BY DAVE BYRNE
Richard Velez nailed down the save — his second in as many nights — in Donegal’s 3-2 victory over Lititz VFW, Friday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
Give Tanner Kohler credit for a save too.
Kohler, a bench player/courtesy runner for Donegal, saw something different about the bat Lititz VFW’s Bryan Rottkamp was using.
He brought it to catcher Andrew Erb’s attention and, when Rottkamp singled deep to left field in the top of the fifth inning, scoring Patrick Quinn with the tying run, Erb got home plate umpire Gary Stepanchick’s attention.
The bat, a bamboo composite model, was judged illegal — bats must be of a solid wood, one-piece construction — Rottkamp was ruled out, the third out of the inning.
“You hate to call that,” Donegal coach Jackson Edwards said. “But … rules are rules.
“I know it’s controversial, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to win.”
“That one call seemed big at the time,” offered Lititz coach Dana Clark “But it’s not just that one, but a series of plays throughout the game that make the difference.”
VFW was denied, Donegal (46-11) prevailed and advanced to Monday night’s championship game.
The LCYBL regular-season champion awaits the winner of Saturday’s noontime elimination game pitting VFW (26-13-1) against E-town Navy.
“We’ll go home, get some dinner, get some sleep and come back tomorrow,” said Clark.
Navy (17-7) eliminated the Manheim Lions, 3-2, Friday evening in the first game of a doubleheader at Kunkle.
The twin, one-run victory margins continue a pattern that has become the feature of this tournament.
Brady Steinmann went 6 1/3 innings for the victory for Donegal, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out nine while walking none.
“I didn’t have all my accuracy,” Steinmann said, “but I had my curveball working, my knuckleball did pretty good and I spotted my fastball.”
Hunter Spigelmyer earned the win for E-town in the opener, allowing one run on two hits in four innings. David Shank went the last three innings yielding a run on one hit.
“He (Spigelmyer) had a very nice outing. He was pitching to contact,” said Navy coach Jeff Shank. “The guys were picking it up behind him.”
Nor was sharp pitching limited to the victors. Bryce Eberly went 5 1/3 for Manheim, allowing two earned runs on seven hits.
VFW starter Patrick Quinn took the loss, going two innings allowing three runs on three hits. Three relievers pitched shutout ball behind him, scattering two hits.
Three batters into the bottom of the first inning Donegal led 2-0. Seiler Edwards walked with one out and Dale Houser smacked a two-run homer over the fence in dead center.
If the long ball got Donegal the lead, small ball posted what became the winning run.
Richard Velez led off the second inning with a walk, took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Dawson Magar’s infield out.
Andrew Erb worked the count full, then bounced an infield single to second, plating Velez.
Lititz tightened the contest as Bryce Zimmerman — who had three of VFW’s six hits — reached on a one-out infield single.
One out later, Reed Martin dialed long distance, ripping the first pitch from Steinmann to the same spot as Houser’s hit.
“I thought about it for about ten seconds,” Steinmann said, “and I just let it go.”
That would be all the scoring, if not all the excitement.
In the opener E-town jumped on top on Greg Good’s second-inning RBI double. Navy struck for two more runs an inning later.
With one out, Chad Caley reached on an error. Spigelmyer doubled to the right field corner, with Caley pulling into third.
Shank followed with a double to center, scoring Caley. Spigelmyer took the big turn at third and got hung up as shortstop Drew Mummau relayed Tyler Simon’s throw into third.
Matt Lowe chased Spigelmyer toward catcher Garrett Bruckhart, but Spigelmyer got in under Bruckhart’s tag with the third run.
The two teams split the regular season, E-town winning 4-1, Manheim 4-2, so four seemed to be the number to shoot for.
Eberly and Drew Mummau, who recorded the last two outs for the Lions, denied that fourth tally for navy, stranding five baserunners over the final five innings.
No-hit Thursday night by Donegal, Manheim (17-16) was held hitless the first three innings Friday.
“We’re not the most experienced team with hitting,” said Lions coach Jeff Mummau. “Our hitting comes and goes. We tend to freeze sometimes.”
The Lions broke the string in a big way as Brady Carper bombed a solo shot over center to lead off the fourth inning.
Taylor Rohrer made it a 3-2 game with an RBI single in the sixth inning, but Shank got back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh, closing out the victory.