For five innings, the Lititz Oddfellows were knocking at the door.
They sprayed baseballs all over the yard, racking up eight hits — but no runs. Only one runner reached third base, and just two made it to second.
Meanwhile, their LNP Tournament midget title game opponent, St. Leo’s, clung tenaciously to its one-run lead.
With their chances winding down, the Oddfellows finally broke through in the bottom of this sixth, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. They held on from there to capture their second midget crown in three years.
It was the seventh straight victory of the summer for Lititz (14-5), which defeated Manheim VFW to capture the LNP title in 2006.
St. Leo’s (12-6) lost in the LNP final for the second straight year.
“We didn’t come here for No.2,” allowed a disappointed Lions’ coach Mike Regan. “But, that’s what we came away with this time.”
“This is a very … very special win,” said Oddfellows coach Frank Camera, whose 2006 NET titlists formed the nucleus of Warwick’s 2008 District 3 championship team and are, as we speak, playing deep into the American Legion playoffs.
“The first one was special (to me) because I finally got over the (losing in the NET semifinals) hump,” Camera shared.
“But this time … seeing them be able to celebrate is, to me, more special than anything.”
Winning pitcher Jordan Donmoyer set the table for the celebration, holding St. Leo to four hits, walking four and striking out four.
Then he was in the thick of the sixth-inning rally, driving in the tying run and scoring the game-winner to cap a 3-for-3 night at the plate.
“Jordan goes to another level at the plate when he’s pitching,” said Camera.
That certainly was true in the LNP Tourney, where Donmoyer was 6-for-6 with two RBIs and a run scored in his two starts and 0-for-3 on his off night.
But St. Leo starter Kevin Regan had parried Lititz’s attack all evening, with a little help from the Oddfellows.
Lititz had two hits in the second, third and fifth innings, and two baserunners in the fourth on a hit and an error.
But Justin Nolt, courtesy running for Donmoyer, was thrown out trying to steal second in the second inning.
Then Regan picked off Donmoyer in the fourth and Nate Lawrence for the last out of the fifth.
That stung all the more as Dylan Adams, who had singled, had just tasted the rarefied atmosphere of third base on a Regan wild pitch.
Undaunted, the Oddfellows returned to the task in the sixth as Kyle Keener reached on a one-out single.
Adam Zipko sacrificed him to second and Donmoyer ripped the first pitch he saw into centerfield.
Travis Jankowski fielded the ball cleanly and launched a strike to home. Keener, just, beat the throw and Donmoyer moved up to second.
That finished Regan’s evening as he yielded to reliever Dan Long.
As Long took his warmup throws, Camera called designated hitter Andy Woolley, his next scheduled batter, over for a conference.
“I told him, ‘You could be a hero tonight and no one can ever take that away.’”
Thus fortified, Woolley looped a ball behind third base, where it nestled, safely, in the outfield.
“I’m just glad it fell,” Woolley said. “I was just going up there trying to make contact, not necessarily trying to kill it.”
Well, mission accomplished!
“We’ve been doing it all season,” he said. “I mean, something’s working.”
Donmoyer, running all the way, scored easily. “We knew that we could get runs across,” he said. “We just had to find it.”
But the game might have gone St. Leo’s way if the Lions had just capitalized on their own opportunities.
Playing small ball, moving the runner, the Lions (12-6) advanced four runners to third, but could only cash once.
A double play and strikeout left Dan Long standing at third in the end of the second inning.
Then, in the third, Steve Remley’s sac fly scored Erik Schnitzenbaumer, who had one-hopped a leadoff double off base of the fence in right center and moved up on a bunt.
Up 1-0, St. Leo missed a golden opportunity to double that advantage in the fourth inning when
Kevin Cotchen didn’t break from third on Jamie Pashuck’s one-out dribbler up the firstbase line.
He was left there as Gene Nissley struck out and was also stranded at third in the sixth as Donmoyer struck out Pashuck.
“I just had to keep my focus,” said Donmoyer, “just know that … we can get outs.”
“Four hits,” Mike Regan reflected. “That’s usually not going to be enough and we came up just a little short.
“(Lititz is) a good hitting team,” he continued, “and they put enough together to get two runs, just enough to make the difference.”
Perseverance pays off for patient Oddfellows
By Jeff Reinhart
LNP Sports Writer
This is a story about perseverance.
About hanging in there when the chips are down.
About staying positive, especially when the opposing pitcher seems to have a hex over you.
About stranding six runners in the first five innings, getting a kid caught stealing and a pair of players picked off first.
And finding a way — with just five outs left in your arsenal — to win the LNP Midget championship.
Try as they might, the Lititz Oddfellows could not solve St. Leo righty Kevin Regan on Tuesday night, in the title game in Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Despite piling up eight hits in the first five innings — plus a pair of stolen bases and another runner who lived on an error — Lititz could not push a run across.
Regan helped his own cause, wheeling and picking off a pair of runners at first base to squelch rallies.
Meanwhile, St. Leo, back in the Midget finale for the second year in a row, was clinging to a 1-0 lead, compliments of a manufactured third-inning run:
Erik Schnitzenbaumer hit a leadoff double, went to third on a sac bunt by Evan Montgomery and scored on a sac fly to left by Steve Remley.
But Lititz, which won the Midget crown in 2006, kept on keeping on. The Oddfellows persevered, staying positive on the bench, and listening to coach Frank Camera, who has been here before.
“We have a lot of confidence,” said winning pitcher Jordan Donmoyer, who pitched a complete game, allowed four hits, walked three and struck out three.
He also went 3-for-3 at the plate, drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run.
“We’ve won a lot of close games at the very end, and we knew this game was going to come down to the end,” Donmoyer said. “We also knew that we could come through in the clutch.”
How’s this for clutch:
Down 1-0 with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the sixth. And the opposing pitcher — Regan, a sneaky righty who changed speeds to keep batters off balance — had already wriggled out of every jam in sight.
Kyle Keener started the rally with a single, and he was bunted up to second by Adam Zipko. Donmoyer followed with a single, scoring Keener to knot the game at 1-all.
That brought out St. Leo coach Mike Regan, who lifted his son and brought in lefty Dan Long to face Andy Woolley.
Woolley greeted Long with a bloop single to left, scoring Donmoyer with the go-ahead run.
“Clutch hit,” Camera said. “And sort of an ironic hit because we hit the ball hard all night, and he gets a little bloop.”
Alas, it was a line drive in the box score.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games before,” Woolley said. “We just somehow knew that we were going to get a few runs. We’ve played a lot of close games lately. We just had the confident that someone was going to step up and do something.”
Like Woolley, who dropped a dunker into left to score Donmoyer with the go-ahead run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
“Every single player, since like little league, wants to have the big hit in the big game,” Woolley said. “Whether you’re playing in your backyard when you’re a kid, or even taking batting practice now, you pretend to drive in the winning run.
“I used to dream about hitting a home run to win a game. But in this case, a base hit was OK.” Sure was.
“This is the biggest tournament out there … over 60 years,” Donmoyer said. “This is what we play for all summer. This is one of our goals every year. … I kept thinking in my head that we can do this; we can win this thing.
“All we had to do was get some runners on base, and finally things started falling for us.”
Because Lititz persevered.
The Oddfellows didn’t panic when Regan was working his magic. They didn’t get down in the dumps when they stranded all those runners, or had a kid caught stealing or picked off first.
“We’ve played a lot of one-run games,” Camera said. “Three weeks ago we lost three one-run games in a row. But good teams win one-run games. So all we did was ask the kids to put us in a position to win the game.
“Stick in and the title was ours. Those were my exact words.”
Lititz stuck in, all right.
Stuck in so much that the Oddfellows lifted the LNP Midget championship for the second time in three years.