By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
The come-from-behind kids did it again.
Manheim VFW scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a 7-4 victory over Donegal in the semifinals of the New Era Tournament Monday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
“It’s truly amazing. We’ve won probably 12 games now, come-from-behind,” said Manheim coach Jeff Mummau. “We have a lot of heart.”
The win propels Manheim (18-3) to Wednesday night’s Midget Division championship game, its first title appearance since defeating Manheim Township for the 1998 title.
Manheim will meet the Lititz Oddfellows, a 5-2 winner over Strasburg/Willow Street, at 7 p.m. at the Clip.
Donegal (13-5) drove VFW ace Jeff Knosp from the game and appeared on its way to a second-straight upset of a higher-seeded team, taking a 4-2 lead with a four-run fifth inning.
The lead seemed impregnable as reliever Seth Hershey mowed his way through the Manheim lineup.
Hershey allowed just one hit through four innings, and quickly got the first two outs of the fifth.
“We had everything set up perfect,” said a disappointed Donegal coach Ryan Hamilton. “A couple bloops, then some timely hitting.”
Jeremy Knosp singled to extend the inning and Dan Baker singled Knosp to third.
Tony Ferrari poked an RBI hit to right, scoring Knosp, and Tim Ruth walked to load the bases.
On a 2-0 wild pitch to Brandon Keath, Hershey’s second of the inning, Baker scored.
Keath then ripped a double to center field, just under the diving try of T.J. Houseal, knocking in the go-ahead runs, before eventually scoring on an error.
“I was as nervous as heck when I went up there,” Keath said. “I got up 3-0 on him, and then he pitched me a strike.
“I knew I had to swing the bat, and so I saw the ball and hit the ball. I got a little nervous. (Houseal) made a good dive at it, but I saw it skip by him, that’s when I really got excited.”
“He did that against Manheim Township in our tournament,” said Mummau. “Same situation. I told him before he went to home plate (tonight), ‘Manheim Township, do it again!’ And he did.”
Manheim nicked Donegal starter Darryn Giberson for two first-inning runs on Devon Almodovar’s RBI double and a wild pitch.
Hershey came on in the second inning, and retired 12 in a row, aided by Bobby Peterson’s unassisted double play on Justin Herman’s liner to first.
It was fair turnabout for Herman, who denied Donegal with a defensive gem in the second.
Peterson and Mikey Nau reached on two-out singles and Devin Gorski ripped a fly towards the alley in left center.
Herman, selling out to the ball, made a diving layout to his right and snagged the ball just before it hit the ground.
“He’s played catcher. He’s played second base. He’s played third base,” Mummau said. “About six weeks ago I said, ‘Justin, we see you as a center fielder.’ You can see why.”
Gorski hit a ball just a little harder, and to right field, in the fifth doubling home Peterson, who had singled.
Mark Strausbaugh singled home Gorski and Houseal walked, chasing Knosp.
Nick Zito greeted Ferrari with a single to left, scoring Strausbaugh. Nick Herbert forced Zito at second, but when Zito’s slide knocked down Almodovar at the bag, Houseal scampered home with Donegal’s fourth run.
It was not enough.
“We’ve got a lot of blue-collar kids who just do not quit,” said Mummau. “When it happens once in a while you say, ‘Oh, you know, freak of nature.’
“When it happens 10, 12 times, that’s not freak of nature. That’s work.”