New Era Correspondent
Glenn Gallagher got his wish.
In a conversation Tuesday following his team’s victory in the New Era Tournament Junior-Midget semifinals, Manheim Township Black’s coach bemoaned having to face opponents his team had already defeated repeatedly — such as Solanco Black, Conestoga Valley and, potentially, Safe Harbor.
Left unsaid, but nonetheless implied, was his desire to play somebody new in the J-M championship game. Somebody like Elizabethtown Blue.
E-town obliged Wednesday night, earning its spot in the finals by beating Safe Harbor 6-3 in an twice-delayed match that delivered on its pregame promise.
Tonight’s 7 o’clock championship game pairs two teams that have not met this year. It also is a “dream” match of league champions: Township (30-1) is the top team from the Penn Manor League and E-town (24-1) is the king of the Susquehanna League.
After a shaky start, E-town’s Nate Martin — the No. 2 starter for coach John Fosnot — pitched Blue into the title game, retiring 12 of the last 15 batters he faced.
He also contributed with his bat, sparking Blue’s crucial 4-run third inning with a solo home run.
His evening didn’t start out so well. Mike Thomas, the first hitter of the game, ripped Martin’s third pitch over the fence in right-center to give Safe Harbor (21-7) a quick advantage. Kurt Martin’s RBI single made it 2-0.
Andrew Sellers walked to start Safe Harbor’s second inning and, with one out, Thomas worked a walk. Tyler Charles singled off the centerfield fence scoring Mike Reinhart, running for Sellers, with Harbor’s third run.
A high-chop infield single to third by Harbor’s Zac Martin loaded the bases, and E-town appeared to be one hit away from getting buried.
Instead, Martin got Bobby Adams to hit the first pitch to shortstop Brett DeGroat, who started a 6-4-3 double play that ended the threat.
“That’s the only one he’s hit into all year,” lamented Harbor coach Jamie Roak.
“That was a great momentum change,” said Martin, who pitched two innings Tuesday night and noted that his arm was a little sore Wednesday morning. “After a couple innings I got through it. It felt like I loosened up after (the double play).”
As his arm was loosening up, Martin was tightening the noose on Harbor. He pitched a shutout the rest of the way, allowing only on a walk and a single in the fourth inning and a basehit in the fifth. He struck out the side in the third and fifth for six of his ten strikeouts.
Fosnot couldn’t say enough about his “second” pitcher.
“All the talk is about (Erick) Baker, and Baker is a helluva pitcher,” he said, speaking of his ace. “But Martin is no slouch. I had no qualms about using him tonight.”
“The kid’s a battler,” said Roak. “We thought we could hit him. That was the frustrating part.”
While Nate Martin was settling in, E-town was lining up his mound counterpart, Zac Martin, in the crosshairs.
Blue got a run back in the bottom of the first inning as DeGroat walked with the bases loaded — the third free pass issued that inning by Zac Martin.
Nate Martin had a great at-bat leading off the third inning, fouling off three 0-2 pitches, taking ball 1 on the sixth pitch and then slugging a solo homer over the fence in left center.
“I was battling him there,” he said. “I fought off like five pitches, then he threw me a hanging curveball and I turned on it.”
It turned the game around. Baker walked on four pitches and Wyatt Brosey bashed a 2-run blast to the same spot as Martin’s homer. DeGroat reached on a 2-base error on a fly ball that backed Kurt Martin to the fence and scored on Nick Poehner’s single to left.
E-town’s three hits in the inning were three-fourths of their final total, but the damage was done. They added an unearned run in the fourth inning when Zach Lokey led off with a walk, took second on a pickoff error by catcher Mike Thomas, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on an infield error.
With Nate Martin mowing them down and Baker following suit in a one-inning warmup for tonight, E-town’s 6-3 lead was more than enough.
“We walked too many batters (seven) and struck out too many times (13),” said Roak. “I just wish we had put the bat on the ball a little more.”