Mountville’s 3-year stranglehold on the Midget-Midget championship is broken by Hempfield Black, which will take on Mount Joy Blue in the final after ousting the defending champs.
By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
In the classic baseball film Bull Durham, pitching phenom “Nuke” Laloosh whines to his catcher/mentor, “Crash” Davis, “Can’t I just enjoy the moment?”
Davis tartly replies, “The moment’s gone.”
Before the Mountville Indians could enjoy the moment of their deadly rival’s demise, the moment was done.
And so too were the Indians, whose bid for a fourth straight New Era Tournament Midget-Midget championship was denied by Hempfield Black.
After watching their arch rivals, the Norlanco Redbirds, drop a 2-1 decision to the Blue in the opener, the Indians went out and lost to Hempfield in the nightcap by an identical 2-1 score.
And so the theme will be Black-and-Blue tonight at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field as these two upstarts meet to decide the Midget-Midget championship. First pitch is 7 p.m.
Michael Robinson’s flare hit behind first base plated Jeff Lennon with the winning run and Jason Sauder allowed one run, striking out eight while walking none in a complete-game four hitter as Mount Joy Blue (28-9) clipped the Redbirds’ wings.
“We don’t have any big heroes on this team,” said veteran Mount Joy coach Ron Wagner. “They all chip in. There’s a different hero every game and that’s the way we like it.”
In the second game, Ben Peachey and Jordan Neff collaborated to scatter seven hits and Michael Brookhart singled in the winning run as Black (19-10) bested the Indians for the first time in four tries, also by a 2-1 score.
“We’ve been getting closer each game,” noted Black coach Dan Brookhart. “Tonight, I think we crossed the Rubicon.”
Black took that final, irrevocable step towards the championship finals scratching across two runs in the fourth inning.
Held in check by the lefty offerings of Peachey, the Indians (34-14) pushed a run across in the third inning on Steve Feister’s two-out RBI triple.
With one out in the fourth, Luke Gatti single to right for Black and Lee Eckert ripped a single through short, sending courtesy runner Charlie Raffensberger to third, and took second on the throw into third.
Playing great situational baseball, Dan Hostetter grounded to second, scoring Raffensberger and sending Dylan Gromen, running for Eckert, to third. Brookhart worked the count to 2-1 then lined a single to center, scoring Gromen.
Neff, the winner in Black’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over the Warwick Phillies, came on to nail down Peachey’s win.
Throwing serious heat, he struck out five and pitched out of a first-and-third, two-out jam in the fifth inning.
Facing crunch time in the bottom of the sixth, Mountville put its first batter on base on an error. Alex Manacher sacrificed pinch runner Adam Law to second.
Neff fanned John Wilt on high-and-away heat for the second out, but Law stole third on an 0-1 ball to Brandon Clawges.
Anybody who has watched Mountville over the years knows how dangerous the Indians are with a runner on third.
Doubly dangerous with the game on the line in the late innings.
“I was nervous,” admitted Neff. “Really nervous, actually! Everybody’s standing, clapping. I’m (thinking), ‘Don’t give up a hit!’ ”
He got Clawges to miss another fastball, then froze him low on the outside corner to end the game.
“If we’re going to lose, we want to go down that way,” said Mountville’s Bob Sauders. “I thought our boys played well. Their boys just played a little bit better tonight.”
Mount Joy gave the Redbirds the blues with the unbeatable combination of pitching and defense. Sauder allowed a pair of doubles by Jake Rutt, a single by Parke Martin and Cameron Gallagher’s leadoff homerun in the fourth inning.
Gallagher turned on a good first-pitch fastball, down and in, and deposited it over the left field fence, giving Norlanco a 1-0 lead.
“He’s a great hitter,” said Sauder, putting the blast in perspective. “You can’t do anything about that.”
He could, however, keep the damage to a minimum in the inning, striking out the side after Rutt followed Gallagher with his second double.
The Redbirds’ lead was short-lived. With one out in the top of the fifth, Jon Heisey singled to center — only the second hit surrendered by Norlanco starter Madison Zimmerman — and John Lennon worked a walk.
After going 1-1 to Brandon Kerlin, Zimmerman was replaced by Gallagher, who wild-pitched the runners up a base.
Kerlin eventually grounded to short, scoring Heisey to tie the game and advancing Lennon to third.
Robinson took a strike, then lobbed a basehit behind first, driving in Lennon.
Heisey wasn’t finished influencing the outcome.
Norlanco got its leadoff hitter on in the bottom of the fifth as Parke Martin, pinch-hitting for Joey Pacheco, beat out an infield single to second.
He stole second and remained there as Brooks Carr struck out. Leadoff hitter Brok Martin then lined Sauder’s first pitch to center.
Heisey, shading Martin slightly to the gap in right, broke to his right and layed out, snaring the ball as he fell to the ground.
“It was an important play in the game and I just wanted to make a good catch,” said Heisey. “I kind of read it off the bat, and I was sure I caught it.”
Earlier, with the game scoreless, second baseman Trent Albert speared Zimmerman’s liner with runners at second and third and no one out and Sauder responded with back-to-back strikeouts to slam the door.
“Mount Joy made the plays and had good pitching,” said Redbirds’ coach Mark Lowrie. “That’s what wins games.”