Manheim wins third straight LNP Tournament J-M title

Manheim players celebrate their third straight LNP Tournament junior midget title.

By Dave Byrne
LNP Correspondent

What did your kids get you for your 30th birthday? Jeff Mummau’s kids, all 14 of them, gave him a couple of real nice presents for his milestone day Monday night at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.

His Manheim Lions baseball team delivered Mummau a second straight 30-win season and a third straight LNP Tournament Junior-Midget championship with a 17-1 demolition of the Safe Harbor Lions.

The score may have been reminiscent of some early-tournament games, but Safe Harbor was no “B” team being led to slaughter.

The Lions, champions of the Penn Manor League, were a quality team with a quality pitcher on the hill in Chris Stark and carried a 27-4-1 record into the final.

Manheim (30-7) greeted his offerings like batting practice and it was quickly 7-1 and, for all intents, over.

“It was a bad time for a bad game,” said Harbor coach Bruce Perry. “You’ve got to give Manheim credit, they were on our pitcher from the start.

“I don’t think he was at his best. It’s not that we didn’t rest him, but I think his arm was a little weary. But that’s no excuse. He was the best we had.”

“His arm speed wasn’t what it was earlier in the year,” Mummau observed, “and the kids knew that, watching him here against Mountville (in the semifinal). Mountville got 10 runs off him and we knew we could hit him.”

Still, the magnitude of the final score had to be a surprise, right?

“I thought it would be a one, two-run game, not 17-1,” said catcher Andy Martin. “We were so pumped up, so ready to play.”

“We just got on him right away,” added Tanner Strickler,” and we hit him.”

Martin set the first-inning table with a walk and B.J. Kauffman singled to shortstop Tommy Hoxworth’s left. Winning pitcher John Lentz’s RBI single to left scored Martin with both runners advancing when the ball was bobbled.

Craig Smoker’s RBI groundout scored Kauffman and Lentz beat the throw on Strickler’s fielder’s choice as Manheim went up, 3-0.

Safe Harbor got one back when Jimmy Fritsch deposited a 1-2 pitch into the hitting cage in right field, but that was the last run Lentz would surrender.

It was quite a tournament for Lentz, a winner in all four games with an ERA of 1.86 while limiting opposing batters to a .212 average.

Like real estate, his secret was location, location, location.

“He keeps everything real down,” said Martin, “and we usually go inside and out. We hit corners a lot. We don’t throw a lot of pitches right down the middle.”

While Lentz was avoiding Safe Harbor’s bats, Manheim continued to club Stark, scoring a second-inning run on a wild pitch, then breaking the game open in the third.

Kauffman and Lentz hit back-to-back homers and when Mike Kernisky capped three straight hits with an RBI single to center, Stark was gone.

Kernisky’s hit was his second of the night on the way to a 4-for-4 outing. That capped a tournament that saw him hit .600 (9-for-15) with a homer and seven RBIs while going 7-for-9 in the final two games. Not bad for a youngster who says he can’t hit.

“I just had a great LNP Tournament ,” he said modestly. “I was like unbelievable. I just exploded!”

His coach took notice, saying, “Mike Kernisky really stepped it up in the tournament . But he wasn’t the only one. It was a total team effort.”

That seems to be the recurring theme for this group. Team effort.

After last year’s win gave the Lions back-to-back titles, Mummau said goodbye to a team that was the J-M equivalent of the ’27 Yankees. Few knew what to expect from the handful of first-year players that would return.

“After we left Kunkle last year, I was appreciating the win,” Mummau said, “but I’m thinking, “Wow! What do I have to do as a coach next year?”

He wasn’t the only one with questions.

“Coming into this season we were a little skeptical on how the season would go,” said Jody Oehler. “This is the sweetest of the three I’ve got because we work so well together. We just pull together when we need to and play great in the big games.”

Oehler is one of four players – Kernisky, Kauffman and Strickler being the others – who have two LNP J-M championships to go with the one they won as first-year midget-midgets. What makes this sweet in Oehler’s eyes is it’s the first they’ve won on their own.

What may make it bittersweet is it’s the last time he’ll play with this group. In two weeks his family is moving to northern California.

“I’m going to miss the team and the Manheim organization,” he said. “I’ve been here since kindergarten. This is my home.”

“These guys are special in their way because they didn’t have a lot of confidence early in the year,” Mummau said carefully, side-stepping any comparisions with his earlier champions.

“Safe Harbor rocked us early in the year, then beat us again. We were jittery, but we beat them about a month ago and the kids started coming after that (Manheim has won 23 of its last 25). We’ve been hitting full stride ever since.”

Manheim hit .352 as a team in the tournament , with Kernisky, Lentz (.588, 4 homers), Strickler (.545, 2 homers) and Kauffman (.375) leading the way.

So after cleaning away the impromptu party from the rightfield foul line and heading down the path one last time, Mummau will face a familiar question: What now?

“Back to the drawing board,” he laughed. “I’ve got to see what’s coming up from the midget-midgets. I’m going to appreciate this one for a while. It’s been a long year, a lot of hard work, but this is what can happen when you get fourteen guys to dedicate themselves.”

Manheim pitcher John Lentz with championship trophy.

Lentz leads Manheim with bat and arm

By John Finger
LNP Correspondent

When asked why he prefers to play soccer over football in pigskin-crazed Manheim, baseball pitcher/slugger and star of the 51st annual junior-midget LNP Tournament , John Lentz, had a quick answer.

“I’m too smart,” Lentz said after his heroics.

Today, Lentz switches his athletic button to soccer, a sport in which the 14-year-old ninth grader-to-be at Manheim Central hopes to be a varsity player this fall. Soccer is, after all, Lentz’s passion. He likes the athleticism, the strategies, and the team concept of the sport. After one glimpse of the tall righthander, it’s obvious that this kid is an athlete. He has that wiry frame that is conducive to the rigors of soccer.

Monday night at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field, Lentz was thinking about hitting and pitching a baseball and Safe Harbor, victims of these thoughts, wished he were away somewhere, kicking something. Lentz turned in a performance that surprised no one on his team. In fact, they expected it.

In leading his team to a decisive 17-1 victory in the championship game of the LNP Tournament , Lentz was dominant. Just as he has been all season.

Before his championship performance is mentioned, Lentz’s season deserves a certain homage.

Playing a sport that isn’t his favorite – it makes the top three behind soccer and basketball – Lentz shattered team records in home runs and RBIs. During the year, he bashed out 19 homers, 10 of them which cleared fences, to break the all-time team record by 11. He also drove in more than 70 runs in 37 games, and he pitches, too. These kind of numbers would earn him a couple million in signing bonuses if he were a little older.

These facts not withstanding, it should be no surprise that Lentz went three-for-five with two RBIs and a home run over the left-center field fence in the third inning of the championship game.

It should also be no surprise that Lentz pitched a complete game five-hitter with eight strikeouts, showcasing a devastating mix of curves, change-ups and fastballs that always hit the right spot. This is, after all, old hat. It was expected.

“John never gets down after something bad happens,” teammate Mike Leahman said. “Every big game, and every game, we count on him and he always delivers.”

After giving up a long home run to Safe Harbor catcher Jimmy Fritsch to open the second, Lentz went to work. He struck out the next two hitters and spent the evening teasing the rest of the lineup. When they were looking fastball, he threw a change. He threw a couple of curves and then busted the hitter inside. As the game wore on, after Manheim had put the game out of reach, Safe Harbor batters didn’t know what to do.

“They have beaten me before,” Lentz points out. “We wanted to get on them quick and get them backpedaling, and we did. After that, I just concentrated on what pitches to throw.

“I don’t pay attention to the batters, I just throw the ball where I want and if they hit it, somebody will catch it. I have a lot of great fielders behind me.”

Lentz is quick to give credit to his teammates. He deflects all the superlatives of his pitching performance to his coach, who calls the pitches; Andy Martin, who plays the role of the quintessential catcher; and his teammates in the field behind him, whom he keeps busy.

Being on the team and contributing is what it’s all about to Lentz.

“Everybody has a role on this team and everyone pitches in,” said Lentz of his teammates, who are obviously a close-knit bunch. “It’s a lot of fun to play on this team because we are always picking up on things and helping each other out. That’s the fun part. A win is a team win and when we accomplish our goals we do it together as a team.”

Manheim’s preseason goals included winning 30 games and taking the LNP Tournament . They grabbed both last night and finish the season 30-7.

They also wanted to send a teammate, who is moving to Northern California, away a champion. They did that, too. Last night they did anything they wanted to and now maybe there is more.

Maybe Lentz will make the soccer varsity this fall. Just maybe, he’ll do the same with the Barons’ baseball team, too.

Manheim Lions players clown around after winning the LNP championship.