Lititz, Manheim to LNP Tournament title game

Manheim’s Andrew Bucher delivers against Solanco.

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

Lancaster County was abuzz Monday with the rhapsody of singing chainsaws as countless woodsmen cleaned up the fallen aftermath of Sunday’s violent thunderstorms.

Chainsaws were not in the arsenal of Travis Reapsome and Brett Brooks Monday night, in the first game of a LNP Tournament Junior-Midget semifinal at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field. But the two pitchers buzzed through enough batters to keep three sawmills in business.

Reapsome struck out 13 and walked none in a five-hit shutout as Lititz VFW nipped the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox, 1-0.

Brooks struck out 12, walked one and allowed just two hits, but took the hard-luck loss when VFW took advantage of an error to plate the only run of the game in the top of the sixth inning.

“You’d rather win it on a base hit,” said Lititz coach Jeff High. “But tonight was a pitcher’s night.”

VFW (17-6-1) will meet the Manheim Lions (21-9-2) tonight for the J-M championship. First pitch at Kunkle Field is set for 7 p.m. Manheim advanced with a 3-0 victory over Solanco Gold in Monday night’s nightcap.

Reapsome and Brooks were dealing Monday, matching zeroes through five innings.

Like most left-handers, Reapsome cannot throw a ball straight. Monday his fastball, incorrectly likened to Tug McGraw’s Peggy Lee in Friday’s edition, once again sizzled through the zone like the Tugger’s heralded Bo Derek and set up a curveball that was downright filthy.

“Travis was on his game,” said Dan Herr, whose Sox finished the season 29-6-1. “He kept the runners off base. What can you say?”

Brooks, a Spaulding Guide righthander, brought high-octane gas that throttled every batter save one: Ben Keyser, who was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.

“I like fast pitching,” Keyser shrugged when asked why he succeeded where others did not. “I just had his number today.”

Keyser doubled off the right field fence to lead off the game, getting over to third before being picked off by catcher Regan Hershey.

Leading off the sixth he doubled once again, deep in the left field corner. Everybody in Mount Joy knew what was coming next and Seth Earle put down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, just out in front of the plate.

Hershey picked it up cleanly, squared and threw to first — wildly over the bag.

That sent Keyser home with the first, and only, run of the game.

“I just listened to my coach at third base … and scored,” said Keyser.

“He was getting pitches on the outside corner,” said Solanco coach Earl Rutledge. “You get that pitch out there, that’s tough.”

“I was throwing fastballs, mainly,” said Bucher, who broke two bats in the fifth inning, one shattering in two pieces. “That was surprising,” he said with some wonder.

The sixth inning was only time Solanco (18-9) threatened as Gold loaded the bases on a walk to Constein, Kreider’s hit and a walk to Keenan Reigal — all coming with two out.

Lions’ coach Lowell Fry came out with a word of encouragement for Bucher.

“He asked if I was OK,” said Bucher, “and told me to pitch strikes, relax, and have fun.”

Having taken a breath, and let it out, Bucher let the air out of Solanco’s rally, getting No. 3 hitter Eric LeFevre to pop to second for the third out.

Manheim did all its scoring in the third inning, reaching Darren Rutledge for four hits including Damon Crouse’s two-run double off the wall in right center and Ben Bomberger’s RBI single.

“Damon came through in a big way,” said Fry. “He gave the whole team a lift.”

“I was just looking for a pitch to hit,” Crouse said. “Anywhere in the strike zone.”

Key to the uprising was catcher Eric LeFevre misplaying Kyle Winter’s one-out foul popup behind the plate. Winters doubled on the next pitch and Blake Reiff singled before Colin Fry looked at strike three.

Instead of heading to the dugout, Solanco waited for Crouse to step in.

“That’s baseball,” said Rutledge. “That’s the way it goes.”

“It was just fundamentals,” said High. “(Earle) laid down a real good bunt and … I was surprised to see the ball get by the first baseman. When I saw (it) I was like, ‘Go. Go! Go!’ I knew he was in there.”

Manheim’s Andrew Bucher chopped his share of wood, literally, in the nightcap, limiting offensive powerhouse Solanco to Tyler Constein’s third-inning hit and a sixth-inning single by Damon Kreider.

Manheim’s Damon Crouse follows up a great play with an underhand throw to the pitcher covering first.

Lititz VFW pitcher Travis Reapsome throws against SWS.

Lititz VFW’s Seth Earle steals second as SWS second baseman Kyle Horner tries to field the throw.