Manheim VFW Midget king

J.J. Sanchez strokes the game-winning RBI single in the sixth inning.

Fry, Sanchez star in 8-7 nod over SWS

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

Rudyard Kipling never played in the New Era Tournament.

But his poem “If” resonated across the Midget final of the 67th New Era Tournament.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs … yours is the earth …”

Colin Fry kept his head about him — barely — and so did his teammates as ghosts of New Eras past reared their ugly head.

And because he, and they, did, the New Era Tournament belongs to Manheim VFW.

Manheim completed the cycle that began six years ago, defeating Strasburg/Willow Street 8-7 Monday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Catcher J.J. Sanchez singled in Ben Bomberger with the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Fry slammed the door with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to nail down Manheim’s fifth overall Midget title, the second New Era title in three tries — across three age groups — for this group.

The sixth-inning rally, ignited by a Josh Flanagan single, continued as Bomberger doubled Flanagan home and capped a journey that saw VFW (21-2) come all the way back from a 7-2 deficit with three innings to play.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a one-run game,” said SWS coach Brian Brooks.

That may seem incongruous, given the 8-7 score, but Brooks’ meaning was clear.

The way these teams hit, this would not be a low scoring game.

“When these two teams get together,” he added, “you need 6, 7, 8, runs, at least, to win.”

In the Lanco League regular season, SWS (13-6-1) won 11-6, so Brooks had that as a reference point.

Then there was the 2008 New Era Midget-Midget championship where the SWS Cardinals scored six times in a 12-man, fourth-inning bat-around that delivered a 6-4 victory, as well as the NET title.

So, when SWS scored six times in the fourth inning on Monday, taking a 7-2 lead, all involved could not be blamed for thinking dejà vu all over again.

“I tell you, I started thinking about it,” said Brooks.

SWS batted around, scoring six runs — two earned — on five hits, an error and a walk.

“At the time it was happening, I didn’t even know what to think,” Fry acknowledged. “I couldn’t grasp what was happening. I was like, ‘All right, the New Era is not good to me.’ ”

“That was hard to watch,” said Bomberger, witnessing from his spot in left field. “But we never looked back.”

“When we came in,” VFW coach Cameron Forrey recalled, “I said, ‘There’s two ways we can go here. We can tip our caps and say, Good Game. Or, we can fight back and write our own history.’ ”

Manheim showed signs of maturity, getting a run back in the bottom of the fourth on Kyle Winter’s double, then putting together a three-run rally in the fifth, keyed by Fry’s two-run single and Dan Wiederrecht’s sac fly.

Meanwhile, Fry bulled his neck, allowing two hits and a walk the rest of the way.

“I guess I kind of put the football mentality in at that point,” said Fry, a candidate for the quarterback position at Manheim Central this fall.

“I knew what had to be done. They depended on me at that point. They looked to me to turn things around because I wasn’t on my game in the fourth inning. At all.”

“Leadership,” offered Forrey. “Colin’s the biggest leader on the team.”

He led the way Monday with four RBIs, on a single and hit-by-pitch before ripping his sixth-inning hit.

“Each run mattered,” said Fry, “and each run got us closer. The guys who got on in front of me … they made it happen.”

And it was Sanchez, who nursed Fry through the tight spots, who was there in the end.

“All tournament, J.J. has hit,” said Forrey. “We switched his swing going in and it’s been working.

“He was always pulling off the ball and he always had trouble going the opposite way.”

Sanchez finished 6 for 8 for the tournament, hitting five balls to the right side, including the game-winner.

Manheim VFW celebrates its Midget championship.

SWS’ Michael Warfel slides into Manheim catcher J.J. Sanchez after being forced out at home.

Manheim VFW’s Ben Bomberger celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.