New Era Correspondent
Sometimes, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
That was the lesson learned by Mount Joy Blue and the Strasburg-Willow Street White Sox in Friday night’s New Era Tournament Junior-Midget quarterfinals.
After overcoming an early 3-2 deficit, Mount Joy Blue scored five runs in the last two innings to put away the Penn Manor League’s Hempfield Black, 9-3.
Strasburg-Willow Street pitcher Matt Carta overcame a rough start – and the base-running follies of his teammates – and the White Sox scored eight runs in their last at bat to defeat Rheems Gray 12-2 in a game shortened to six innings by the 10-run rule.
SWS and Rheems return to Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field Monday night for the second game of a J-M semifinal doubleheader.
That meeting will follow the 6 p.m. game pitting Manheim Township Black (25-2-1) and the Susquehanna League’s Hempfield Black (26-6).
The championship game is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Struggling with his mechanics and location on his slider, Carta gave up a leadoff home run to Rheems’ Andy Good and, two outs later, another solo homer to Brett Vuxta.
Nick Jacoby followed with a base hit before Carta caught Arron Maze looking at a 3-2 slider for the final out of the first inning.
Jacoby’s hit would be the last for Rheems (11-9). Cameron Hoover, who reached on a passed ball after a strikeout leading off the second inning, was its last baserunner with the outcome still in doubt.
“We just needed a couple baserunners, and that never happened,” said Rheems coach Herb Miller.
“I started to use my curveball more in the second part of the game,” Carta said, “and I started to use my fastball more.”
Mixing all three pitches, Carta retired the next 12 in a row, finishing with no walks and 12 strikeouts, but allowed this was not his best career performance.
“Last year (pitching at the J-M 1-AA level) I struck out 15 in a no-hitter,” he shared.
He even helped his cause Friday with a solo homer in the sixth – coming back-to-back after Andrew Jordan’s 3-run moon shot to right – in the middle of the White Sox explosion.
While Carta was finding his groove on the hill, the Sox were finding theirs at the plate.
Jordan, who led off the second with an infield hit, scored the Sox first run on Ryan Berryman’s ground out.
Nick Carson singled with two out to keep the inning alive and scored all the way from second when Kirby Turner couldn’t pick up Tyler Reichenbach’s grounder to third.
SWS then took the lead in the fourth when Nate Jacoby slammed a Jeff Miller offering over right-center for a 2-run homer.
The White Sox muffed a golden opportunity to score runs in the third inning, however.
With runners at first and second, Carta sliced a one-out hit into the rightfield corner.
Alex Ferretti, who had rounded third, went back as coach Dan Herr threw up the stop sign.
Jon Pugliese, who held at second even before Ferretti was stopped, suddenly felt the hot breath of Carta, who was pulling into second.
Bedlam ensued as the baserunners scrambled to find sanctuary.
Carta was eventually out trying to get back to first. Then Ferretti was tagged out in a rundown between third and home.
Three hits. No runs. Nobody left on base.
“I say it’s probably the worst game I’ve coached,” said Herr, taking complete responsibility.
In the sixth inning, when Herr got another chance to control traffic, he regained his normal, aggressive demeanor.
Rheems reliever Kirby Turner got the first two outs of the inning before pinch-hitter Chris Garraffa singled.
Then Turner lost the strike zone, walking the bases loaded.
He gave way to lefty Alex Secord, who got Pugliese to ground to short for what should’ve been the third out.
But Nick Jacoby’s throw pulled Brett Vuxta off the bag at first and Herr windmilled both Garraffa and Michael Lawhead home.
Then Jordan (3-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 runs) and Carta homered, two more walks and two more hits delivered two more runs, and the 10-run clock was ticking for Rheems.
Earlier, Mount Joy starter Jason Sauder shrugged off a rough third inning to pick up the win.
“The first couple innings, I felt my control wasn’t very good,” said Sauder, who finished with four walks and nine strikeouts.
Given a 2-0 lead on batterymate Mike Pelton’s 2-run, first-inning homer, Sauder gave it back when Hempfield (21-11-2) bunched its only three hits of the game with a walk and a throwing error, taking a 3-2 lead.
“I felt like I wasn’t quite focused in on what I was doing,” said Sauder, “but they did a good job of hitting pitches that weren’t easy to hit.”
While Sauder’s troubles were a short-term thing, Black starter Jordan Neff’s lasted all night.
Because he could not throw his breaking ball for strikes, he was basically a one-pitch pitcher.
“That was the big issue from the first inning,” offered Hempfield coach Jerry Byers. “They had a lot of opportunity at the fastball.”
Sitting on Neff’s No.-1, Blue batters regained the lead in the fourth inning.
Kyle Maurer singled, then scored on Steve McGettigan’s throwing error on Kevin Newcomer’s single to right.
After an out, Mike Robinson singled home Newcomer to make it 4-2.
Two innings later Mount Joy made it 7-2 on Jon Heisey’s RBI single, a passed ball and Trent Albert’s RBI ground out.
Taylor Nauman’s seventh-inning 2-run blast made it 9-3. But in between, Sauder struck out the side in the Hempfield sixth in a classic “hold ’em” situation.
“I think he struck out the three, four and five hitters,” said Blue coach Buzz Albert. “We thought that was the ballgame right there.”