New Era Correspondent
Sitting through Tuesday night’s New Era Tournament Junior-Midget semifinal one couldn’t help but be reminded of boxing.
Specifically, the Willow Street White Sox’s 13-12 opening-game victory over Mount Joy Blue, accomplished in eight innings, brought to mind the classic Ali-Frazier III, the Thrilla in Manilla.
Two champions slugging each other until the final bell rang.
The second game, won by the Willow Street Yankees, was reminiscient of Tyson-Holmes.
A young champion pummeling a defenseless foe into submission. There is no way to sugarcoat this result. Yankees 31, Lancaster Township White Sox 1.
What this all means is, for what is likely the first time in New Era Tournament history, two teams from the same organization will meet to decide a championship next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
For the Yankees (27-7-1), who battled for survival in their first two victories over Lititz VFW and Akron, it was a rare “laugher”. Except no one was laughing. The White Sox (22-3), only the third-ever “B” team to get to the semifinals, got crunched.
Rob Duvall (4-for-4) led a 17-hit attack for the Yankees, just missing a grand slam in the second inning, settling for a sac fly.
He did get his slam in the fourth inning though, to go with a solo shot, a 2-run double and an RBI hit for an RBI total of nine.
He was joined by Jason Newmoyer (3-for-4, 5 RBI) who also hit a grand slam and Willie Rivera, who poked a solo homer.
Amit Corso knocked home Sal Lombardo in the sixth inning for LT’s only run.
Adam Devlin, son of Lampeter-Strasburg High School baseball coach Hank Devlin, held Township to three hits and went the distance on the mound.
“We were hoping for an easier game than what the first two were, obviously,” said Yankees’ coach Steve Ewing. Sure, but not this easy.
“This can’t be fun for them. “They fought hard to get here,” he said adding they didn’t deserve to lose like this.
Nobody deserved to lose the opening game, but somebody had to. That’s baseball.
The White Sox (31-4), left for dead after an eighth-inning rally by Blue, climbed off the canvas to claim the victory.
“Two great ball teams, neither one wanted to die,” said Sox coach Dean Hostetter. “Whoever was (left) standing was going to win the ballgame.
“To score four runs in the last inning and win the ballgame is unreal. The boys just did not give up.”
Shackled for four innings by the off speed benders of releiver Kyle Texter, Mount Joy (33-8) reached him for three runs in the top of the eighth to take a 12-9 lead.
Justin Reese broke out of a slump with an RBI single, scoring Justin Bish, who had singled, and giving Blue a 10-9 edge. After Jamison Schrey singled, Reese was erased trying to score on a wild pitch.
Wade Groff, who had earlier homered twice, struck out for the second out, but Chadd Ward, the littlest guy on the field, kept the rally alive.
Ward, twice a strikeout victim to Texter, worked a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Jere Hess, a first-year player whose intensity belies his youth, stroked a 3-1 pitch into right field, scoring Schrey and Ward for a three-run advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, Blue coach Greg Schneider sent reliever Ryan Sutter, nephew of former major leaguer and relief icon Bruce Sutter, back out to the mound to get the save.
Sutter had come on for Bish, who had himself relieved starter Dan Myers, and pitched two innings of no-hit ball, striking out three.
He got leadoff hitter Jeremy Hess on a fly to Ward in center, but that would be the last out Blue would record.
Sutter, who had a nasty breaking pitch going for him, struck out Ray Stefanik, but the ball skittered away from Myers, now catching, and in short order the bases were loaded on walks.
Alex Torres, a dangerous hitter, had been kept quiet by Blue’s pitching and Sutter continued that string, getting Torres to ground one to third. But Schrey, charging the ball, couldn’t get a handle on it, Stefanik scored and it was safe all around.
Mike Pickel, who had also homered earlier, then bounced a ground-rule double over the fence in right center to tie the game at 12.
With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Schneider came out to get Sutter, calling Bish in from right.
Ironically, Sutter had replaced Bish after Bish walked four batters in the fifth inning.
Back to the wall, Blue was forced to play the infield and outfield up as Bish intentionally walked Texter to set up the force. He then unintentionally walked Jordan Gilles to end the game.
And what a game, in fact two games within a game.
The early innings were a slugfest.
Blue had lost twice this year to Sox starter Jeremy Reinhart, and looked weak doing so.
So of course it jumped on top 2-0 on Jonathon Burns’ 2-run rocket that left the park in a hurry.
“Our first thought was to go out and get to him,” Schneider said, “and I thought we did a good job of that. We knocked him out in short order.”
The Sox got that back off Blue starter Dan Myers on Brad Lingenfelter’s 2-run shot to center and Pickel’s parabola that landed beyond the fence in left.
Mount Joy got one back on Groff’s first homer, an express to center, in the top of the second, but Willow Street added three more in their second, including Lingenfelter’s second dinger, to make it 6-3.
Blue closed made it 6-5 on Burns’ 2-run single and Sutter’s safety squeeze bunt and Schneider brought Bish in to start the Willow Street third.
Bish pitched a quiet third and into and out of trouble in the fourth, striking out Lingenfelter and Torres with the bases loaded to keep the Sox off the board.
Schrey singled to start the Blue fourth and when Groff mortared Reinhart’s 2-2 pitch over the fence in right for a 2-run blast, Hostetter came and got his bewildered starter with his team down 7-6.
“I thought Reinhart had good stuff tonight,” Hostetter said. “Hats off to that team over there (Blue). They’re a great team. I have a lot of respect for them.”
His choice of Texter, the off-speed yang to Reinhart’s fireballing yin, was Schneider’s worst scenario.
“I hated to see that curveballer come in,” Schneider said. “We struggled with curveballs all year.”
Texter, who threw maybe eight fastballs in the 85 pitches that encompassed his night’s work, had Blue’s hitters hacking at curves in the dirt. And when they got some discipline and layed off, he’d raise his offerings into the bottom of the zone.
“If they can’t hit, why not throw it,” he said. “Whatever gets it done.” He surrendered a base hit to Hess in the fourth and allowed two walks until the eighth.
One of those walks, Bish, came around to score Blue’s ninth run but while Texter was barricading the gates with his curve and a circle change, Willow Street snuck back into the game with a pair in their fifth.
A pair of 2-out walks by Bish set the inning up and two runs scored on a fielding and throwing error, combined with two more walks.
When Bish walked Lingenfelter to open the sixth, Schneider went to Sutter, who nailed shut the door.
Until fate blew it back open.
“You’d think three runs in the top of the eighth would be enough,” Schneider said. “But, Dean’s got a good club there. They don’t quit either.”
And now they now they’ll take up arms against their brothers in arms to decide not only county supremacy, but just who’s the top dog in Willow Street.
“They’ve got the older team,” said Steve Ewing, “we’ve got the younger team. Most of these kids here are the New Era (M-M) champions from last year.
“We feel like we’re the champions and if somebody’s going to knock us off, well this is the field to do it on. We’re ready to go.”