By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent
Over the last five years, two programs have dominated the New Era Tournament’s Junior-Midget division.
Mountville won its first NET J-M title in 2004, and came back with a second in 2006.
Those titles interrupted a string by Manheim Township, which took the championship in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
One thing is certain this year: Manheim Township will not repeat as J-M champion, because Township did not qualify for this year’s tournament.
However, Mountville returns to the field after a one-year absence and is one of the eight qualifiers in a division that appears to be up for grabs.
The tournament begins Thursday in Mount Joy with a 6 p.m. quarterfinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field.
The quarterfinals continue Friday at 6 p.m. with another twinbill.
Working around the Lancaster Barnstormers’ schedule, the Junior-Midgets take a break for a few days while the Midget Tournament gets underway at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The J-M tourney resumes on Wednesday July 23 with a semifinal doubleheader, and the championship game is set for Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. back at Kunkle Field.
Mt. Joy Blue (19-6) vs. Solanco Gold (20-14-2)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mount Joy is the Susquehanna League regular season and playoff champion. Solanco, champions of the SWS tournament, defeated Marietta Blue in a play-in game.
NET HONORS: Neither team has won a New Era J-M tournament championship. Mt. Joy was the 2007 J-M runnerup and the M-M version of Blue also placed second in ‘07.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Michael Robinson (.391 batting average, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 27 runs scored) and Nick Tufarlo (.333, 26 runs, 37 stolen bases) return for Blue. Dalton Garret (.397, 6-2 2.33 ERA pitching), Adam Frey (8-0 3.32 89Ks) and Ed Lazowski (.424, 21 RBI) moved up from M-M. Solanco did not specify its returning players.
Hempfield Black (18-8-1) vs. Manheim Lions (8-16)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hempfield was the regular-season runnerup of the LCYL. The Lions, who won 8 of their last 12 games, finished third in the Susquehanna League.
NET HONORS: Black won two titles, back-to-back in 1998-99. The Lions have won five J-M titles, the last in 1996.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Ben Ault, Dylan Manning and Derek Totaro return for Black. Plus, six players moved up from the ‘07 M-M champion Black. Josh Good (.444), Dustin Herbert (.405), Jason Reif (.397) and Derik Fahnestock (.306) return for Manheim
Strasburg/Willow St. White Sox (25-7-2) vs. Mountville Angels (13-9)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: SWS was the LCYL regular-season champion and also won the Asher-Neiss and Marietta tournaments. Mountville defeated E-town Blue in a play-in game.
NET HONORS: The Strasburg/Willow Street organization has won one title, in 2001. Prior to the merger, the Willow Street White Sox won in 1989-90 & ‘97, while Strasburg won in 1975 and ‘93. Mountville has claimed two titles, in 2004 and ‘06.
RETURNING PLAYERS: The White Sox have no returning players. However, pitchers Pete Darrenkamp (10-1, 1.93, 84Ks), and David Pittman (5-0, 2.03, 27Ks) and as well as Nate Shank (.475, 10 HR, 51 RBI), Ethan Moore (.380, 25 RBI) and Ray Lopez (.358, 18 stolen bases), who also pitches, have stood out. Gordie Bargainer, Andrew Dzurik, Jake Hartman, John Wilt, Colton King and Julio Paredes return for the Angels.
Ephrata Jaguars (14-6-1) vs. Rheems Gray (16-6-1)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Jags were the LCYL playoff champions. Rheems was the Susquehanna regular-season and playoff runnerup.
NET HONORS: Neither team has ever won an New Era J-M title.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Andre Hoover (.446, 19 RBI), Parke Martin (.452, 12 RBI), Tim Murray (.417, 14 RBI, 20 stolen bases), Evan Weaver (.370), Ryan Brubaker (.367) and Jake Rutt (.323) return for the Jaguars. Hoover (1.43 ERA) and Weaver (2.70) also pitch. All six were members of the 2006 NET champion Norlanco Redbirds. Jeffrey Miller and Tyler Good return for Rheems.