New Era Correspondent
Lititz Oddfellows and Hempfield Black will join Ephrata Pride and the Strasburg//Willow Street Storm in the New Era Tournament Midget semifinals. Ephrata and SWS, Thursday night’s winners, will meet in the first game of a doubleheader Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
In the nightcap, Lititz will play Hempfield.
Lititz advanced Friday night in a cakewalk — officially scored a 7-0 victory — as Mount Joy Blue was unable to secure the services of enough rostered players to field a legal team.
That left the stage to Hempfield, with two players returning from last year’s Midget Division champion, and Manheim VFW, fielding six starters from last year’s J-M Division runnerup, and the two rivals put on quite a show.
Hempfield played every bit as well as you would expect a team entering the tournament with a 15-4 record.
Manheim played way better than its 7-10 record.
Hempfield got the verdict, 2-1, as Phil Harnick singled in the gamewinner, then nailed down Kyle Enoch’s victory with three innings of perfect relief, striking out five.
Harnick threw 40 pitches, and of the 12 that were called balls, only seven were obviously off the plate.
“He was just a little bit dominant,” understated Black coach Jeff Unton. “He was right around the plate and, as fast as he was, I wouldn’t want to hit against him, that’s for sure.”
Harnick was a productive contributor to Hempfield High’s varsity rotation this spring and, in addition to pitching for Midget Black this summer, he played for Tom Herr on Hempfield’s Legion team.
In fact, he fueled the District 10 champions with a win-or-go-home victory in the play-in qualifier last week.
With all that experience, Harnick facing Manheim’s youthful lineup might seem like a man-among-boys situation.
“Oh, I don’t know if you’d say he was a man among boys,” said Unton.
Manheim coach Jeremy Hershey had no doubt.
“The last three innings were tough, especially seeing a guy throw heat like that. You saw him “gas’, and any time you throw a bender in there, that’s tough to hit.”
Hits were at a premium for both teams. Paul Moyer threw six innings of 4-hit ball for VFW, allowing one earned run. On this night, it wasn’t enough.
Enoch scattered three hits and an earned run over four innings, walking two while whiffing seven. He used a more traditional curve to complement his fastball.
“Kyle kept them off balance,” Unton said. “The whole thing is to try to make sure he stayed ahead of the batters and make them hit his pitches.”
Enoch was in trouble in only one inning, the second.
Derek Althouse walked to lead that inning off and Josh Kulp made a great diving catch on Nate Longenecker’s sinking liner to left, saving Enoch from bigger trouble. Jared Karns knocked in Althouse with a double to the gap in right for the first run of the game, then Mike Leitzel walked.
It was second and third, one out, after an errant pickoff by Enoch, but Jason Shenk swung through a ball that broke way late and Nate Mast looked at a fastball on the outside corner ending the threat.
Manheim would have just two more baserunners: Tom Kenneff, who reached on a wildpitch third strike in the third inning and Longenecker, on an infield single to short in the fourth.
Hempfield went to work and in the third inning Charlie Parker singled in Keith Unton, who had walked, to even the score, But Karns made a great over-the-shoulder catch behind third on Geoff Dornes to avoid further damage.
With one out in the fourth, Kulp reached when shortstop Donovan Rodriguez couldn’t pull his grounder out of his glove. After stealing second, Kulp crossed the plate on the dead run on Harnick’s basehit to left.
Rodriguez erased the image of that error with his play on Cory Beddick’s slow roller in the sixth inning. With the bases loaded with two out, Rodriguez charged, picked and gunned Beddick at first, keeping it a one-run game,
But, with Harnick on the hill, one run may as well have been one hundred.
“We’re very young,” said Hershey, with a mixture of pride and regret. “I knew the talent was there, but they’re definitely wet behind the ears.
“To play Hempfield 2-1 speaks volumes to me. We got out-scored 20-3 the first two games (against Hempfield), so hey, it’s something to build on for next year.”
Meanwhile, Hempfield will build on winning its third-straight NET Midget title.
“Our kids are doing a good job of staying in the game,” Unton said. “They keep their composure and don’t make many mistakes.”