Midget tourney opens with twinbill tonight

By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent

After a three-year run of championships from 2001-03, Hempfield Black hopes to hoist the New Era Tournament Midget trophy again this year.

Hempfield was eliminated in the first round last season.

This year, the Black (20-3) is one of the favorites to get back to the title game.

The Midget tournament opens tonight with a doubleheader at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field. Solanco Gray (20-2) opens against Hempfield Gray in the first game at 5:30 p.m. In the nightcap, the Lititz Oddfellows and St. Leo square off at 7:45.

On Friday, Hempfield Black squares off against Manheim Township Black in the first game and Comet Blue takes on defending champ Donegal in the second.

Both games are at War Memorial Field.

Here’s a look at the tournament contenders:

HEMPFIELD BLACK
COACH:
 John Enoch
LEAGUE: Lanco School National Champion, League Champion.
RECORD: 20-3
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 4. 1997, 2001-02-03.
KEY PLAYERS: p Ryan Walters (6-0,.333 BA), 1b Ryan Enoch, (.483), ss/p Mark Merrifield (6-1, .408), of Tyler Swezey (.397), of Jon Moser (.353), c Joel Gatti (.340), cf Robbie Devereaux (.333), p Ryan Hungarter (4-1, .333)

SOLANCO GRAY
COACH:
 Hobert McMillion
LEAGUE: Lanco School American Champion, League Runnerup.
RECORD: 20-2
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. Solanco Gold won in 1992 & 96. New Providence won in 1946.
KEY PLAYERS: p/1b Nate Blough, p/of Nic Lewis, of Jordan McMillion, p Mitch Nesbitt, p/3b Josh Hershberger, 2 Josh Long.

LITITZ ODDFELLOWS
COACH: Frank Camera

LEAGUE: Lanco School National runnerup.
RECORD: 12-7
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
KEY PLAYERS: p/ss Tyler Kline (3-1 2.94 ERA), c Jason Griffith (.412), p/cf Zach Snyder (2-1 2.53), 1b/p Mike Freeman (.382), p/lf Skylar Gingrich (.418), rf Andy Thompson.

PENN MANOR COMET BLUE
COACH:
 Joe Oktela
LEAGUE: Lanco School National 4th place.
RECORD: 9-10
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. Manor Ridge (one of the predecessors that gave way to the Comet program) won titles in 1981-82, & 88.
KEY PLAYERS: Oktela values the team over the individual. However, he does note that his outfield has been solid all year, and his middle infield has come on strong in the second half of the season, keying Blue’s late-season surge.

DONEGAL
COACH:
 Ryan Hamilton
LEAGUE: Lanco School Keystone CHampion.
RECORD: 14-4
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 1. Donegal is the defending champion. The Mount Joy program won titles in 1968, 87 & 93.
KEY PLAYERS: p Tyler Persun, c Nate Witwer, inf Nick Herbert, cf TJ Houseal, 3b Seth Hershey, DH Davin Green.

ST. LEO
COACH:
 Paul Jankowski
LEAGUE: Lanco School Keystone Runnerup.
RECORD: 11-5
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
KEY PLAYERS: p Mike Giurlando, cf David Rudy, of/ss Tom Eck, 1b Andrew Collier, p/rf Mark Long, p/1b Jeff Helm.

HEMPFIELD GRAY
COACH:
 Rob Arment
LEAGUE: Lanco School Keystone 3rd place.
RECORD: 11-6
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
KEY PLAYERS: p Bill Pennington, ss/2b John Brubaker, c John Fortna, lf Jordan Arment, 1b Ryan Feister.

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP BLACK
COACH:
 Larry Bires
LEAGUE: Lanco School National 3rd place. (Defeated Lanco Community Champion Warwick Reds in NET Play-in game).
RECORD: 10-9
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. 2004 Runnerup. Various Township-based teams won titles in 1969, 71-72, 78, 86 & 91.
KEY PLAYERS: 1b/p Carlos “Los” Medina (.382), 3b/DH Will Bruey (.365), c Andrew McVey (.361), p/3b Keith Bires (.351), of Paul Hester (.350), 2b/ss Bernie Zaritzky (.292).