In two years or so they will be competing for positions on Hempfield’s varsity and JV baseball squads.
But Tuesday night the stakes were more immediate and personal for the members of Hempfield Black and the Mountville Angels.
Going toe-to-toe for the right to be the New Era Tournament Junior-Midget champions, Hempfield Black claimed the big trophy, defeating the Angels in a classic, 2-1, at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.
Nolan Myers singled home Cory Gantz in the sixth inning and Camden Hess retired the Angels in the seventh to nail down the win and the championship.
It was a sweet turnaround for Black (22-7), which lost in the J-M final last year after winning the M-M title in 2007.
“It feels great to come back here and win it again,” Hess declared.
“The guys knew what it was like to be here,” said Black coach Bob Gantz, who explained that Tuesday’s foes had split two games, with Mountville winning the regular-season meeting and Hempfield returning the favor in the LCYBL championship game.
Both starters were dealing Tuesday night.
Hess, who threw a five-inning no-hitter Friday in the first round, allowed two first-inning hits and one more in the third, and retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced, including the last 11 in a row. He walked two while striking out 15.
Making his first start of the tournament, Hess’s counterpart Zach Burk was almost as good. Pitching with a cast on his glove hand, protecting a thumb broken sliding into second in Thursday’s game, Burke gave up four hits in seven innings, walked one and struck out eight.
“I’m good friends with him and Zach’s a heck of a pitcher,” said Myers. “It’s too bad one of them had to lose.”
The Angels (17-4) wasted little time ending Black’s New Era scoreless streak of 12 innings coming in, posting a run in their first at-bat.
A walk to Matt Gue, Nelson Paredes’ infield single and Bryan Haberstroh getting plunked on the head with a pitch loaded the bases.
Hess got a strikeout and a force at home and could see his way out of trouble, but Angel Centano bounced a single up the middle, scoring Paredes, before Hess struck out Alex Centano to end the inning.
“I couldn’t find the strike zone,” said Hess, who allowed he knew it was a temporary condition. “I usually struggle at the beginning, for some reason. I don’t know why.”
Mountville’s advantage lasted three batters. Anthony Dornes drilled Burke’s second pitch to center field, then stole second. Bunted over to third, he scored on Nick Yarnall’s hit to left.
From that point Hess and Burke mowed them down. Not surprisingly, neither team mounted much of an offense.
Then Gantz led off the Black sixth by drawing Burke’s first walk of the game.
After Yarnall was retired on a deep fly to center, Gantz stole second and took third on a wild pitch to Hess. Burke struck out Hess, but Myers, who had singled in his last at-bat, slung a 2-0 pitch into short center, plating Gantz with the go-ahead run.