New Era Staff Writer
Who ever said playing “little ball” can’t get you a bunch of runs?
Hempfield Black stayed patient and manufactured a five-run fifth inning to defeat Strasburg/Willow Street Red 7-0 Wednesday night and defend its New Era Tournament Midget Division title.
Hempfield (20-5-1) scored the only run it would need in the first inning and proved once again that you don’t need a lot of big hits to get big results. Ten of Black’s 11 hits were singles, most of those hard shots through the infield.
Hempfield stole bases, executed the hit-and-run, drove in runners with sacrifice flies, and was productive in nearly every at-bat.
“We knew if we took our time, the hits were going to fall in,” said Hempfield shortstop Brett Rhoads, who had the team’s only extra-base hit, an RBI double in the fifth.
Rhoads and Kyle Enoch, the first two batters in the Hempfield lineup, were a combined 5-for-8 with two runs scored and three RBI. Ace pitcher Austin Hinkle helped his own cause by going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice and an RBI.
“If you get hits yourself, you feel good about yourself and it helps you pitch better,” he said.
No doubt. Hinkle was superb in his third shutout of the tournament, allowing just three hits on the evening. He’d allowed only two hits in Friday’s 3-0 semifinal win over Conestoga Valley, but his team had managed just four.
It nearly tripled that output Wednesday, which was likely attributed to a little extra practice.
“We swung the bats good tonight,” said Hempfield manager Tom Herr, who had felt his team was sluggish at the plate in the CV game because of the six-day layovers between NET games.
So, Herr made sure his players had their fair share of cuts during the week. The move paid off nicely.
“I tried to keep them as sharp as I could (this week),” Herr said. “They made good, solid contact and had some hard outs early in the game. It was just a matter of time.”
Strasburg pitcher Chris Shehan worked his way out of jams in the third and fourth innings, keeping his team within one run, but it caught up to him in the fifth, when Hempfield’s “little ball” finally paid off.
Damian Himpsl drew a leadoff walk and Rhoads and Enoch followed with run-scoring hits. Left fielder Steve Diehl dropped Jordan Herr’s fly ball and Drew Pare was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
After Ryan Hogentogler flied out, Hinkle punched a single through a drawn-in infield to drive in one run, Brian Millaway worked a walk to bring in another and Phil Harnish hit a sac fly.
Just like that, 1-0 had become 6-0.
“They’re a nice ball club, a well-coached, disciplined team,” said Strasburg/Willow Street manager Tim Bianchi.
And an opportunistic one. And one that now owns the Midget championship for the second straight year.
“We set goals at the beginning of the year to win our division, our league and the New Era Tournament, and they accomplished all of those,” Herr said. “They took things seriously this summer. They did the things that help you win, and it’s been fun for me to see that.”
Austin powers Black’s title run; Hinkle fires 3 shutouts in tourney
By Jeffrey Reinhart
New Era Sports Writer
Move over, Austin Powers.
This summer’s hottest hit isn’t about a hip, 70s-something undercover agent whose mission is to keep a certain villain from spreading his brand of evil.
This summer’s hottest hit is about a pitcher. But not just any pitcher, baby. Would you believe a pitcher who twirled three consecutive shutouts, including a complete-game, three-hit, 11-strikeout masterpiece in the championship game of the New Era Midget Tournament?
Believe it, baby. Yeah!
His name is Austin Hinkle — not to be confused with that other chic Austin fellow — and he’s the ace pitcher for Hempfield Black. He hurled his third straight shutout Wednesday night in Manheim, pitching Hempfield to a 7-0 victory over Strasburg/Willow Street in the New Era Tournament’s Midget finale.
It was the second straight Midget title for Hempfield Black. Hinkle, who will be a junior at Hempfield High this fall, pitched for both teams. He also won a New Era Junior-Midget title four years ago.
That’s three New Era Tournament titles for Hinkle. And he definitely saved his best for last.
Hempfield blanked Denver 10-0 in the quarterfinals.
Hempfield blanked Conestoga Valley 3-0 in the semifinals.
And Hempfield blanked SWS 7-0 in the title game.
Austin Hinkle started — and won — all three games, in which Hempfield outscored its opposition, 20-0.
Groovy baby, yeah!
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Hinkle said, smiling.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Hempfield coach Tom Herr said.
Yeah, that Tom Herr. Former major leaguer and father of Atlanta Braves prospect Aaron Herr. This was his first season as the Hempfield Black head coach. And all he did was lead his team to a division title, a league title and to the New Era Tournament title.
“I’m not sure that’s ever been done at this level,” Herr continued. “I’m not a New Era Tournament historian, but that’s a very nice accomplishment… not only for Austin, but for the whole team.”
And the Hempfield team can thank Hinkle and his trusty right arm, which mowed down SWS Wednesday. Hinkle walked the second batter he faced, and the next guy reached on an error. But he fanned Chris Shehan and got Steve Diehl to bounce to second to end the early threat.
Nick Maguire led off the second with a clean single to right off Hinkle. It was the last hit he’d allow until there were two outs in the sixth. In between, Hinkle — using a fastball, curve and change up — retired 14 in a row.
He did so by using pinpoint accuracy and getting ahead in the count. Hinkle threw strikes. Simple as that. He got ahead in the count by painting the corners with his fastball, then used a wicked curve to buckle some knees.
“My favorite thing,” Hinkle said, “is when you get a guy looking for a fastball when there’s two strikes, and you buckle him with a curve.”
Hinkle buckled quite a few knees Wednesday.
He also got out his brush and painted a slew of strikes on the outside corners.
“Austin is very accurate,” Ryan Hogentogler, Hinkle’s catcher, said. “Even when he’s throwing really hard, it seems like the pitch never gets away from him and he’s always in the strike zone. A lot of kids just swing and miss or they’ll stand there and look at it.”
Case in point, the bottom of the fifth, when SWS sent up Dallas Eberly, Eric See and Mark Zurbrick.
All three struck out… looking. The bat never left their shoulders as they stook there, awe struck, watching a fastball fly by them.
Hinkle finished with a great line in the scorebook Wednesday:
Seven innings, no runs, three hits, one walk and 11 strikeouts in 95 economical pitches.
“Normally in this tournament,” Herr said, “the team with the best pitcher wins. And that was true. We had the best pitcher in this tournament.”
No argument here — baby!