Hempfield advances to title game; other semifinal postponed

Hempfield’s Derek Totaro fires a pitch against Solanco.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

Baseball is truly American.

Like this great nation, baseball affords one the opportunity to, with each new day and new game, wipe the slate clean and start all over again.

Which is welcome news around the Totaro household where, 24 hours after the dark pall of defeat dropped in, it was chased by the fresh breeze of victory.

On Tuesday night, Doug Totaro, a member of the Hempfield Black Midget baseball team, was saddled with a hard-luck loss in relief when St. Leo rallied to defeat Black 9-8 in a New Era Tournament Midget quarterfinal played at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Wednesday night, younger brother Derek’s effective 3 2/3 innings of relief earned him the nod as winning pitcher as the Hempfield Black Junior-Midget team outlasted Solanco Gold 15-12 in an NET semifinal at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy.

“I was just trying to keep the ball low,” said Totaro, Hempfield’s fourth pitcher in the game.

“There was a lot of offense.”

There was nothing offensive about Totaro’s effective effort in a game delayed 45 minutes at the outset by a series of storms that buffeted the Mount Joy area an hour before game time.

Because of the delay, and the considerable length of the ensuing game, Wednesday night’s second semifinal featuring the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox and Rheems Gray was postponed until tonight. Game time at Kunkle Field is set for 7.

That also means the J-M championship game, originally set for tonight, will be played Friday night at 7, also at Kunkle Field.

In a rock ’em, sock ’em kind of game, Hempfield and Solanco bombed six pitchers total, pounding out 24 hits and taking advantage of seven walks and eight errors.

The first inning took 40 minutes to play, and the game staggered home in a tidy three hours, one minute.

It didn’t end until, with the bases loaded for Solanco and a run home, Totaro got back-to-back strikeouts to quell the disturbance.

Not that you’d expect anything else from these combatants. In three previous meetings, Solanco won 12-1, Hempfield won 10-4 and the third game was a surprising 3-2 win for Hempfield. “We knew it was going to be a battle,” Hempfield coach Bob Gantz said. “But Derek did a great job. He came in and shut the door.”

Hempfield broke out of the gate with an RBI infield single by Ben Ault and Nate Booth’s run-scoring groundout.

Booth seemed uncomfortable on the mound, and was gone after five batters. He hit a batter, walked two and allowed a double and Adam Planamento’s three-run homer.

Dylan Manning came on to strike out the side, but returned to the field after that, still feeling the effects of the lower back injury he suffered last Thursday.

Hempfield got those three runs back on Manning’s three-run homer in the second inning, but Solanco answered with Cole Martin’s two-run shot into the parking lot in the bottom of the inning — a blast that broke a window in the automobile owned by Rheems Gray coach Allen Toth, who was waiting for a game that would not be played.

Again, Hempfield gave as it got, putting up six runs in the third inning, paced by Totaro’s two-run blast, chasing Gold starter Gabriel Skolnick and taking a lead it would not relinquish.

Solanco answered with a lone run, singled in by Gus Yarnall.

But an inning later, Planamento’s RBI double and a two-run homer by Kyle Erb chased Cory Gantz, who had come on for Manning in the second.

Dustin McVey greeted Totaro with an RBI single, but Totaro settled in and retired eight of the next 10, yielding just Planamento’s second homer of the game — and fourth of the tournament.

By then Hempfield had added four runs, including Manning’s second homer, a solo blast, and Nick Yarnall’s RBI infield hit.

With rain beginning to reassert itself, Solanco put its first two runners on in the bottom of the seventh.

Taking no chances, Coach Gantz ordered Planamento intentionally walked, loading the bases and bringing Eby to the plate as the tying run.

Eby lifted a fly to left center that tipped off center fielder Cory Gantz’s glove as he got tangled with left fielder Anthony Dornes. Joey Welk scored on the error and the bases remained loaded, but Totaro reached back and found the gas to close out the victory.

“We used everybody in the bullpen tonight,” Coach Gantz said. “That’s what we needed to keep these guys at bay.”

“It was just a slugfest,” Solanco coach Kurt Kreider observed. “They just hit the ball up and down the lineup.

“We said at the beginning of the game that we wanted them to use four pitchers. We needed five.”

Hempfield Black celebrates its semifinal win over Solanco.

Hempfield’s Ben Ault (left) and Nate Booth celebrate after scoring.

Solanco’s Mark Kreider tags out Hempfield’s Derek Totaro.