Hempfield Black is the favorite again

BY DAVE BYRNE
Sports Writer

As Bullwinkle would constantly reassure Rocky, “This time for sure!”

It’s far from sure that top-seeded Hempfield Black will win the Midget division of the 70th LNP Tournament — there are seven other teams that will have a say, after all.

But Black can’t keep pulling a menagerie of wildlife out of its hat while trying to produce a rabbit.

Can it?

Winners of seven LNP Midget titles since 1997, Black has come up short, painfully short, the last two years.

It was the Lititz Oddfellows, with a solitary run in the top of the sixth inning, handing Black a 1-0 defeat in the 2013 final.

SWS Blue pushed a run across in the bottom of the eighth inning  for a 5-4 victory in 2014.

What can 2015 hold?

Beginning at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, we will learn, as the Midgets take over the LNP Tournament and the diamond at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

In a rematch of the programs, if not the actual personnel, from the 2014 final, Black and SWS open the tournament with the first game of a quarterfinal doubleheader.

Twenty minutes after its end, No. 4 seeded Bears Blue and fifth seed Cocalico square off.

The quarterfinals continue  at Clipper Magazine Stadium Thursday with No. 2 seed Garden Spot and Manheim VFW, the seventh seed, meeting at 5:15.

Third-seeded Lititz Oddfellows and No. 6 seed Donegal  follow, 20 minutes after.

The quarterfinal winners return Friday for a semifinal doubleheader, beginning at 5:15 p.m., with the championship game set for 5:15 Sunday.

Following is a look at the quarterfinal matchups.

 SWS Blue vs. Hempfield Black

THE SEEDS — Hempfield Black is the No. 1 seed. SWS is seeded eighth.

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Black (14-1) won the regular season championship of the Lanco League’s school division.

SWS (8-7-1) won a play-in qualifier with Community division champion Donegal, 4-3, after finishing eighth in the  school division.

BACK FROM LAST YEAR — Mark Peterson and T. J. Biondolillo return for Black. Caleb Danehower is back for SWS.

HEAD-TO-HEAD — Hempfield blanked SWS 8-0 in the regular season.

LNP TOURNAMENT HISTORY — As mentioned above, Black has won six titles, all since 1997. Their last title came in  2010. SWS’s 2014 title was its first in eight trips to the title game.

 Manheim VFW vs. Garden Spot

THE SEEDS — Garden Spot is the No. 2 seed. Manheim is seeded seventh.

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Spot (13-2) finished tied for second with Lititz in the school division, earning the No. 2 seed by virtue of  a 3-0 regular-season victory.

Manheim (8-6-1) finished one game in front of SWS .

BACK FROM LAST YEAR — Brock Kauffman, Anthony Torreulla, Josh Leid, Ryan Smith, Cameron Heilman, Zach Skinner, Noah Dippolito, Erik Muttik and Freddie Urena return from Spot’s 2014 semifinalists.

Kevin Starner, Chad Neely, Tyler Lyons, Hunter Bruckhart and Tyler Lutz return to the U-16 wars for Manheim.

HEAD-TO-HEAD — Spot claimed a 7-1 victory over VFW.

LNP TOURNAMENT HISTORY — Garden Spot is one of two squads looking for its first LNP title. Manheim  has won four midget championships, the last in 2012.

Donegal vs. Lititz Oddfellows

THE SEEDS — Lititz is third seeded. Donegal is the No. 6 seed.

HOW THEY GOT HERE — In addition to the loss to Garden Spot, the Oddfellows (13-2) fell to Hempfield, 12-1.

Donegal (9-5-1) settled for sixth place after losses in two of its final three games, including 4-0 to Cocalico, cost an opportunity to leapfrog Cocalico and the Bears, both of whom finished a half game ahead of Donegal.

BACK FROM LAST YEAR — Tyler Martin, Zach Peters, Justin Smith, Nate Hess, Ethan Norman and Tyler Hess return for an Oddfellows squad that was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Garden Spot.

Conner Green, Ian Rapp and Tyler Snyder return for a Donegal side, bolstered  by the influx of eight players from the 2014 LNP J-M champs.

HEAD-TO-HEAD — Lititz edged Donegal, 6-5.

LNP TOURNAMENT HISTORY — The Oddfellows have won all four of their LNP titles since 2008, the last in 2013. Donegal also has four titles, the last coming in 2004.

 Cocalico vs. Bears Blue

THE SEEDS — The Bears are the No. 4 seed. Cocalico is seeded fifth.

HOW THEY GOT HERE — Both teams finished tied for fourth with a 10-5 record in the school division.

The Bears earned the higher seed with a 7-1 victory on July 13.

BACK FROM LAST YEAR — For the Bears, Jeremy Sabathne, Justin Shelly, Nick Stoner.

Cocalico did  not provide a breakdown of returning players and newcomers from a team that played in the Community division last year.

HEAD-TO-HEAD — See above.

LNP TOURNAMENT HISTORY — Cocalico is also looking for its first LNP title while the Bears have won two championships, one in 2000 and the other way back in 1947.