Manheim, SWS reach M-M final

SWS Carindals’ Connor Brown receive a high five from Coach Scott Eckman after hitting a home run in the second inning.

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

Tanner Fahnestock delivers a pitch for Manheim VFW in the fourth inning of Monday’s game against Warwick.

It’s not a ball game until Manheim VFW falls behind by three runs.

So far in the 65th New Era Tournament, that’s been happening early enough — in the first inning, twice — that VFW has been able to overcome the handicap.

Still, it’s a heck of a way to play baseball.

Manheim VFW advanced to the Midget-Midget finals for the third straight year, defeating the Warwick Phillies 7-4 Monday evening in the first game of a New Era Tournament semifinal doubleheader at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.

Manheim will meet the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals tonight for the M-M championship. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

Strasburg/Willow Street outlasted Hempfield Black in the second game of Monday’s twin bill, 13-6, in a sublime example of the weird, wild and wacky that somehow still managed to entertain.

The Phillies (22-13) broke on top 3-0 in the first inning on Colin Gibble’s two-run single and Tim Griest’s RBI hit.

Familiar territory for VFW, which fell behind Mountville 3-0 in the first inning of Thursday’s quarterfinal.

“It’s getting old,” VFW coach Jeff Flanagan dryly observed.

Manheim got that back, plus one, in their half of the first on Kevin Starner’s two-run double, Presten Kimmel’s RBI groundout and an error on Craig McKee’s grounder.

The Phillies tied it at 4-4 on Gibble’s second hit of the night, but Manheim (12-15) loaded the bases on an error, a base hit and a walk, bringing Kimmel to the plate.

He wasted little time, ripping the first pitch from Zach Peters into deep left field for a bases-clearing double.

Eventually he found his way to third, from which he tried to score on an infield up-fielder’s choice to first. In the ensuing rundown, he gave catcher Justin Smith a hard shot, was called out and ejected from the game.

The ejection carries a one-game penalty and he will be unavailable for tonight’s title game.

Meanwhile, a game that started out as batting practice turned into a defensive clinic as winning pitcher Tanner Fahnestock held Warwick to one hit after the third inning, getting big help from his outfielders, who converted seven of the last ten outs, including a spectacular catch in right by Alex Studenroth for the first out of the sixth.

Third baseman Kevin Starner had four assists including a fantastic pick to his right in the third.

“I think all the web gems, the top ten’s were in this game tonight,” Flanagan said.

Gems were rare in the second game as, loose as ashes, the Cardinals (19-9-1) overcame five errors in the field, four walks and two hit batters by capitalizing on three Hempfield errors and six walks while banging out 10 hits and stealing 13 bases.

The Cards posted the first run of the game, on an error, but turned around and committed three errors in the second inning to give Black (16-12) a 4-1 lead.

“We’re not the best defensive team,” admitted Cards coach Steve Shank. “But, five is excessive.”

The Cards regained the lead in the second as Chase Nelle singled in a run and Connor Brown slashed a low line drive run down the left field line and off the pole, 219 feet away, for a two-run homer.

Fouling off seven pitches in a marathon at bat, Ben Rhoades eventually doubled, then scored on Bear Shank’s RBI double to make it a 5-4 game.

Once more Hempfield tied the game, after two walks and a sacrifice set the stage for, an error.

The tie was short-lived, and the game got truly weird as walks, wild pitches and a bunt fielder’s choice triggered SWS’s winning rally, capped by Hempfield catcher Tyler Jackson skulling losing pitcher Greg Gambler on a throw to second on one of SWS’s numerous stolen base tries.

Hempfield had one more shot, trailing 8-6 with a run in and the bases loaded, but Shank came on to strike out two batters and nail down the victory for Colin Eckman.

“I just wanted to throw strikes,” said the younger Shank. “Bring my heat and get them to put it in play.”

A five-run fifth inning, highlighted by Dan Eshleman’s two-run double, sealed the victory for the Cardinals.

“There were so many momentum shifts,” said Steve Shank, “we got a lead, gave it up and then, all of a sudden, got a big lead.”

Ben Rhoades watches his double against Hempfield.

SWS’s Dan Eshleman steals third base as the throw eludes Hempfield’s Alec Miller.

Ethan Price watches his Warwick Phillies do battle against Manheim VFW..

Manheim’s Black Strausbaugh, left, and Alex Studenroth celebrate after Strausbaugh caught a pop-up for the last out against Warwick.

Tanner Fahnestock pitches for Manheim VFW.