Manheim VFW, Hempfield Black reach LNP Midget semifinals

John Lenz delivers for Manheim VFW.

By Dave Byrne
LNP Correspondent

Little things can mean a lot.

On Saturday, Manheim VFW and Hempfield Black found out just how quickly the little things can add up in a LNP Midget Baseball Tournament quarterfinal doubleheader at Lampeter-Strasburg.

Lanco Blue champion Manheim VFW rapped nine hits, but only one went for extra bases, in an 11-4 victory over Lanco White champ Strasburg Willow Street.

And in the second game, Lanco Red champ Hempfield Black pounded out 12 hits and stole 11 bases on the way to an 8-2 win over the Penn Manor champ Manheim Barons.

Saturday’s winners advanced to the Midget semifinals, which will be played at Lampeter-Strasburg this Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.

“We do the little things right,” said Manheim VFW coach Jeff Mummau, who was also the team’s coach in 1996, when it won the Junior-Midget title. “We make contact. We move runners along. Sometimes you don’t really need a hit, you just need a guy to go up there and hit a ground ball to second. This team does that.”

And VFW does it often, as its 24-2-1 record shows.

VFW also beat Strasburg Willow Street (15-2) last Wednesday 11-4 to win the Lanco Midget League championship and it quickly took command again on Saturday, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning.

B.J. Kauffman led off with a walk, moved to second on Mike Kernisky’s infield hit, and scored on a line drive up the middle by John Lentz.

Brandon Bosch then fought off an 0-2 fastball for a single to right field to drive in Kernisky, with Lentz moving to third on the hit. After Bosch stole second, Craig Smoker – the younger brother of Manheim Central’s junior quarterback Jeff Smoker – blooped a two-out single to right to drive in two more.

And with Lentz sailing smoothly on the mound through the middle innings, VFW would have little trouble advancing.

Lentz – Central’s junior anchor at shortstop – gave up nine hits, but until the sixth inning, none of them were strung together to form a rally. He also struck out two and walked two.

In the bottom of the sixth, though, Steve Hoover and Jon Shehan led off with consecutive singles and advanced on a wild pitch. After Lentz struck out Todd Allison, Willow Street’s cleanup hitter, Alexis Torres burned a bad-hop single into left field to score Hoover and Shehan.

Torres scored from third with two outs when Lentz bobbled a slow roller by Jeremy Reinhart, cutting VFW’s lead to 7-4. But Lentz ended the inning by picking Reinhart off first base.

Tanner Strickler – who had a three-run homer and five RBIs in VFW’s Lanco-clinching victory on Wednesday – was again the driving force, knocking in three runs with a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth.

Bosch had two hits and scored three runs, while Jeremy Hershey scored two runs and ripped a two-run single to right in the seventh inning.

“We’ve talked a lot about getting back to where we were in ’96” said Mummau. “It helps when the kids dedicate themselves. You just organize it and watch it run.”

Which is what Hempfield Black coach Ken Gerber did in the second game.

Hempfield (19-6-1) stole five bases in the bottom of the first inning to take a 3-1 lead that slowly grew with single runs in the second and third innings.

With the score tied 1-1, Chad Berdiner kept the first inning alive with a two-out double that bounced against the fence in center field. He then scored on Chris Pawling’s single to right, with Pawling taking second on an error.

After Pawling stole third, Rusty Harbold drove him home with an infield hit.

“We don’t really have any stud players,” said Gerber. “Different guys step up and do the job. We’re a team that has to do the little things to win.”

Berdiner was the hitting star with a pair of doubles and two runs scored.

Pawling also had two hits and scored three runs, while Jason Miller’s two-run single to left ended the scoring in the fifth inning.

Harbold had little trouble handcuffing the Barons (11-4), giving up just four hits and four walks, while striking out eight. The lefthander also picked off two runners.

Manheim scored in the first inning when Ben Leaman led off with a walk, stole second and third, and scored on an infield out by Nathan Sides.

The Barons rallied for a run in the fourth, with Jon Williams lining a two-out double into the rightfield gap and scoring on a single down the leftfield line by Keith Enochs.

Ben Leaman scores for the Manheim Barons, as the throw eludes Hempfield’s Chad Berdiner.