New Era Correspondent
They say pitching wins games. In the case of Leola’s Brent Buckwalter and Solanco’s Mike Haverstick, they are right.
Buckwalter and Haverstick led their teams to victories in the midget division semifinals of the New Era Tournament on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon at Manheim Township and now will square off in the tourney’s championship game Thursday at 5 p.m. at Lampeter-Strasburg High School.
Both pitchers will take the hill again Thursday after pitching gems on the weekend.
Buckwalter and Leola got to the finals by beating Hempfield 3-0 in a game where Buckwalter was dominant. The right-handed pitcher, who made a name for himself with Conestoga Valley this past Spring, took a no-hitter into the last inning before giving up a leadoff single to Craig LaBarbera.
Buckwalter held on to finish with a complete-game, one-hit, shutout in which he struck out 12 and allowed no walks. Buckwalter’s dominance over Hempfield’s hitters was evident as he only allowed three balls to leave the infield in his seven innings.
While working on the mound for his team, Buckwalter was very aware of his no-hitter but remained nonchalant about giving up a hit in the last inning. He just wanted to get out of sun.
“I knew I had a no-hitter going because coach (Randy Gibson) told me,” Buckwalter said. “I wasn’t really worried about losing it, I just wanted to get us into the finals.”
Buckwalter, who said he has pitched “two or three” no-hitters already this summer, felt a little nauseous pitching in the humid 90-degree heat.
“I felt like I was going to throw up moving around out there,” Buckwalter said. “It made me want to get out of there quickly.”
Buckwalter certainly did make light work of Hempfield. Rarely did he fall behind in a count by setting up his baffling curve with a first-pitch fastball.
“They weren’t going to hit my curve today,” Buckwalter said. “It was really good today. It made everything really easy for me.”
Centerfielder Nick Beisker drove in Leola’s first run – the only one they needed – in the two-run third inning on his way to a two-hit game with two stolen bases.
Meanwhile, Mike Haverstick used a craftier approach to augment Buckwalter’s overpowering one in leading his team to a 8-4 win over Willow Street.
Haverstick went the distance and scattered five-hits to go with four strikeouts as he overcame a first inning jam to secure the victory.
“I didn’t try to do anything fancy, I just wanted to keep the ball down and we did pretty well,” Haverstick said. “I’ll do the same thing on Thursday. I’ll just try to keep the ball down.”
After loading the bases in the first, Haverstick got a strikeout and a weak pop-up before throwing a wild pitch to let a run score. Solanco bounced back with a two-out four-run second, which set the tone for the afternoon. The big blow was a two-run single by second baseman Travis Morrison, who finished the game with two hits.
Also chipping in for the winners was Chris Dearoff, who had two RBIs, and Chad Shirk, who had two hits and three stolen bases including a steal of home on the back end of a double steal.