New Era Correspondent
There’s something special about an unbeaten season, and there is something special about the season the Hempfield Black midget baseball team is having.
The Rohrerstown Indians were the 31st team to test Hempfield’s mettle Wednesday evening in a New Era Tournament Midget quarterfinal game at Lampeter-Strasburg. Hempfield made short work of its school district cousins, taking a 14-2 decision in five innings for its 31st straight victory.
The win moves Hempfield into Saturday’s semifinals against Manheim VFW at noon at L-S. Manheim topped Manheim Township 12-2 in Wednesday’s other quarterfinal game.
While Black’s players have three, maybe four more defenses of its unblemished season, there is little or no pressure on them.
Part of that must be attributed to the sense of familiarity these kids feel with one another. They’ve carried over the success of a high school JV season that saw them go 18-2, but it goes deeper than that.
For the most part, this is the seventh summer season together for this group who, as Hempfield Black, go all the way back to junior-midget-midgets.
Yet through the twists of fate, it is the first New Era appearance for this group since the ’93 tournament , when they lost in the semis to eventual midget-midget champion Manheim VFW.
Whom they will face again Saturday. In the semifinals. Funny how things work out.
Not all the members of Hempfield Black are New Era novices though. Steve Roberts and Aaron Herr were on the Hempfield Red team that battled midget champion Solanco to the wire in last year’s title game.
For Herr, who passed on playing Legion ball, the opportunity to be a part of a special team was an irresistible lure.
“I knew coming into the season we were going to have a good team,” said Herr, the son of former major leaguer Tom Herr. “I knew we’d do well. I didn’t expect 31-and-oh, though. That’s outstanding!”
Coach Don Gunzenhauser, who has been with these kids, it seems, since they picked up their first wiffle ball and bat, isn’t getting a lot of gray hairs from this team.
He said that coaching this group is “pretty easy. I don’t have to do much. They hit the ball very well. Our pitching is fairly good. They can run.
“They’re very competitive and they just know how to play the game,” he said. “They know they can score runs and they don’t get excited if another team scores runs.”
A demeanor that came in handy in the first inning of this game. Rohrerstown (19-7) pushed across two runs on two of the four hits surrendered by Herr, making a rare start on the hill.
Herr had a time finding the zone in the first inning and was undone by a walk and a throwing error on a fielder’s choice, but then settled in.
Meanwhile, Black was zeroing in on the offerings of Derek Roye.
They grabbed the lead right back on a 2-run single by Chad Gunzenhauser in the first and increased it to 5-2 on Roberts’ 2-run hit in the second.
They took advantage of a pair of errors by second baseman Justin Greising in the third inning to score five unearned runs and take command, 10-2.
Ryan Denlinger made amends for his first-inning gaffe with a 2-run single while Roberts plated his third RBI and Herr the first of his two with base hits. Doug Bechtold then closed the inning with a sac-fly.
“I told the kids before we came down that we must hit the baseball and the name of the game is defense,” said Indians’ coach Greg Roye. “If you do not play defense, you’re not going to win the ballgame.”
Six Rohrerstown errors didn’t help, opening the door to eight unearned runs.
“It would’ve been a better ballgame had we played defense, but what are you going to do?” Roye asked. “When we jumped up two runs in the first inning, I thought, “Well OK, we’ll at least wake them up.’ We just couldn’t get anybody out.”
In the fourth inning Herr got his second RBI single to finish what began with Chris Beichler’s towering home run, a solo shot that landed well beyond the fence in center.
Beichler, who was twice caught leaning by Roye’s deceptive move to first in earlier appearances on the basepaths, was greeted at the dugout by a crowd that included an anonymous quipster who dryly observed, “Well, at least you didn’t get picked off this time!”
While all these offensive pyrotechnics were unleashed, Herr, who noted, “It always seems to take me a while,” settled in. He slammed the door on the Tribe, yielding just two more hits and a walk while striking out seven.
“Aaron can win anytime,” Gunzenhauser said, explaining his selection to open the tournament . “I’ve always had confidence in him.”
And now he has the luxury of starting his ace, Jeff Eastman, on Saturday against Manheim.
Four triples sink Manheim Township
By Toby Therrien
New Era Correspondent
If you’re looking for a team with a tradition of winning the New Era Midget Baseball Tournament , check out the Manheim VFW Midgets when they take the field on Saturday at noon for a semifinal game against rival Hempfield.
Mark Bell, Matt Mumma and a handful of the other older players on this Manheim team first won a New Era championship at the Midget-Midget level back in 1993. They won back-to-back Junior-Midget titles in “94 and “95. And the younger team members, like second baseman Mike Kernisky, again won a Junior-Midget title last summer.
Now they’re itching to win a Midget championship and it shows.
Manheim VFW uncorked 11 hits Wednesday night – including four triples and a double – and coasted to a 12-2 quarterfinal victory over Manheim Township in a game at Lampeter-Strasburg shortened by the 10-run rule.
“We’re looking to win another one,” says Mumma, a Manheim Central junior whose one-hit pitching over 5 2/3 innings was a bit tarnished by his 12 walks. “We’re always excited about this tournament and we want another title.”
VFW coach Barry Lewis agrees.
“These kids have a history of winning this tournament ,” Lewis says, “and I think right now they’re fired up.”
Fired up and swinging freely.
Tanner Stricker’s run-scoring triple to centerfield got things rolling in the second inning and they never stopped. Striker scored on Kernisky’s single and VFW – Lanco Blue Division champs and 20-7 overall – took a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish.
Bell, a junior at Manheim Central, pounded a triple down the bank in rightfield to start a one-out rally in the third. He scored on Jeff Smoker’s single and Mumma later scored on an infield error to make it 4-1.
The grandson of Manheim Central baseball coach Hen Bell, Mark Bell finished with two hits, two runs and an RBI. It was his first game back playing in the field after breaking his left hand a month ago.
Kernisky rapped a triple to lead off VFW’s three-run outburst in the fourth inning.
“I didn’t even think I hit it that hard,” said the Manheim Central sophomore, who batted ninth in the order but finished the day with three hits and three RBIs. “I thought I popped it up.”
John Lentz, a sophomore at Central, followed with a one-out triple to score Kernisky. Bell’s one-out single up the middle scored Lentz to make it 6-2. And Bell eventually came in on Smoker’s double up the hill in left.
“(Township) was playing awfully deep and we were still getting it through the gaps,” said Lewis.
Manheim Township, which won the Lanco Red Division and finished the summer at 12-6, took a short-lived 1-0 lead in the second inning. Brian Lambert, a sophomore at Manheim Township, reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan Duschl’s double down the leftfield line. Duschl is a junior at Township.
But VFW bolted into the lead for good with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Even the bench got into the swing of things.
Pinch-hitter Joe Kenneff lined a one-out single up the middle to score Ryan Peters in the sixth inning and make the score 10-2. And pinch-hitter Tyrel Yealy poked a single into right to score Rob Ocasio, who had come in to relieve Mumma. Kenneff later scored the final run on a wild pitch.
Now VFW gets another crack at Hempfield, which has won all three times the teams have faced each other this summer.
Hempfield won 11-1 at its own tournament , 15-14 in a wild win at the Mountville Tournament , and 6-5 in the championship game of the Manheim Tournament a month ago.