By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent
Defending New Era Tournament Midget champion Manheim Township is the top seed of this year’s New Era Midget division tournament, and must be considered the favorite.
However, uneasy lies the crown on the head of the Lanco School League king.
Four games — eight points — separated the first through sixth place teams, also the first through sixth seeds of this year’s New Era Tournament.
Factor in the eighth seed dealing the top seed its only league loss and you have the makings of a very competitive tournament.
Six of this year’s eight participating clubs have won the last 12 NETs, with perennial contender Hempfield winning five.
The midgets get underway tonight with a quarterfinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The first game begins at 5:15 p.m., with the second game starting 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
The tournament continues Tuesday with another quarterfinal twinbill before taking some time off to accommodate the Barnstormers’ schedule.
The Midget semifinals will be Monday, July 28, at the Clip with the finals set for Tuesday, July 29.
Manheim VFW (12-4-1) vs. Solanco (9-6), 5:15 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Manheim grabbed the overall second seed, finishing a point ahead of the Lititz Oddfellows in the School League. Solanco placed seventh.
NET HONORS — Manheim has won three Net Midget titles, the last in 1998. Solanco’s 1996 title was the program’s second.
RETURNING PLAYERS Solanco returns Dan Wimer, Dan Stoltfus, Brock Snider, Ben Thomas and Ralph Brown.
Lititz Oddfellows (11-5) vs. Comet Blue (11-6)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Oddfellows finished tied for third with Hempfield Black in the School League, getting the nod for the third seed by virtue of a 3-2 regular-season win over Black. Comet Blue finished in a fifth-place tie with St. Leo’s, but yielded the fifth seed after losing a head-to-head matchup, 9-6.
NET HONORS — After numerous semifinal heartbreaks, Lititz broke through and won its only Midget title in 2006. Manor Ridge, one of the programs that eventually merged to become the Comets, won three titles, the last in 1988.
RETURNING PLAYERS — Kyle Keener (.490, 23 RBI), Nate Lawrence (.390), Dylan Adams (.362), Jordan Donmoyer (4-1, 3.00, 47 Ks), Adam Zipko (4-1, 1.70, 49 Ks), Andy Wooley (.393) and Deron Thompson (.274) return for Lititz.
Comet Blue returns Cody Buterbaugh (.515, 23 runs), Zach Buterbaugh (.459, 22 RBI, 2-0, 0.00, 15 Ks in 13 innings), Andrew Hershey (.365, 25 RBI), John Smith (2-1, 2.69), Josh Longsderff, Cody Erb, Chance Piazza, TJ Richartz.
Manheim Twp. (15-2) vs. Bears Blue (9-9), 5:15 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Manheim Township won the Lanco School League regular-season title, going 14-1. Township’s only league loss was to … Bears Blue!
The Bears, the eighth seed, played their way into the New Era Tournament, defeating SWS Blue and Lanco Community champion Hempfield Red.
NET HONORS — Manheim Township teams have won seven overall NET Midget titles. E-town teams have won two, the last in 2000.
RETURNING PLAYERS — The defending champions return Taylor Good (.408), Andy Kelly (.435, 21 Ks in 15 relief innings), Chris Thorsen (5-1, 1.46, 64 Ks in 43 innings).
Bears Blue return Shane Long (.533), Mitch Weidman (.435), Brad Garber (.368), Jordan Eberly (.357), Matt Frederick (3-2, 3.68, 57 Ks in 34 innings) and Kyle Ingham.
Hempfield Black (14-5) vs. St. Leo (10-5)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The fourth and fifth seeds of the tournament, Black finished a game ahead of St. Leo — a 6-3 Black win in mid-June — in the Lanco School League.
NET HONORS — Hempfield Black has won five championships, the last in 2005. Returning runner-up St. Leo is looking for its first NET title.
RETURNING PLAYERS — Sam Dissinger (.323) is the only returning player for Black, but newcomers Cullen Wolf (.415), Mitch Bachman (.379), Brandon Hickey (.333), Joel Bucher (.311) and Jordan Neff (5-2, 2.01) have stood out.
Evan Montgomery (.487), Steve Remley (.432 on-base percentage), Kevin Regan (3-1, 1.75) and Dan Long (.400) return for St. Leo, along with Travis “Freddy” Jankowski, who made the defensive play of last year’s tournament, and Kevin Cotchen. Other commitments have limited their participation for St. Leo this summer, but they’re now available and ready to go.