Stars at plate and on mound as Black reaches finals
By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
Rain, rain go away…
The spring of 1981 was such a soggy season and the Lancaster-Lebanon League baseball playoffs were postponed so many times, the league championship game was played after the semifinals of the District 3 tournament.
While things haven’t quite reached that level of desperation yet, the semifinals of the New Era Junior-Midget Tournament are beginning to take on a star-crossed quality.
Monday’s thunderstorms washed out a potential 11-2 victory for Manheim Township Black over Conestoga Valley three outs short of an official game, and rain halted the Safe Harbor-Elizabethtown Blue semifinal in the starting blocks.
Also Tuesday, Township outlasted CV 13-10, despite a 15-minute delay for lightning, to earn a spot in the finals. Township will have to wait at least 24 more hours to learn who its opponent will be.
E-town and Harbor got in two soggy innings before deteriorating field conditions forced cancellation of play. The two challengers will take their third shot at determining a winner tonight at 6. The J-M championship game is now scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.
Victory delayed was not victory denied for Township (30-1), but things looked dicey for a while. If this game were a prizefight, it wouldn’t have been stick-and-jab. These two teams were standing toe-to-toe landing, and receiving, haymaker after haymeker.
“It was just a fun game to be in,” said CV coach Rick Dissinger. “If you’re going to lose, you want to lose to a team like that, playing your best.”
Because his son Austin pitched four innings Monday night, Township coach Glenn Gallagher sent Corey Pfautz to the hill Tuesday night.
Pfautz proved no mystery for CV (16-8), especially for Joey Russo, who tagged Pfautz for a 2-run home run in the first inning and a 3-run blast in the third, helping CV open a 7-4 lead
Township in turn knocked Russo out after just five batters on Carlos Medina’s RBI single and Peter Fisher’s 3-run homer. Not a good turn of events for CV’s weary rotation.
Given Pfautz’s ineffectiveness, Glenn Gallagher called on Austin, who responded with five innings of 5-hit ball to pick up the win. The younger Gallagher was lights out his first three innings, got nicked for a run in his fourth inning and, tiring, surrendered a pair of runs in CV’s last at-bat.
Adam Glick came in behind Russo and, throwing his knuckleball on practically every other pitch, had Township hitters wringing the life out of their bat handles as they walked away from the plate.
Despite four walks, Glick retired nine of the first 13 hitters he faced, but with one out in the fourth he drilled Nick Downey in the back. The next hitter, Pete Savage, grounded to short, but Downey beat the ball to second base on the force play and everybody was safe.
Gallagher cleared the bases one pitch later as he jumped on Glick’s first-pitch fastball and deposited it halfway up the hill beyond right field. That tied the game at 7 and Township kept the inning alive as Glick hit Medina and walked Fisher.
Neil Lennon came on in relief of Glick, walked Bernie Zaritzky to load the bases and was relieved by John Vanderzell, making his first pitching appearance of the tournament.
Vanderzell escaped further damage as he got Matt Balasavage to ground into a 4-6-3 doubleplay on a great phantom pivot by Russo, who danced across the bag and accepted the ball two feet to the firstbase side of second.
It was one of three occasions where Township had the bases loaded and came up empty.
“We could’ve blown the game open,” lamented Glenn Gallagher.
Medina figured prominently in the other two occasions, striking out with one out both times, but he came through when it mattered the most.
Two walks and a fielder’s choice brought Austin Gallagher to the plate with two out in a tie game in the fifth. CV had already pitched around the 6-foot-3, 225-pound 14-year-old twice before challenging him in the fourth. Now they wanted nothing to do with him, intentionally walking him to load the bases for Medina.
Vanderzell got Medina in an 0-2 hole, but his next offering bounced away from catcher Greg Dissinger and Downey broke for home from third base. Dissinger recovered the ball quickly and raced Downey to the plate, setting up a roadblock. Sliding headfirst, Downey snaked his hand under the tag for the go-ahead run.
After the minor rhubarb subsided, Medina stepped back in and smacked Vanderzell’s next pitch over the fence in dead center for a 3-run homer and an 11-7 lead. “I was just waiting for a perfect pitch to swing at,” said Medina, “looking for a fastball right down the plate.”
It was a nice turn for Medina, who lost a home run and five RBIs to Monday’s storms. “I made up for it today,” he said, smiling.
CV got one run back in the sixth, but leftfielder Rob Shimaneck gunned down Josh Miller, who was trying to score on Mark Royer’s bases-loaded fly ball, to stiffle any further threat.
It was the last of three double plays the Township defense turned behind its pitchers.
Township increased its advantage to 13-8 in the sixth as Ethan Reiker, running for Balasavage, scored from first on an outfield bobble on Shimaneck’s single. Shimaneck eventually crossed the plate on an infield error.
“Nobody’s going to keep us from scoring 10 runs in this ballpark,” declared Glenn Gallagher, who added that, despite recent representations, his pitching was more than competent.
“Your don’t win 30 games out of 31 just hitting. We can out-hit and out-pitch anybody, and we play defense!”
Dissinger got those last two runs back on a 2-run blast in the seventh, but Gallagher closed with his seventh and eighth strikeouts of the night and got Miller on a comebacker to end the game.
“We beat (CV) 8-7 in the (Penn Manor) League semis,” Gallagher noted, “and 4-2 earlier this year. We 10-runned them in another game. They’re scrappy, a good team.”
“We just didn’t quit,” said Dissinger. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The game was interrupted for 15 minutes at the end of the fourth inning when lightning was detected out beyond Rheems. When no further activity was observed, play resumed.
Shortly after the CV-Township game ended it began to rain. E-town and Safe Harbor began play in a persistent shower, which soon became a steady rain.
By the end of two innings — during which time Safe Harbor opened a 2-0 lead — the area between home plate and the Safe Harbor dugout had become a treacherous hazard.
With no reasonable end to the rain in sight the umpires first suspended play, then called the game.
Washed out: Downpour erases a potential victory for Township Black
By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
So close, and yet so far away.
The line of storms that washed through Mount Joy Monday night caught Manheim Township Black three outs short of an official game and an 11-2 victory over Conestoga Valley in the first game of the New Era Tournament Junior-Midget semifinals.
After a 90-minute delay and with no deliverance in sight from the rain and lightning, the umpires called it an evening. Township and CV will do it all over again tonight at Kunkle Field at 6 p.m. with the Safe Harbor-Elizabethtown Bears Blue contest to follow at 8.
The Junior-Midget championship game is now scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m., back at Kunkle.
The rain erased a pretty productive night for Township first baseman Carlos Medina, who was 4-for-4 with a 2-run single and 3-run homer. His teammate, Austin Gallagher, launched a 2-run shot that cleared the Kunkle confines at the same dead-centerfield spot.
Rightfielder Brad Hess accounted for both Conestoga Valley runs with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. Of course, in the overall scheme of things, none of that ever happened.
The New Era Tournament concludes with the Midget bracket, which opens play this week.
The quarterfinals will be held Thursday and Friday night at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, while the semifinals follow on July 28.
The title game will be held on July 29.