New Era Correspondent
The Mountville Angels had a devilish time at the expense of Pequea Valley, while Hempfield Black made E-town Blue, well, blue.
Staring down intermittent pre-game showers, the New Era Tournament’s junior-midget division officially got under way Friday night as Mountville pummeled Pequea Valley 15-1 in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule. Hempfield followed with a 4-1 victory over E-town.
Friday’s winners will meet Monday at 8 p.m. in the second of two J-M semifinals.
The first game, scheduled for 6 p.m., will feature the winners of today’s quarterfinal games, which were postponed by rain Thursday night.
Mountville rained 17 hits on Pequea and broke the game open in the third inning, sending 14 men to the plate and scoring nine runs.
Catcher Nate Beck triggered the uprising, pounding a line-drive, 3-run homer to dead center field on the first pitch he saw from Shane Yoder.
“I was looking for a fastball, down the middle,” said Beck, “and I just teed off on that.”
“That was the key right there because we were struggling a little bit,” said Angels coach Ron Brubaker. “He just met the ball nice and it worked.”
Yoder, a crafty lefty, had kept Mountville off balance the first time through the lineup – in fact, Beck went down on strikes looking his first time up.
“It’s the first we’ve seen a lefty for a while, probably in a month,” Brubaker said.
“That lefthanded curveball coming in there, and he was just not as fast as some of the guys we see. It took a little bit of time for them to get their timing down.”
The Angels (28-0) had pushed across a run on a single by Ryan Feister, a pair of steals and Drew Schanz’s sacrifice bunt.
But PV (15-8) tied the game on Max Hutchinson’s double and a fielding error by shortstop Bill Pennington on Andrew Reiter’s grounder.
Reiter reached base all three times he was up, singling twice.
Winning pitcher John Brubaker struck out to open the third inning, then D.J. Ream reached base on an infield hit and Jonathon Moser singled to center.
Beck jolted the ball over the fence and suddenly the Angels’ bats were alive.
Pennington pounded a 2-run homer to left. Ream ripped a 2-run double to right with the bases loaded. Moser cued a 2-run single over third base and the rout was on.
Brubaker, with Ream in relief, held PV to five hits and an unearned run.
Mountville triggered the mercy rule in the fifth inning, when nine batters scored six hits, leading to five more runs.
As plentiful as the runs were in the first game, they were as hard to come by in the second.
Hempfield Black rode the sturdy legs of Ed Gailor to manufacture half of its ultimate output.
Gailor, the No. 2 hitter in coach Jack Merrifield’s lineup, got 1-out singles in the first and third innings off starter Andrew Weller.
Weller, Blue’s regular catcher, was pressed into mound duty in the wake of ace Erick Baker’s early-season illness.
With Weller on the mound, Blue was weaker in two positions and Black (19-9) looked to take advantage.
“Weller’s a heck of a catcher,” Merrifield said, “and we knew that they weren’t quite as strong behind the plate (with him pitching).
“I told them before the beginning of the game: ‘If Weller’s not behind the plate, we’re going to try to run and try to manufacture everything we could get.’ You have to do what you have to do.”
Both times on base Gailor stole second and third. Not that there was anything catcher Jeremi Jones could’ve done about it.
As one observer pointed out, Gailor was getting such great jumps, Johnny Bench could not have thrown him out.
“I was just trying to get something started,” Gailor said. “The guy wasn’t holding me on at second, so it was pretty much just free at third base.”
In the first inning, Gailor landed at third with one out and scored on Derrick Dornes’ sacrifice fly.
In the third, Gailor got to third with two out and came home on Mike Cossimano’s infield single. Then Hempfield got a little help.
A dropped fly ball and a bobbled infield grounder put E-town (15-5) behind the eight ball and led to two more runs, a cushion that Merrifield welcomed.
“Our weakness this year is we’re just hot and cold hitting. There are some games we’ll come out and have 15-18 hits and some games we’ll come out and strike out 15 times.”
This was one of the later as Black racked up 12 Ks. Eight came at the hand of Baker, who entered the game in the fourth inning and closed out.
But Blue could never solve Black starter Mark Merrifield, who allowed a hit and three walks in the first three innings, but stranded five runners.
“He was in trouble there in the first three innings,” his father observed, “but he bulled his neck out there.”
Brandon Hinkle came in behind Merrifield and allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning before striking out four of the last seven batters he faced to earn the save.
Mountville takes winning to a new level
By Jason Guarente
New Era Sports Writer
Only two innings had passed and the score was tied at 1.
No big deal, right? Not exactly.
If you’re the Mountville Angels, a tie game heading into the top of the third inning qualifies as stressful. This team isn’t used to playing nail-biters.
After a sluggish start, coach Ron Brubaker called a brief meeting before his players took their next turn at bat. He wanted to get them focused.
For the rest of the night, they were.
The Angels struck for nine runs in the third as they dismissed Pequea Valley 15-1 in the New Era Tournament Junior Midget quarterfinals at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
So much for the stress. The 28th straight win for the Angels wound up looking like business as usual.
“These guys have played together for six years now,” Brubaker said. “They have a lot of confidence, and that comes from being together through the years.”
Many of these Angels were Mountville Indians last summer when they won the Midget Midget championship. Now they have a different agenda – to carry Mountville’s mantle to a higher level.
Despite all of its success in the younger age group over the years, this is the first Mountville team to claim a league championship in the Junior Midget ranks. It’s hoping to add a New Era title to its collection.
Judging from their quarterfinal-round performance, the Angels have to be considered one of the favorites. With dominant pitching and a powerful lineup from top to bottom, Mountville is loaded.
“We’ve been pretty dominant overall,” Brubaker said.
There have been two scares along the way. One was a seven-inning game against Strasburg-Willow Street that the Angels won 2-1. The other was a tight game against Hempfield. Otherwise, Mountville has been able to breathe easy.
With so many comfortable wins, Brubaker has tried to keep his guys on an even keel. One of the Angels’ toughest opponents has been overconfidence.
“The coaching staff has really tried to stay on top of that,” Brubaker said. “We’ve played a lot of ball and we know you’re only one out or one hit away from losing. You can’t get to the point where you think nobody can beat you. It’s easy to get lackadaisical.”
How has Mountville stayed perfect? It starts on the mound.
The Angels have three quality pitchers, including John Brubaker and D.J. Ream – who pitched against Pequea Valley. Those two combined for 13 strikeouts in five innings. Mountville’s ace, Bill Pennington, is waiting in the wings for the semifinals.
That kind of pitching depth is rare.
“The kids know each time out we throw a pitcher who gives us a chance,” Ron Brubaker said.
And if the pitching has an off night, the hitting can pick up the slack. Against Pequea Valley, six batters connected for at least two hits. The No. 7 man, Pennington, belted a two-run homer. In the No. 9 slot, Brandon Kline went 2-for-3 and scorched the ball every at-bat.
Again, it’s depth. The only way to stay unbeaten for this long is to have everyone contribute.
“These guys are very into the game,” Brubaker said. “They’re very motivated.”
The motivation these days is simple. Two more wins and Mountville has its first New Era Junior Midget championship.
The Angels have the perfect team to do it.