New Era Correspondent
It was the Night of the Long Fly Ball as competition in the Junior-Midget Division of the 58th New Era Baseball Tournament got under way Thursday.
Conestoga Valley launched three home runs into the Mount Joy night to subdue Lititz VFW 13-8 in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Kunkle Field.
In the first game, Manheim Township Black won in dramatic fashion. Out-homered 4-1, Black collected its only dinger when it counted most — in its last at-bat. A 3-run shot by Bernie Zaritzky drove a stake through the hearts of Solanco Black in a 16-14 slugfest.
CV and Township will battle Monday at 6 p.m. in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field. The winners of tonight’s quarterfinal games will meet in Monday’s nightcap, scheduled for 8 p.m.
Township (29-1), the pre-tournament favorite, found itself in danger of becoming the biggest first-round upset victim in recent history as Solanco opened an 8-0 lead after three innings.
Solanco (17-12) rocked Township starter Austin Gallagher for nine hits, including 2-run homers by Jordan McMillion (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) and Nic Lewis and a solo blast by Andrew Gordon. Gallagher only lasted 2 innings.
Solanco coach Hobe McMillion later said an 8-0 lead at Kunkle Field is not a big lead, noting, “A couple of hits, a home run, and you’re right back in it.”
That was the formula for success Township applied as it crafted its comeback. Solanco starter Nate Blough sailed through the first two innings, but Township combined six hits and four walks in a third-inning rally that produced nine runs and knocked out Blough.
“Down 8-0, our kids didn’t die,” asserted Township coach Glenn Gallagher. They needed that spirit, because Solanco wasn’t dead.
Zaritzky’s RBI single in the fourth gave Township a 10-8 lead, but Solanco rallied for five runs in the fifth, highlighted by a 3-run shot off the bat of Blough (4-for-4, 3 RBIs) that produced a 13-10 lead.
That lead lasted half an inning.
Two Solanco errors opened the door to a 3-run inning for Township, which tied the game at 13. But McMillion stroked his second round-tripper of the game, a two-out solo shot off winning pitcher Corey Pfautz in the top of the seventh, giving Solanco new life.
Solanco had pitched carefully to Austin Gallagher all night and Nic Lewis, in his fourth inning of relief behind Blough, issued Gallagher his third walk to open the bottom of the seventh.
Gallagher took second on a wild pitch, but Solanco got an out and seemed to have another out on a grounder to shortstop by Peter Fisher. But Blough booted the ball, leaving Township with first-and-third and Zaritzky coming up.
Zaritzky (3-for-5, 5 RBIs) took ball one, then unloaded on a get-it-in-there fastball, sending it way over the fence in left.
“I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” he said, “just something to put in play. I was lucky to get something down the middle.”
“We kicked the field goal at the end of the game,” jested Glenn Gallagher. “Solanco came to play. We beat them three other times — 10-3 and 4-1 and blew them out in a tournament. That’s the best they’ve swung the bats that I’ve seen.”
Hobe McMillion concurred.
“That’s the best game we played all year. We acted like we wanted to win, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Catcher Greg Dissinger was 2-for-4 with 5 RBIs in the nightcap to help Conestoga Valley (16-7) take control of a see-saw game. His 2-run single and an RBI single by pitcher Adam Glick gave CV a 4-1, first-inning lead.
Lititz (14-10) rallied to tie the game after 2 innings on an RBI single by Mike Freeman, an error and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Tyler Hill. But Glick put CV ahead again, 5-4, with a solo homer in the bottom of the third.
RBI singles by Freeman (3-for-4) and Jordan Weaver in the fourth provided VFW with a 6-5 lead, which held for one inning.
Singles by Neil Lennon and Joey Russo set the table for Dissinger, who ripped a 1-0 pitch well into the parking lot behind left field.
“CV has some very good power hitters,” allowed VFW coach Bob Thompson. “We left some pitches up and you saw what happens. One home run can really change the tempo of the game.”
What then do two home runs, or three, do? Following Dissinger’s blast, losing pitcher Tyler Kline walked Glick, then he watched Brent Nankerville unload to put CV ahead, 10-6.
Lititz halved that deficit as CV’s defense sprouted a few leaks in the top of the sixth, but CV fused three hits and a pair of walks in the bottom of the inning for its final three runs of the game.
All this offense made a winner of Lennon, in relief of Glick, and Russo pitched the final two innings for the save, striking out the last five batters of the game.
“We’ve had a lot of come-from-behind wins this year,” Thompson said. “Even to the end, you just keep waiting for that miracle to happen. I didn’t think it was going to be in the cards tonight.”