New Era Correspondent
It was a classic end to a classic game.
St. Leo centerfielder Travis Jankowski tracked down Joe Good’s deep fly ball to right center, leaped to catch the ball while crashing, hard, into the fence and still had the presence of mind to hit second baseman Kevin Darby with the cutoff throw.
Darby, in turn, threw home to catcher Ryan Clark, who caught the ball cleanly and put the tag on Strasburg-Willow Street’s Jon Carlson, who was trying to score all the way from second base after the catch.
“(Jankowski) made an unbelievable catch,” Darby said. “All I had to do was get the ball and throw it in to Clark.”
“I felt the warning track,” said Jankowski, who injured his left hip on the collision and had to be helped from the field. “I thought, ‘If I hit the fence, it’ll only hurt for a little bit.’ ”
The frenetic finish ended a game that it seemed would never end and St. Leo defeated SWS 1-0 in nine innings Sunday evening in the first game of a New Era Tournament Midget semifinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
In the nightcap, Manheim Township Black held off an impending summer storm and held on to eliminate the defending champion Lititz Oddfellows, 6-5.
St. Leo’s and MT Black will meet back at the Clip tonight at 7 to decide the NET Midget title.
The title contenders will have their work cut out for them if they want to match Sunday night’s first game.
St. Leo starter Kevin Regan and SWS starter Chad Babcock locked up in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.
Regan went the first 7 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks while striking out two. He didn’t allow a hit until Jon Carlson’s two-out infield single in the sixth inning.
Babcock went the whole nine innings, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out seven. From Jankowski’s lead-off single in the first inning to Tim Jones’ one-out hit in the seventh, Babcock retired 19 of 20.
SWS (11-2-1) had a golden chance in regulation to reward Babcock for his labors.
With one out in the home seventh, Joe Good reached on an error, and despite being picked off first by Clark’s snap throw, stole second. He then stole third, sliding under Clark’s throw.
SWS coach Ted Carlson called for a suicide squeeze, but Adam Bukowski popped his bunt to Jones at first base.
Good, who was three-quarters home, couldn’t scramble back in time to beat Jones’ throw to Kevin Cotchen, and it was off to extra innings.
“Gotta get something started. Who knows what’s going to break the game open?” said Carlson, explaining his thought process. “That’s baseball.”
SWS got a runner to second in the top of the eighth, but reliever Steve Darrencamp – the winning pitcher in St. Leo first game of the tournament – struck out Danny Snyder to end the threat.
St. Leo scored the game’s only run in its next at-bat.
Evan Montgomery led off with a walk and stole second. Looking to sacrifice, Travis Jankowski pushed a bunt up the third base line that rolled just beyond the home circle before dying just inside the line.
With the infield up, Darby singled through the shortstop hole to score Montgomery.
Babcock restored order, but the damage was done.
“You look at us, and you say, ‘Who are these guys?'” said Paul Jankowski. “We dig and claw and scrape and scratch, and do what we have to do to come out a victor.”
Cotchen took over on the mound for St. Leo in the bottom of the ninth, and Jon Carlson led off with an infield single for SWS.
He stole second, but remained there when Mark Thiboldeaux popped to short. Babcock was intentionally walked, bringing Good to the plate.
He ripped the first pitch. Jankowski raced to the fence.
The rest is history.
Lititz’s chances of repeating became history when Township threw a 4-run fourth inning at the Oddfellows (18-3).
Two batters into the game, Lititz broke on top on Kyle Keener’s solo homer over the spot where Jankowski had crashed minutes earlier.
Township (16-4) answered on Frank Difilippo’s RBI double in the Black second. Lititz made it 4-1 in their half of the fourth on Austin Klinger’s RBI groundout, Dan Ansel’s single and Skylar Gingrich’s RBI triple. Township came right back, reaching Gingrich for six hits, the first four poked into right field.
“They were on the fastball and they kept hitting through the first/second base gap,” said Lititz manager Frank Camera.
Tyler Stoltz and Difilippo each knocked in runs and, after Matt Turman forced Stoltz, Taylor Good pulled a 2-run double into the rightfield corner to give Township the lead.
Turman beat the throw home to score the go-ahead run, the first of two times Township would slide in for a score, but Good was out at home trying to score on Jones’ single to center.
Township had three runners thrown out at home and two at third in the game.
“I had two guys score on bang-bang plays that could’ve been out,” observed Black manager John Dochterman. “I felt I should sit down, shut up and let them play. I already almost screwed it up for them, let the kids win it on the field.”
Township tacked on an insurance run in the fifth on an error, a run that proved decisive when Lititz threatened in the visitor’s seventh.
Tyler May and Gingrich each singled past the reach of Good at short and May scored when J.T. Garner singled into center.
Proving that base-running adventures were not the sole affliction of Township, Gingrich, who made too wide a turn at third, was nailed by Karpinski’s relay.
Karpinski then gloved Tyler Hill’s liner to second to end the game.
“We played twice (before),” Camera said. “We beat them 10-7, they beat us 3-1. We knew this was coming.”