Drama on Day One

SWS’s Jared Horn gets a high five.

The 63rd New Era Tournament kicks off with an offensive explosion from Strasburg/Willow Street and some late-inning heroics for the Ephrata Dragons.

By Jeffrey Reinhart
New Era Sports Writer

Hot dogs, apple pie and the New Era Tournament.

It must be summertime in Lancaster County.

And what a doubleheader on the first night of the 63rd NET at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy, where offense and late-game heroics were the name of the game Thursday in a pair of Midget-Midget quarterfinals.

In the opener, Matt Wright went 3-for-3 and knocked in three runs and Regan Hershey and Sam Meck drove in two runs apiece in Strasburg/Willow Street’s 12-1 romp over defending champ Hempfield Black.

And in the nightcap, Josh Gehman’s two-run homer in the top of the fifth tied the game, and his two-run shot in the top of the ninth won it in dramatic fashion for the Ephrata Dragons, who outlasted Rheems Blue 6-4 in extra innings.

“It was my first game-winning home run ever,” said Gehman, who went 3-for-4 and knocked in five runs.

“That was pretty cool.”

With Steve Long on second after a walk and a steal and with two outs in the top of the ninth, Gehman drilled Lucas Jewell’s 3-2 offering — “fastball low and away,” Gehman recalled, “just where I like it” — over the wall in right and Ephrata (15-10 overall) led for good.

Gehman was on a 2-for-15 slide coming into the NET.

“I’m so happy for Josh,” Ephrata coach Dave Albright said. “He really broke out of it in a big way — and on a big stage.”

Ephrata led 2-0 on Gehman’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Logan Rutt before Rheems (17-11) mounted a rally.

Jewell opened the bottom of the fourth with a triple — Blue’s first hit off Dragons’ starter Brandon Miller — and he, Kirby Breault, who walked, and Gavin Horning and Luke Longenecker, who had RBI singles, all scored and Rheems led 4-2.

But Gehman tied it, launching a two-run shot to right off Breault in the top of the fifth with Long — who singled and swiped second — aboard.

Jewell, in relief of Breault, suffered the loss. Long, who allowed just one hit and no runs in six innings in relief of Miller, earned the win.

It took three extra innings — and almost three hours — to settle the score. But for Gehman and the Dragons, it was well worth the wait.

“We would have played 50 innings or until 2 a.m.,” Gehman said. “Whatever it took to win the game.”
The 63rd New Era Tournament kicks off with an offensive explosion from Strasburg/Willow Street and some late-inning heroics for the Ephrata Dragons.
SWS (25-7) won its game handily over Hempfield Black, which took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Grant Oberholtzer walked and stole second and scored on Derek Manning’s RBI single.

After that, it was all Cardinals, who scored at least two runs in every inning, and won via the 10-run Mercy Rule after Hempfield Black (10-15) batted in the fifth.

Righty Jared Horn settled in after a rocky first inning for SWS, allowing just three hits from the second inning on. He struck out three and allowed just the one earned run.

“I used my fastball, curveball and changeup,” Horn said. “My curveball was working well, and I threw a first-pitch changeup for a strike a few times, and that helped.”

“Jared used all three of his pitches effectively,” SWS coach Dale Hershey noted.

Up next for SWS is Ephrata in a Midget-Midget semifinal on Monday at 6 p.m. back at Kunkle Field. The Cardinals are 3-0 against the Dragons this season — all one-run victories.

“We have to try and get them back,” Albright said.

The other M-M quarterfinal doubleheader is set for tonight, also at Kunkle, with Manheim VFW (30-3) taking on the Warwick Phillies (13-14) at 6 p.m., followed by seven-time NET M-M champ Mountville Indians (28-13) against Mount Joy Blue (14-14).

Thursday night, after spotting Hempfield Black a 1-0 lead, SWS answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the first and seized control for good. Horn had an RBI single and Michael Warfel had a sac fly to jumpstart the inning.

Hershey and Brett Brooks added RBI singles in the second and Wright had a two-run single in the third, giving SWS a cozy 7-1 lead.

“Playing in this tournament is such a big deal for our kids,” Dale Hershey said. “We’re one of only eight teams in the county still playing; this is what you play for all season — to be here, in the New Era Tournament.”

The Cardinals iced the game with a five-run fourth, highlighted by Meck’s two-run single, an RBI single by Brandon Cox and another RBI single by Wright.

All 12 of the Cardinals’ hits were singles.

“Strasburg is such an experienced team, and they turned on the ball and hit really well,” Hempfield coach Eric Peterson said.

“We felt good getting out to a quick 1-0 lead, but obviously that was short-lived. But this was a great experience for our kids.”

And it was a great night for SWS’s offense — and an even greater night for Gehman, who stole the show with a pair of clutch homers.

Ephrata teammates congratulate Josh Gehman after his home run against Rheems.

Hempfield’s Conway works to control the ball as SWS’s Conner Groff slides safely into second.

Rheems’ Gavin Horning gets back to first as Ephrata’s Bobby Nye reaches for the ball.

SWS’s Reagan Hershey tags out Hempfield’s Tommy Athey.

Jared Horn fires for SWS.

Ephrata pitcher delivers against Rheems.

Rheems pitcher throws against Ephrata.