New Era Correspondent
Hempfield Black and The Akron Lions each had an adverse condition to overcome in Friday night’s New Era Tournament Midget-Midget quarterfinals.
Their success in doing so, and lack of same, were reflected in the outcomes of their respective games.
Hempfield Black rallied to defeat the Willow Street Cardinals 5-3 in the nightcap at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field after the Mountville Indians stole Akron blind in a 7-2 opening victory.
The Lions (22-3) represent the Elanco M-M League, a league that plays under modified rules regarding the running game – no leads, stealing only after the pitch crosses home.
When Elanco teams cross paths with teams that play by major league rules, it’s usually not a pretty sight.
In perhaps the best game of the tournament so far, Black (17-5) took the field with the stinging memory of two losses to the Cards fresh on their minds.
“We had two opportunities to play them,” said manager Stan Anderson. “The first one was a close one (a 3-1 loss) over in the Mountville Tournament . The second one they really put a spanking on us here (23-3) in the Mount Joy Tournament . We kind of remembered that.”
Friday night’s starter, Dave Bechtold, who took the 3-1 loss, was equal to the challenge of facing the Cards (35-4), champions of the Penn Manor League.
The 12-year old lefty pitched with poise.
“It’s a little stressful,” he said,” but I can deal with it.” He dealt with it by using a crackling fastball and a knuckleball.
But he hung a 1-2 knuckler to Jeremy Reinhart leading off the second inning and Reinhart slammed it to the fence in right center for a triple, then scored the game’s first run on Rob Duvall’s base hit.
Hempfield, the Susquehanna League champion, briefly took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Joe Anderson got Black’s first hit off Ryan Ewing and scored from second on Tim Marino’s sacrifice bunt.
Marino was safe at first on an error and Robert Johnson, who had walked, came home on a wild pitch.
The Cards came right back with an RBI safety squeeze bunt by Mark Canada and Duvall scored on a wild pitch.
Black chased Ewing with Bechtold’s RBI single in the fourth inning. Reinhart relieved and with one out Anderson (2-for-2) flared a hit behind third. Johnson’s humpback ball to short was thrown away, allowing two runs to score.
“We made a few mistakes that hurt us,” said Cards’ manager Steve Ewing. “I thought we were ready to play.
“They were ready to play. You’ve got to give them credit for what they did.”
Given the lead again, Bechtold hung tough through one of those stressful times.
Mark Wagner (2-for-3) opened the fifth with a single to center and scampered to third as the ball was misplayed. Bechtold held him there, retiring Ewing on a comebacker.
Jeremy Hess took a strike and the Cards went to the safety squeeze again. Bechtold threw a knuckleball on the pitch and Hess’ bunt dribbled to Bechtold charging off the mound.
“The guy (Wagner) was running down the third base line,” Bechtold said. “I looked and he was halfway. I thought I could make it so I just dove for him.”
He tagged Wagner out a foot from home. “You hope for that stuff and then it happens,” Anderson said. “It was a perfect play.”
A stolen base and wild pitch put Hesson third, but Bechtold struck out Reinhart (2-for-3) on a 1-2 knuckleball, then ended the Cards hopes of repeating as M-M champions with a 1-2-3 sixth.
In the opener, Mountville stole 11 bases against Akron and pitcher Bryan Strohl. It started early as Matt Baker (2-for-3) and Ryan Wile stole three bases. Strohl’s first 11 pitches were balls and the Indians (27-9) quickly went up 3-0 on winning pitcher Jake Shellenberger’s sacrifice fly to left, an error and a ground out.
Akron got a run back in the bottom of the inning as Brett Fasnacht (2 runs scored) tripled inside the bag at first and came home on a wild pitch.
Mountville’s running attack added two more runs in the second. Eric Sload beat out an infield single, stole second, took third on a ground out and stole home during Wile’s at-bat.
Wile walked, stole second and third and came home when Strohl picked him off, but threw the ball away at home.
“In our league we don’t play these rules,” said Lions’ coach Jim Strohl. “I thought we played a respectable game for not playing that kind of ball.”
Strohl settled down and retired seven in a row. He escaped danger in the fifth, throwing out runners at home and first on sacrifices, but the Indians posted two more in the sixth on an RBI double by Mike Slaugh and Bryan Grier’s run-scoring single.
Shellenberger dominated the Lions, nicked only by an RBI single by Rodney Hawk (2-for-2) in the third. Shellenberger struck out 16, walking two.
“Jake threw real well,” said long-time Indians’ coach Bob Sauders. “He was getting pretty pumped up there at the end.”
Friday’s winners will meet Thursday night at 6:15 p.m. back at Kunkle.