New Era Correspondent
Henry Ford once remarked, “History, for the most part, is bunk.”
But there was no bunk to the history the Lititz Oddfellows have written in the New Era Tournament.
Dating back to the 2000 tournament, Lititz achieved the semifinals of the Midget division five times in six years.
Five times the Oddfellows, and head coach Frank Camera, were turned away.
Now, history will show that in the 2006 tournament Lititz got over the hump and into its first New Era Tournament Midget championship game, defeating Strasburg/Willow Street 5-2 Monday evening at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
“This was a big win for us, a real good win,” said Camera.
Mark Stuckey knocked in the go-ahead runs with a two-run single and scored on Zach Shank’s suicide squeeze bunt as the Oddfellows (17-3) broke open a tie game in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“That’s the biggest hit I’ve ever had,” said Stuckey. “I’m so excited. I didn’t think I could ever do anything like that in a big spot like this.”
His and his teammates’ work have only begun.
“It was nice to move on, but we know we have one big step ahead of us,” said Camera. “Getting to the championship is only the first thing.”
Lititz will face Manheim VFW in Wednesday night’s championship game, set for 7 p.m. at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Manheim scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Donegal 7-4 in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at the Clip.
Earlier in the afternoon, Strasburg/Willow Street (15-6) ousted Manheim Township Black 7-2 in the completion of a suspended quarterfinal contest, carried over from Thursday of last week.
Paced by righthander Chad Babcock, who limited Township (14-6) to two runs on three hits, SWS erupted for four seventh-inning runs, led by John Carlson (3-for-4, two RBIs), to win going away.
SWS, fielding a number of players on furlow from football camp at Albright College, couldn’t break through against Lititz’s Jason Griffith later in the night.
Griffith allowed eight hits and walked three batters – not to mention his defense doing a Jeykll/Hyde number behind him – but stranded 10 runners and held SWS to a pair of unearned, second-inning runs.
“Our defense is so amazing,” said Griffith, who won his seventh summer game without a loss. “They’re always there and we make the outs we need to make.”
Lititz scored solo runs in the first and second innings on Shank’s RBI single and Andy Thompson’s flare past second baseman Carlson with the infield in.
Griffith didn’t help himself in the SWS second, airmailing Ben DeMora’s sacrifice bunt past first baseman Mike Freeman for a two-base error.
Jonny Gainer singled in one run and scored a second when the normally sure-handed Shank pulled Freeman off the bag on Adam Bukowski’s grounder to short.
Griffith walked Danny Snyder to load the bases, but third baseman Tyler Hill stopped the bleeding, bare-handing Carlson’s slow roller to end the threat.
“I saw it going slow. When I went to barehand it, I kind of got scared,” said Hill. “I thought it was going to take a hop, then I got on to it and it looked like it was going faster than I thought.”
The game remained tied 2-2 until Griffith led off the fifth with a single to right field. He gave way to courtesy runner Dan Ansel, who promptly stole second. Hill walked and both advanced on a double steal.
Stuckey worked a 3-1 count, then lined a single to left, delivering Ansel and Hill, and took second on the throw home.
“It was a good hit by Mark to open that up for them,” said SWS coach Bill DeMora, who was familiar with Stuckey, having coached him on an all-star team.
“I really like Mark. … I wish he would’ve did it against somebody else, and not us,” DeMora laughed.
Stuckey’s hit also knocked SWS starter Cody Harmes from the game, and Randy Hess came on in relief.
Stuckey went to third on a passed ball, and was still there one out later. With an 0-1 count on Shank, Camera put the squeeze on.
“It was scary. You don’t know if he’s going to get it down or not,” said Stuckey. “If he swings, he’s going to take your head off!”
Shank dropped a perfect bunt to Hess’ left. With no play in front of him, Hess went to first as Stuckey crossed the plate with Lititz’s fifth run.
Which, given the way Griffith had settled in, should’ve meant Lititz could unbuckle its collective belt.
Gainer opened the SWS seventh with his third hit of the day, and was still there two outs later.
Carlson walked, then Hill bobbled Derek Lefever’s potential third out, loading the bases.
“It hit the end of my glove,” said Hill. “It’s old and really floppy.”
Would the baseball gods deny Camera once more?
Babcock hit a 3-1 pitch to Hill – can you say redemption? – who out-raced Carlson to the third-base bag to end the game.
“It was nice to look up in the stands,” said Camera. “A lot of old players were here that I’ve had over the years. The win goes for the old players too.”