By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
Tyler Hostetter survived a rocky inning and his battery-mate, Trevor Rodriguez, gave him the margin he needed as Rheems Gray (18-7) advanced to the midget-midget semifinals of the 52nd New Era Baseball Tournament.
They will play the Mountville Indians next Monday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle field. Mountville advanced on a first-round bye.
Hostetter walked one and struck out 11 as Gray, the Susquehanna League Central Division champion, defeated Baron Steigel 7-4, Monday at Herr Field in Willow Street.
Atlanta’s Greg Maddux is the 12-year old righthander’s favorite pitcher and Hostetter gave a performance reminiscent of the perennial Cy Young award winner.
He threw 98 pitches in six inning’s work, 72 for strikes. Through one stretch he threw 14 straight strikes and 18 in 20 pitches.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t think I was that accurate though.”
Also like Maddux, (see any outing against the Phillies, of all teams) he had one bad inning, nearly costing him the game.
Hostetter surrendered four runs on seven hits, five hits coming in a 3-run third inning for Baron Steigel, the Eastern Lancaster County League American Division champ.
Nate Weiler’s 2-run single, scraped of the plate on a 3-2 pitch, was the third straight hit for Steigel (7-12) that inning.
Hostetter picked off Weiler and Rodriguez gunned down Brent Horst, Hostetter’s only walk of the day, on a steal attempt, saving two runs when Brian Steffy tripled to center.
Andy Rutt plated Steffy with a base hit and Gray was in a familiar situation, trailing.
“This is the fourth game in a row,” said coach Tony Kreider. “We played in the Kratzer Tournament in Columbia this weekend. We played two games Saturday and one Sunday and we were behind 2-0 in all three of them.
“We won all three of those, so… The biggest difference since the beginning of the year is they’re not giving up. They’ve come a long way.”
Rodriguez, who also made a nice defensive play on a check-swing dribbler in the second, singled and scored Gray’s first run as Rheems answered in their half of the third on RBI singles by Ryne Christian and Matt Soltani.
Gray kept the momentum in the fourth. With Eric Stauffer coming on a suicide squeeze, Jordan Shaffer offered and missed at the pitch. No matter, the ball skittered away from the catcher and Stauffer scored the tying run.
Eventually, Shaffer singled and moved up two bases on a sacrifice. Rodriguez delivered him, tomahawking a high pitch back up the middle for the gamewinner.
Stauffer would add insurance with a 2-run double in the fifth as Gray continued to hit its way out of a season-long batting drought.
“We lost in the semifinals of the Susquehanna League Tournament , 1-0 (in extra innings), on a pair of errors. Ever since then, we’ve been stinging the ball,” Kreider said.
After the third inning, Hostetter regained control and retired nine of the last ten batters, yielding only a homerun by Steffy.
“Once he gets “on’ the game, he gets better,” Rodriguez observed.
Now, with their first New Era Tournament victory under their belts, after a first round exit last year, Gray is looking for bigger game.
Said Kreider, “Last year was the first year a Rheems team was in the New Era Tournament and it was like, “Wow! We’re in the New Era Tournament.’ This year it’s almost like they’re expecting to win.”