Getting defensive: Solid pitching and a handful of great defensive plays carry Manheim VFW and the Warwick Phillies into the Midget-Midget semifinals

Lowen Johnson throws for Manheim.

By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent

Mark this under the heading of biting the hand that feeds you.

Lowen Johnson, the 12-year old ace of the Manheim VFW Maroon Midget-Midget baseball team, is one of a group of pitchers tutored by Millersville University baseball coach Glenn Gallagher.

Friday night in the Midget-Midget quarterfinals of the 59th New Era Midget Baseball Tournament, Johnson showed what he’d learned as he pitched VFW past Manheim Township Black, 6-1. Gallagher’s son, Cameron, took the loss.

Johnson limited Township (18-12) to one hit – Justin Sisbarro’s RBI single to center in the first, the only ball to reach the outfield off Johnson – and one unearned run, walking one and striking out eight.

The win earns Manheim (15-14) the right to play the Warwick Philllies in the second game of a M-M semifinal twinball Monday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.

The Phillies turned back the Pequea Valley Braves, 6-3, in the first game Friday at Kunkle.

In what he called, one of his best games, Johnson mixed a knuckle curve, a straight knuckler and a two-seam fastball to record ten groundouts in addition to his eight Ks.

He had just two 3-ball counts, the second leading to a 2-out walk in the bottom of the last inning.

“He pitched very smart,” said winning coach Jeff Knosp. “I call the pitches, but he has to throw the pitches. His locationwas very good.”

“We faced him before and hit him before,” said Township coach Lew Chillot. “The difference tonight was he got his breaking ball over.

“When we played them in thier tournament, he tried to throw it but didn’t throw it for strikes. He improved from that standpoint.”

While Johnson was enjoying the benefits of a mostly crisp defense, Gallagher was undone by untimely fielding miscues. And by timely hitting by Manheim.

An error allowed Seth Crouse to move up a base after his single to left in the second and he came around on a pair of wild pitches by Gallagher to tie the game.

Dustin Fair’s RBI groundout scored Casey Ebersole, who reached on a two-base error by Gallagher in the third. Allen Custer’s RBI single up the middle made it 3-1 Manheim in the fourth.

Manheim broke the game open the next inning on a pair of singles teammed with three errors for three unearned runs.

“We put the ball in play, hit the ball when we needed to hit the ball,” said Knosp.

That left a deficit that was, despite Township’s reputation for big-inning comebacks, too much to handle.

“I really thought we would get a rally going,” offered Chiillot, “but (Johnson) just shut us down. He wasn’t going to be stopped.”

The Warwick Phillies weren’t going to be stopped in their bid to appear in the M-M semis for the second straight year.

Warwick opened a 4-0 lead, only to see the Braves (15-11) rally within one in the late stages of the game.

A two-spot in their last at-bat gave the Phils (19-12) a comfortable cushion, and J.T. Garner saved Matt Ruhl’s victory.

Actually, centerfielder Cody Snyder saved the win. He threw out two runners at home – one in the first inning and one in the fifth – threw out a runner at third in the fifth and made a snappy over-the-shoulder catch on the run in the first with a runner on second base.

“Their centerfielder was just tremendous,” said Braves coach Kevin Clark with admiration. “Some of the throws he made were unbelievable.

“We’re a team that usually wins by running and being aggressive, and that took some of the spark out of us.”

“Defense has been a pretty good point for us this year,” allowed Phil’s coach Dave Erb.

Not quite so his offense, he admitted. “Our hitting has been up and down. Our last three games we had 27 strikeouts in 53 (at-bats).”

Nothing happens if you don’t put the ball in play, and after several sessions in the cage this week, the Phils were ready.

A walk, steal, throwing error and wild pitch gave them a 1-0 lead, and a walk, single and error made it 2-0 after two innings.

Trever Havemann ripped a two-out, two-run single in the third to make it 4-0.

Matt Ruhl was sailing along with a two-hit shutout after three innings, but when he walked the leadoff man in the fourth, Erb didn’t hesitate to go to the lefty offerings of Dylan Haefner.

Haefner went 11-einnings, allowing Ruhl’s run plus two of his own, before yielding to Garner in the fifth.

Garner – and Snyder – restored order in the fifth, Havemann knocked in his third run of the night and Haefner hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Warwick’s final run.

“They hit the ball well and so did we,” Clark said. “They played great ball. They deserved to win.”

Pequea Valley’s Nathaniel Hoskins takes the throw, but the Warwick runner is safe on the steal.

‘Code Red’ lifts Warwick¬†with 4 great plays

By Jeffrey Reinhart
New Era Sports Writer

“Come on, Code Red!” Cody Snyder’s teammates chirped from the dugout Friday night.

“Just a single, Code Red.”

“Hey, Code Red.”

“Come on now, Code Red.”

“Base hit, Code Red.”

Snyder, the Warwick Phillies centerfielder, heard his teammates cheering him on every time he stepped to the plate in a New Era Tournament Midget-Midget quarterfinal game at Kunkel Field in Mount Joy.

And every time Code Red dug into the batter’s box, he meant business.

Unfortunately, Snyder had a rough night at the plate. He was 0-for-2 with a walk. He struck out. And he was robbed of hit in the fifth when he lined out to first.

But Warwick wouldn’t be in Monday night’s Midget-Midget semifinals without Snyder, who made up for his hitless night with four outstanding defense plays.

The 11-year-old threw two runners out at the plate – including the potential game-tying run with two outs in the top of the fifth – tossed another runner out at third, and made a sparkling catch to rob another hitter of extra bases as Warwick held off Pequea Valley 6-3 to advance to Monday’s semifinal round.

“Cody saved us,” Warwick coach Dave Erb said. “Talk about a kid trying to win a championship.”

Warwick is one step closer to a New Era Tournament crown thanks to Snyder’s defensive heroics.

The Phillies had several other key contributors Friday night – including some clutch relief pitching and three RBI from Trevor Havemann – but without Snyder’s gems, Warwick’s players would be hanging by the pool Monday – not getting ready for Manheim VFW, which knocked off Manheim Township Black 6-1 in Monday night’s other quarterfinal.

Observe:

Top of the first, one out and PV’s Ian Byerly is on second after a single and a stolen base. Tyler Clark follows with a clean single to center. Snyder charges and comes up throwing. When the dust settles, Warwick catcher Deron Thompson is cradling the ball and Byerly is out.

It could have been 1-0 PV, but Snyder snuffed out that run.

The next batter, Dustin Yoder, rips a drive toward the gap in left-center. Snyder, on his horse, runs it down to take at least a double away from PV’s first baseman.

If that ball gets to the wall, who knows what happens. Yoder might still be running.

Instead, Warwick grabbed the early momentum, thanks to Snyder’s two electrifying plays. It carries over into the bottom of the first, when the Phillies grab a 1-0 lead.

“What a first inning, eh?” Erb said.

Turns out Code Red was just warming up.

Top of the fifth – they play six innings in Midget-Midget games – and Warwick leads 4-1. But Dylan Carney coaxes a leadoff walk and PV is suddenly in rally mode. Leadoff man Nathaniel Hoskins follows with a single to score Carney, who swiped second. It was 4-2.

Byerly follows with a single to center. Snyder, noticing that Hoskins got a slow jump from second, comes up throwing and fires a pea to third baseman Darren Erb, who applies the tag for the first out of the inning.

It turned out to be a huge play because the next batter, Yoder, reached when Warwick shortstop Kyle Keener misplayed his grounder and Byerly scored to make it 4-3.

On the play, Clark came chugging around third. Snyder darted for the ball, which clanged off Keener’s glove. Clark slid high. Snyder’s throw was right on the money. And when Thompson tagged out Clark, Snyder not only had pegged his third victim of the game, but, more importantly, had kept the tying run from scoring.

“The last play (Clark) got past DT (Deron Thompson), but he swung around and got him,” Erb said. “If he slides a little lower, DT misses him and he’s probably in there. So that’s a huge play.

“If Cody doesn’t throw those kids out, we’re still playing. Who knows what happens? I think those plays took a little wind out of their sails.”

And the Phillies took advantage, tacking on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. They could have gotten more, but Snyder was robbed of a hit when Yoder made a diving stab.

No big deal. Snyder did plenty of damage with his arm and his glove on this night. A victorious night for Warwick.

“Both times, I was thinking the guy was going to try and score,” said Snyder, who admitted he was surprised PV kept running on him after he threw the first guy out in the first inning. “So I knew I better make a good throw.”

Code Red made three great throws. And a whale of a catch.

“He’s so valuable in center for us,” Erb said. “We like to be solid up the middle. At catcher. At shortstop. And in center. We need quarterbacks at those positions. And Cody is our quarterback in the outfield.”

Friday night, Warwick’s outfield quarterback saved the night for the Phillies, who lived to play another day.

Warwick Catcher Deron Thompson puts the tag on Pequea Valley’s Ian Byerly.

Manheim’s Dustin Fair takes his lead.

Warwick’s Darren Erb is tagged out by Pequea Valley’s Conner Beiler.

Matt Ruhl fires for Warwick.

Manheim Township pitcher Cameron Gallagher.