERE — American Division champion VFW edged out Garden Spot, in both the division and for the No. 2 overall seed, despite splitting the regular season series. Lititz swept SWS and the Angels, 2-1 and 8-5 respectively.

ABOUT LITITZ — While VFW (14-5-1) went two-and-through in the ‘13 tournament, no one returns from that squad. This year’s edition is largely the 2012 NET M-M runner-up side, with 11 of the 12 rostered from those Warwick Phillies. Pacing the effort are Reed Martin (.417, 40 hits, 22 RBI), Bryce Zimmerman (.424, 39 hits, 34 runs, 17 RBI) and Evan Clark (.346, 27 hits, 13 RBI). Martin (5-1, 2.90 era, 34 Ks in 41 IP), Patrick Quinn (7-3, 3.00, 54 Ks in 60.2 IP) and Ryan Aukamp (4-0, 2.12) lead the mound staff.

Garden Spot Spartans vs. Manheim Lions

HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Spartans placed second to Lititz in the American Division and claimed the No. 3 seed overall. Bunched in the division with Spot, E-town and Township, the Lions took the No. 6 seed with a fourth-place finish in the division. The teams split the season series with Spot claiming a 6-2 win and Manheim turning the tables, 8-3.

ABOUT GARDEN SPOT — After dropping a 9-5 decision to eventual champion St. Leo in the ‘13 tournament, Spot (14-6) bested VFW before being eliminated by Penn Manor, 5-1. Connor Finkey, Austin Wanner, Kyle Martin and Jordan Petersheim return from that team, joined by Carter Eby and Wade Hoffert, up from the 14u Section 2s. Jere Ringler, who played for Bowmansville in 2013, also is on board. Jake Zook, Danny Skinner, Dylan Crosson and Aiden Bracken move up from the 12u.

ABOUT MANHEIM — While the J-M Lions (12-8) did not participate in the 2013 tourney, several members of the 2012 Manheim VFW Midget-Midgets, who lost in the elimination game to eventual runner-up Warwick, are on board including second-year players BJ Fisher (.466 avg., 32 RBI), Matt Lowe, Bryce Eberly (.370) and Tyler Simon (.465, 31 RBI; 4-1, 4.01 ERA) and first-years Garrett Bruckhart and Drew Mummau (.435, 30 RBI; 2-4, 3.72 ERA). Taylor Rohrer (.333 avg; 7-4, 2.79 ERA) advances from the 14u Section 2 team.

Elizabethtown Navy vs. Warwick White Sox

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Slotted ‘tween Garden Spot and Manheim, E-town got the tournament’s fourth seed ahead of the White Sox, the American Division regular season runner-up. They met once, with E-town prevailing 9-7.

ABOUT E-TOWN — Navy (14-6) won its last eight league games to surge to the fourth seed. Back from a side that was eliminated in the 2013 qualifying series by eventual champion St. Leo are Chad Caley, Hunter Spigelmyer, David Shank and Cayden Livingston. Caley (shortstop), Spigelmyer (first base) and Shank (center field) share pitching duties with Ryan Rupp, a 14-year old making his Section 1 debut. Livingston catches, leads off and paces the team in OBP.

ABOUT WARWICK — The younger of the Warwick Travel Baseball Association teams, the Sox (12-7-1) are comprised of 13 year olds, all of whom won the 2013 NET M-M title as the Warwick Phillies. Ethan Heller (.444 avg., 30 RBI, 35 runs scored), Adam Ricketts (.426, 28, 40), Nick Breznak (.420, 28, 42) and Jeffrey Kline (.412, 21, 30) are the top hitters while Breznak (5-1, 1.05 ERA), Brendan Martin (7-0, 1.89), Brock Fassnacht (5-2, 2.33) and Adam Kurtz (4-1, 3.23) form the mound corps.