New Era Correspondent
Monday night’s New Era Tournament midget-midget semifinal doubleheader was a study in contrasts.
Hempfield Black (32-5-1) scored early and often, dropping hits all over Kunkle Field in a 12-1 victory over Rheems Gray.
Earlier, Mount Joy Blue (29-7) waited until it was almost too late before pulling out a 3-2 win over the Mountville Indians.
The two teams will meet tonight at at Kunkle Field to decide the Midget-Midget championship of the 62nd New Era Tournament.
Hempfield banged out 11 hits in support of the three-hit pitching of Cory Gantz, blowing the game open with a 6-run sixth inning.
“Our hitters today did an excellent job,” said Black coach Bob Gantz, Cory’s father. “It makes it much easier to pitch when you get a lead.”
“The team was on tonight,” said Cory Gantz, who was cool as a cucumber, despite the oppressive heat and humidity.
First baseman Nick Yarnall was responsible for much of the damage, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI.
He singled home a run in the fifth inning, then tripled home another as part of the sixth-inning uprising.
Shortstop Shaun Corso slugged a hanging curve from Rheems starter Josh Thompson into the left field corner for a 2-run double in the first inning, giving Hempfield a lead it never relinquished.
Black added single runs in the second and fourth on RBI groundouts by Matt Dombek and Gantz. Gantz, a diminutive lefty, got ten of the game’s 18 outs on groundballs.
Maximizing his size with near-perfect mechanics, Gantz delivered wicked fastballs, made even faster by the knuckleball-change and curve he threw as off-speed pitches.
“He kept us off balance,” agreed Rheems coach Allen Toth. “You could just tell by the way we were hitting the ball, off the end of the bat.”
Rheems (14-10) was held to a pair of singles from second baseman Alex Faus – who scored Gray’s lone run in the fourth inning on a throwing error by Corso – and a nubber in front of the plate that pinch hitter A.J. Peterson beat out for a hit in the sixth.
Yarnall’s fifth-inning single to center plated Black’s fifth run as he took third on a two-base fielding error. Soon, he crossed the plate on wild pitch.
But the real damage began when right fielder Chris Schroll, who entered the game in the fifth inning as a pinch runner for Nolan Myers, singled in the first run of the sixth inning.
That was followed by Anthony Dornes’ two-run hit, Yarnall’s triple and a two-run single by Patrick Kenney, capping a complete turnaround of an early-season meeting between the two teams.
“We were fortunate enough to come out on top of that one,” said Toth, “(which was) good and bad. The bad is you’re not coming in under the radar.”
“They took it to us,” said Bob Gantz, “and we just got the best of them tonight.” While Hempfield’s hits pierced the night, the still of the muggy early evening was unbroken by either Mountville or Mount Joy.
Mountville (41-13-1) nursed a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning as starter Willie Welsh stranded runners at third base in the second, third and fourth innings.
Each time, with two out, he induced batters – Chris Robinson (twice) and Michael Houseal – to ground out to second baseman Bryan Haberstroh.
Welsh went to work again as winning pitcher Dalton Garrett opened the fifth inning by blooping a single behind third base and, with one out, Jerel Sensenig walked.
That brought Michael Houseal to the plate once more. This time, staying within himself, Houseal sliced Welsh’s outside pitch into the right field corner for a two-run double, tying the game.
“Get your bat on the ball, and good things will happen,” said Mount Joy coach Ron Wagner.
The Indians, who had scored single runs in the second and third, on a balk and Haberstroh’s RBI single, found reaching Garrett an increasingly difficult proposition after that.
A lefty with a devastating pick-off move to first, Garrett neutralized Mountville’s running game and retired seven of the next nine batters he faced after Haberstroh’s hit.
“I just relied on my defense,” said Garrett, who mixed in eight ground outs, four fly balls and a popup with four strikeouts.
Jon Sauder lined a single off Welsh’s glove to start the Mount Joy sixth. With one out Garrett walked, bringing Alex Wohlfeil to the plate.
Wohlfeil took a strike, then stepped out of the box and called time as Welsh was about to deliver.
Naturally, Welsh stopped his throwing motion in mid-delivery, and was called for a balk.
That triggered a lengthy debate between the umpires and Mount Joy coaching staff.
“(It was) kind of distracting,” said Wohlfeil, who proved he was not one to lose his focus.
Two pitches after the debate was settled, he ripped a ball to center to bring in Sauder with the winning run.
“I was actually expecting his knuckleball,” said Wohlfeil. “But then I saw his fastball come in, so I just tried to hit it as hard as I could.”
“There’s a new hero every game,” said Wagner. “The kids are playing good ball and they just come through.”
Mountville made a move to force extra innings when Joe Yourgal (2-for-3) hit a one-out double in the bottom of the inning.
But Garrett stranded him at third on Kyle Lamb’s fly to center to end the game.
“I thought we played well,” Mountville coach Bob Sauders said. “We’ve just got to score more than two runs.”