By Dave Bryne
There will be a new, but familiar (to us old-timers), sound at the old ballyard tonight when the Junior Midget Division of the 64th New Era Tournament of Champions gets underway at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.
The sweet sound of hickory meeting horsehide.
No more the dissonant ping of baseballs striking aluminum alloy. Instead, one can once again say, “He got good wood on that,” without fear of being corrected.
The New Era Junior-Midget tournament will be a wooden bat tournament this year.
One pleasant byproduct of this move will be NORAD removing Kunkle Field as a rocket launching site to monitor. Mothers of pitchers can let out their collective breath whenever their sons deliver to a batter.
Who’s the favorite? Who knows. Let’s play it out and see.
The tournament gets under way tonight at 6 with an intramural scrum between the Mountville Angels and Mountville Yankees. The defending champion Strasburg-Willow Street White Sox take on Mount Joy Blue twenty minutes following the conclusion of the Mountville matchup.
The quarterfinals continue Friday as Rheems Gray meets Cocalico at 6 p.m., followed by Hempfield Black and the Manheim Lions, twenty minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Semifinals are set for Monday with a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. The championship game is Tuesday at 7 p.m.. All JM games will be played at Kunkle Field.
Mountville Angels (15-3) vs. Mountville Yankees (19-7)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Angels split their first four games, then reeled off 13 straight wins to capture their division in the LCYBL regular season before finishing second to Hempfield Black in the league playoffs. The Yankees won the SWS Section 1 and the Asher Neiss Memorial tournaments and defeated Donegal in a play-in game to make the J-M field of eight.
NEW ERA TOURNAMENT HISTORY — The Angels have won twice, in 2004 and ’06. The Yankees are New Era novices.
RETURNING PLAYERS — A “small ball” team in more ways than one, the Angels are the younger of Mountville’s “A” teams, comprised mostly of 13-year olds. Still, Andrew Birk, Zac Burke and Bryan Haberstroh return from last year. Loaded with 14-year olds, the Yankees are long of tooth, but short on experience with no players returning from the “A” level. But Conner Diminick, Kyle Lamb, Adam Law, Jake Lorenzen, Austin Rice and Michael Strosser have been promoted from the “AA” team.
Mount Joy Blue (31-5-1) vs. SWS White Sox (25-16)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — This Blue bunch, the Susquehanna League playoff champion, has been together longer than some pro teams, with a M-M runner-up finish in ’07, following a semifinal loss in ’06. SWS is the third seed from the LCYBL.
NEW ERA TOURNAMENT HISTORY — Mt. Joy has won three titles, the last in 1988. The White Sox are defending champions. Strasburg and Willow Street teams have won seven titles overall.
RETURNING PLAYERS — Cousins Michael Houseal (.652, 12 HR) and Dylan Houseal (.417) are joined on Blue by Dalton Garrett (.448), Eric Ebersole, Chris Robinson and Jonathon Sauder. The Sox have been made over for ’09 with no returning players from last year, but four promotions from the ’08 M-M champion SWS Cardinals are joined by nine players who moved up from the “AA” ranks.
Rheems Gray (24-5-1) vs. Cocalico (12-13-1)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Rheems was the Susquehanna regular season champion, losing to MJ Blue in the league playoff title game. Cocalico is the fifth seed from the LCYBL.
NEW ERA TOURNAMENT HISTORY — Rheems is looking for its first New Era title, as is Cocalico.
RETURNING PLAYERS — Devin Eberly (.490, 6 HR, 30 RBI) leads a group of four returning from Gray’s ’08 J-M semifinalists: Jordan Jones, Mike Kinderwater and Allen Toth. Eberly (2-0, 1.24 ERA) and Kinderwater (2-1, 2,37) are also part of Gray’s 5-man pitching staff. Cocalico’s lads are in their first year of Section 1 play, but several have stood out thus far, including Mac McCafferty (.484, 4 HR), Bennett Shupp (.375), Patrick McBrearty (.369) and Brennan Thompson (.311).
Hempfield Black (19-7), vs. Manheim Lions (7-18-1)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Coming in as the second seed from the LCYBL, Black won its division, then ran the table in the league tournament. The Lions placed third in the Susquehanna League behind Rheems and Mt. Joy.
NEW ERA TOURNAMENT HISTORY — Hempfield area teams have won four titles, with Hempfield Black going back-to-back in ’98-’99. The Manheim Lions won the first-ever J-M Division title, back in 1961, and have collected four titles overall, the last in 1996 capping a three-peat.
RETURNING PLAYERS — Anthony Dornes, Cory Gantz, Camden Hess, Nolan Myers and Nick Yarnall return from Black’s ’08 J-M runner-up team, as well as from the ’07 M-M champions. The Lions have Ben Bomberger, Andrew Bucher, Colin Fry, J.J. Sanchez and Kyle Winters who moved up from the ’08 New Era M-M runner-up VFW side, as well as Skyler Becker, Trey Eberly, Chris Good, Shane Good and Chris Lynn earning promotion from the “B” level.