New Era Correspondent
Pitching dominated the opening game of a New Era Tournament Junior Midget quarterfinal doubleheader at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field as the Manheim Lions edged the Strasburg Braves 4-1.
Hitting took over in the nightcap as Denver (17-2) outlasted the Manheim Township Cardinals 13-11.
Justin Gerhardt went 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a three-run shot; John Maier was 3-for-5 with a critical two-run double; Ryan Martin (2-for-4) added a solo homer and Mike Sharp (2-for-5) knocked in three with a double and single to pace a 15-hit attack for the Northern Lancaster County League champs.
Township (18-15) banged out 13 hits including a three-run homer by Mike Delaney (2-for-4) and solo shots by Matt Davey and Greg Leed. It was Leed’s first homer of the year.
“It was a whale of a ballgame. Both teams scrapped and clawed,” said winning coach Denis Sharp. “The power that they (Township) have is just overwhelming, but our kids don’t give up.”
Certainly winning pitcher Tim Wolfe didn’t. Coming off an eight-inning, 135-pitch effort against West End on Monday, Wolfe made 144 deliveries to the plate last night.
Township had him on the ropes in the seventh inning as the Cards cut into a seemingly safe six-run lead and had the bases loaded with the winning run on first.
Wolfe reached back and induced number three hitter Andy Sapovchak to pop to first to end the game, earning the fatigued righty five days of R&R.
Denver jumped on top of Cards’ starter John Snyder 4-0, but Township went up on Delaney’s homer, an RBI single by Sapovchak and a steal of home by Greg Lausch.
The next inning Gerhardt’s first homer gave Denver another temporary lead, 7-6. Maier’s double – a grounder that squeezed between first and second and rolled all the way to the fence – and Gerhardt’s second homer highlighted three-run uprisings in the sixth and seventh that clinched the win.
“They do have a good hitting team,” said the Cardinals’ John Dochterman. “My hat’s off to them. If they put it all together, they could beat just about anybody.”
The story in the opener for the Lions (27-7) was John Lentz. Lentz was 3-for-3 with a pair of solo home runs. On the mound he flirted with a no-hitter, retiring the first 12 hitters he faced, and finished with a three-hit, one walk, seven strikeout gem. The only run he allowed was Gene Kennedy’s gigantic solo homerun to lead off the fifth inning.
The final result was deja-vu for these Red Rose League rivals.
“We played them in the regular season and it was the same score, 4-1,” said Braves’ coach Dave Phipps. “John Lentz dominated both games. He’s as fine a junior-midget pitcher as I’ve seen this year.”
And what a year it’s been for the youngster who served an apprenticeship on another Manheim team last year because there was no room on the Lions. He spoke of learning to keep his composure, relax and have fun.
He certainly had fun last night. “It was kind of a great night for me,” he understated. “I was having a blast out there. I didn’t let anything get to me.”
“He’s incredible,” stated Lions’ coach Jeff Mummau.
“It’s kind of funny because most pitchers would be tense,” observed his catcher, Andy Martin, whose constant chatter, and heady, smiling field supervision could put Bob Gibson at ease.
“When we were in crunch time, he was so loose,” Martin offered. “He was relaxed the whole game through.”
Even when Kennedy went yard on him. What about that?
“The plan was to bust him in with fastballs and move him back out with curves,” Martin said. Also part of the plan was a shift that saw second baseman Mike Kernisky playing in shortstop Brandon Bosch’s position with Bosch filling the hole.
The plan worked the first time up as Lentz struck Kennedy out on a fastball in on his hands. But the second time, Lentz left a fastball out over the plate and Kennedy, a giant of a young man, didn’t miss.
“We thought we could get it by him,” Martin said, “but he got a hold of it.” And Lentz’s reaction? “Who cares? It didn’t tie up the game,” he said. “It didn’t hurt us at all.”
Only because Tanner Strickler (2-for-2) turned a 1-0 game into 3-0 on a clutch two-run double in the top half of the inning.
Strickler and Lentz accounted for all the offense as Steve Hoover turned in a yeoman effort for Strasburg (16-9).
After Kennedy’s blast, a pop single by Ray Stefanik and an excellent bunt single by Dan Deitzel (ironically, Lentz’s cousin) extended the inning for Strasburg, but Lentz got George Jackson on a grounder to end the threat.
At one point of the season this Manheim team was 7-and-5 and had Mummau questioning himself. But daily practice and a solid grounding in fundamentals has begun to payoff as the Lions have won 19 of 21 since. “We’re rolling now,” said Mummau.
The next stop will be Tuesday, when the Lions meet Denver in the opener of a semifinal twinbill at Kunkle Field.