BY DAVE BYRNE
While the field of four is set for the LNP Midget-Midget tournament, which begins Monday evening, the Junior-Midgets are not too far behind.
The Elite eight of the U-14 set began their best-of-three qualifying series on Wednesday, July 1, a series that continues Tuesday evening, July 7. Where necessary, a third game will be played on Thursday, July 9th.
2014 champion Donegal has moved on, as has runner-up Lititz VFW, leaving the field wide open.
The Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox have dominated this year, going 9-1 against the other seven teams remaining in the playoffs.
Retooled and ready, VFW owns an 8-3 mark against the playoff field while the Mountville Angels were 7-3.
Here’s a look at the qualifying series matchups.
Strasburg/Willow Street vs. Conestoga Valley
The seedings: The White Sox are No. 1, CV is No. 8.
How they got here: The White Sox won the LCYBL U-14 American Division, and the overall top seed, going 17-1.
Their only regular-season loss was to Mountville, 3-1, as they split the season series with the Angels. The Sox have surrendered just 29 runs this season.
CV (8-12) finished tied for fourth in the American and played its way into the LNP qualifying series with an 8-6 victory over Solanco Gray.
Head to head: SWS swept the season series, 15-0 and 14-1.
The qualifying series, thus far: SWS posted a 10-0 victory.
Back from last year: This group of Sox are new to the LNP’s U-14 wars. Newcomers too, CV’s 12-man roster is split between six athletes who played M-M and six who played tournament ball last year.
Top hitters/pitchers: Sox coach Cliff Blantz is a disciple of the team over the individual. He notes that, as a team, SWS is hitting .388 with all eleven players batting over .300 The five-man pitching staff as an ERA of 1.12.
CV is hitting .380 as a team with Gavin Horning, Parker Graff, Nathan Scheid and Keaghann Martin all batting over .400.
Lititz vs. Manheim
The seedings: VFW is No. 2, the Lions are No. 7.
How they got here: VFW (15-3 LCYBL, 31-7-1 overall) finished first in the National Division, securing the No. 2 overall seed. Manheim (7-10-1, 12-15-1 overall) placed fourth in the National, blanking Mount Joy Blue, 5-0, in the q-series play-in.
Head to head: VFW took both meetings, 12-0 and 14-5.
The qualifying series, thus far: VFW out-slugged the Lions 15-6.
Back from last year: With the exception of John Seibert, up from the ’14 M-M runnerup Warwick Phillies, VFW is last year’s Warwick White Sox. Playing as a U-13 squad, that group was eliminated in the qualifying series by E-town Navy.
Drew Mummau, Brady Carper, Cody Gibble and Garrett Bruckhart return from a pride of Lions who went 0 for 2 in the Final Four.
Top hitters/pitchers: Adam Ricketts (.482, 45 runs, 44 RBI), Brendan Martin (.434, 59, 39), Ethan Heller (.422, 30, 34) and Brock Fassnacht (.418, 43, 35) are VFW’s top batters. Nick Breznak (7-0, 0.20 ERA, 69 Ks in 35 IP), Martin (7-3, 3.12, 42/49) and Seibert (5-0, 0.53, 32/27) handle mound duties.
Mummau has 17 RBI and 2 HR while batting .431. He has an 0.193 ERA in 47 innings, walking 10 while striking out 76. Carper (.343, 3 HR), Gibble (.309, 17 RBI) and Bruckhart (2 HR, 18 RBI) also produce for the Lions.
Mountville vs. Penn Manor
The seedings: The Angels are No. 3, the Comets are No. 6.
How they got here: The Angels (15-3, 22-3) finished second to SWS in the American, two games back. The Comets (11-7, 14-8) were third, four games behind Mountville.
Head to head: The Angels prevailed twice, 12-1 and 6-0.
The qualifying series, thus far: The Comets broke service, scoring an 11-8 victory at the Angels’ home park.
Back from last year: Seth Constein, Ryan Glenn, Kenny Katelan, C. J. Saylor, Christian Shepperson, Josiah Snyder, Ty Vaughn and Connor Waughtel return from an Angels team that fell to eventual J-M champion Donegal in the qualifying series.
Cade Thourot, Brady Hinkle and Dylan Frey return from a Comet side that was eliminated in the play-ins.
Top hitters/pitchers: For the Angels, Saylor (.488; 6-1, 2.58), Vaughn (.439; 4-2, 3.61), Glenn (.417), Shepperson (.405) and Snyder (4-0, 2.74).
For the Comets, Hinkle (.436), Thourot (.410) and Blake Martin (.418) top the batting. Martin, Hinkle and Ty Erisman front the mound corps with assists from Frey and Riley Barnett.
Elizabethtown vs. Manheim Twp.
The seedings: Navy is No. 4, the Blue Streaks are No. 5
How they got here: Navy (13-5) placed second to Lititz in the National, two games back. The Streaks (11-6-1, 13-8-1) were third, a game-and-a-half behind E-town.
Head to head: They split, E-town winning 8-1 in its park and Township taking an 11-7 nod at home.
The qualifying series, thus far: Navy edged the Streaks, 6-5.
Back from last year: Cole Patrick, Larry Locker and Cole Livingston return from a Navy squad that fell in the J-M bracket final.
Ben DeMarco is the only returnee from Township’s Elite eight squad, but Bryce Behmer, Collin Arms and Kyle Donton move up from the M-M champion Streaks.
Top hitters/pitchers: Livingston (.525), Locker (.444; 4-2, 0.95), Nick Kreider (.381; 1-1, 2.14), Hunter Murray (.372), Justin Gibble (.347) and Patrick (6-2, 3.60) fill Navy’s sails.
Mason Lee (.403, 6 3b, 2 HR), Will Greiner (.389; 2-0), DeMarco (.364, 5 HR; 2-0), Behmer (.356), Shaun Fedor (.338, 2 HR), Seth Winters (.303; 5-3) and Sean Marks (.326) pace the Streaks.