BY JASON FULGINITI
It was a night of firsts, which, for Donegal and Lititz VFW, couldn’t have come at a better time.
Seiler Edwards’ three-run home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning — his first round-tripper this season — was the difference for Donegal, which notched a 5-2 victory over the Manheim Lions in the opening round of the LNP Junior-Midget Tournament on Thursday evening at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
In the nightcap at Kunkle, Ryan Aukamp — making his first start against Elizabethtown Navy this season — scattered four hits over 6 1/3 innings, powering Lititz VFW to a 2-1 victory.
As a result, Donegal and Lititz VFW will square off in the second round of the double-elimination tournament Friday night back at Kunkle Field, 20 minutes after the conclusion of the Manheim and E-town game, which is scheduled for 5:30.
Not that the work is anywhere near over for either of the four teams involved, as Donegal coach Jackson Edwards mentioned following his team’s victory Thursday night.
“Regardless of what happened during the regular season it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’ve got four really good baseball teams here. And at this point, anything can happen.”
Starting pitcher Kyle Hess and reliever Richard Velez also made it happen for Donegal, combining for a no-hitter.
Hess struck out five and walked six before reaching his pitch-count limit with one out in the sixth. Velez came in and fanned the last two batters to end it.
Hess ran into his biggest batch of trouble in the top of the third inning, when Manheim scored their two runs.
Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs, before an ensuing wild pitch and throwing error from catcher Andrew Erb allowed Manheim’s Brady Carper and B.J. Fisher to score, giving Manheim a 2-1 lead.
“Kyle wasn’t as sharp as he normally is,” Jackson Edwards said, “but the sign of a good pitcher is when you don’t have your best stuff to be able to work through that.”
Hess got some help from Donegal’s bats starting in the bottom of the sixth, when Velez’ ripped a solo homer way over the left field fence to tie it at 2-2.
After an ensuing walk and an error put runners on the corners, Seiler Edwards came through with his three-run shot to right, giving Donegal a 5-2 lead.
“That was his first home run (this season),” Jackson Edwards. “And it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
In the nightcap, Aukamp couldn’t have taken the mound at a better time for Lititz VFW.
Seeing Aukamp for the first time in three meetings this season, E-town’s batting order managed only four hits off Aukamp before he reached his pitch-count limit and was removed with one out in the bottom of the sixth.
By that point, Aukamp had struck out nine and walked just three.
“He’s come on very strong,” Lititz coach Dana Clark said of his starter. “E-town has not not seen him and that was a chance to show them something new.”
Lititz took a 1-0 lead when Carter Forney scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the second, only to have E-town tie it with Ryan Rupp’s RBI single to right in the top of the third.
With Aukamp in control, Lititz took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth on Reed Martin’s double to left center that scored Patrick Quinn.
Meanwhile, aside from its flurry in the top of the third that produced its lone run, E-town didn’t get a runner past second in any other inning. Credit some of that to a few impressive defensive plays from the guys backing Aukamp.
“Defense and composure,” said Clark, whose guys avenged a pair of regular-season losses to E-town with Thursday’s win. “The guys know we can make the plays, we just need to keep our composure.”