New Era Correspondent
It is said the Lord helps those who help themselves and Jeffrey Miller helped himself to a victory Friday night in the first round of the New Era Tournament Junior-Midget quarterfinals.
Miller, who started and pitched the first five innings, stroked a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to give his team, Rheems Gray, a 5-4 lead over the Ephrata Jaguars.
“I needed some support,” he said afterward.
He got a little more when the next hitter, Jerred Long, also went yard and reliever Devin Eberly closed out Gray’s 6-4 win with a two-inning save.
The win earned Rheems a spot in next Wednesday’s J-M semifinals where Gray will meet the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox.
The Sox won Friday night’s first game at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field, bombing the Mountville Angels, 12-4.
Friday’s winners will meet in the second game Wednesday night, follwing the Solanco Gold-Hempfield Black game, set for 6 p.m.
Friday’s nightcap was a tug-of-war all the way.
Rheems (17-6-1) had leads of 1-0 and 3-1, but found itself trailing 4-3 after five with Jags’ reliever Jake Rutt dominating them.
Rutt, who came on for starter Evan Weaver with one out in the third, retired eight in a row and was given the lead when Andre Hoover homered over the right field fence.
Given the way Rutt was throwing for Ephrata (14-7-1), things looked grim fro Rheems.
“Rutt was in a groove,” allowed Rheems coach Allen Toth. “But, no matter what the score, these guys play for all 21 outs.”
Rutt walked Eberly leading off the sixth and Miller took a 2-0 pitch the other way, way over the fence in right center.
“It was a fastball on the outside half of the plate,” Miller said. “It felt like I hit it pretty solid.
“I got the bunt sign the first two pitches, then Coach took it off.”
That’s one way to advance the runner.
“That’s right,” laughed Toth, who fully expected a tight contest.
“When we played these guys the last time it was a 1-0, extra-innings barnburner.”
The first game was surely no barnburner, but maybe a barn raising.
SWS hit a lot of wood. Hard.
The Sox (26-7-2) jumped to a 10-0 lead with a seven-run second inning, as Matt McCrudden, Ray Lopez, Nate Shank and Peter Darrenkamp all drove in runs.
Shank had a huge night, hitting a pair of two-run homers — one in the first inning, one in the fifth — and driving in five runs.
“He threw me a fastball the first time,” Shank said, “and I was just waiting on it and hit it as far as I could.”
Which he also did on his second homer.
Shank was joined in the homer parede by teammate Ethan Moore, who also homered in the first inning as the Sox roughed up starter Zac Burke.
In fact the only thing that kept SWS from a 10-run rule victory was an outstanding job of long relief by Ian Bentley, who pitched 52-e innings of three-hit, nine-strikeout relief.
And the Angels (14-10) also scored a little, as Jake Hartman and Willie Welsh hit homers, Welsh’s a first-ever bomb.
Peter Darrenkamp picked up the win for SWS, allowing three runs, two earned, in five innings. David Pittman closed out the last two innings.