New Era Sports Writer
One night into the 59th annual New Era Midget Baseball Tournament a familiar pattern appears to be taking shape.
The Mountville Indians seem to be the class of the midget-midget field again.
The defending champs in the 10-12 age group opened defense of their title with a solid 7-2 victory over the Mountville Phillies at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field Thursday night.
Monday night in the semifinals the Indians will meet a team they have already beaten six times this season.
So can anybody keep them from winning again?
“We’re really due,” said Mount Joy Blue coach Ron Wagner, whose team is 0-6 against the Mountville Indians this season. “The kids are really up for this.”
Mount Joy Blue earned its spot in the semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Hempfield Black. Jason Sauder pitched a two-hit shutout and Peter Sheetz drove in the only run with an RBI single in the fourth to lead Mount Joy (23-12).
The Mountville Indians and Mount Joy Blue will meet in one semifinal Monday at 6 p.m. at Kunkle. The other semifinalists will be decided tonight at Kunkle, where the Warwick Phillies meet Pequea Valley at 6 and Manheim Township Black meets Manheim at 8. Those winners play Monday at 8 p.m.
This has been another banner season for the Mountville Indians, who ran their record to 42-7 with Thursday night’s win. Despite the fact that only four players are back from last season’s New Era Tournament midget-midget champs, the Indians have lost to only two county teams this season. The other five losses have come in tournaments to teams from outside the area.
“Last year we really had a dominant team,” said Indians coach Bob Sauders. “We had some really big boys on that team, and this year it’s not the same composition. We have to work a little harder for our runs, compared to what we did last year. We have played a lot of very close games.”
The Mountville Phillies (30-8) were no match for the Indians because they are Mountville’s lower-level midget-midget team. The Indians get the cream of the town’s crop. The Phillies get what’s left over.
The Indians won the Penn Manor League’s Section 1-A title. The Phillies won the Penn Manor League’s Section 1-AA title. They never met this season until Thursday night, and the result was not surprising.
Indians pitcher Derek Welsh pitched 41-e innings of no-hit ball, striking out eight. Alex Manacher pitched the other 12-e innings and allowed two hits, one a solo homer by the Phillies’ Brandon Hickey.
Meanwhile, the Indians’ offense rapped out seven hits and took advantage of three Phillies’ errors. Aaron Law went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs, and Josh Longsderff went 2-for-3 with 1 RBI.
“I really didn’t want to play that team,” said Sauders, fearing a one-sided contest.
But the Phillies wanted to get them, even though it was like the Reading Phillies taking on the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We were looking forward to it,” said Phillies coach Brian Hickey. “We’ve been talking all year about playing them. All our guys wanted to play them.
“They had the first 12 picks (to select players), we had picks 13 through 24. Picks 13 through 24 did their best.
“We really thought we could win the game. The key was for us to play defense, and we struggled on some plays.
“We came up a little short, but it was fun.”
The Mount Joy-Hempfield game was much more competitive.
Sauder and Hempfield’s Jordan Neff were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel until the fourth inning, when a two-out error gave Mount Joy life. Jon Heisey then walked, and Sheetz singled to drive in Derek Miller.
That’s all Sauder needed. He allowed only two hits, both to leadoff hitter Josh Mush. Mush reached third with one out in the first, but was stranded there. He reached second in the third inning but was stranded again.
Sauder, who struck out only four, then retired the last 10 batters. He was helped by a defense that did not commit an error.
“We’ve been playing good defense all year. That’s been holding us together, and timely hitting,” said Wagner.
“It was one of those nights,” said Hempfield Black coach Jerry Byers, whose team ended its season with a record of 24-12. “We just didn’t hit.”
Sauder is Mount Joy’s No. 2 pitcher, but he pitched like a No. 1.
“This was probably one of my better games,” Sauder said. “It was my second complete game.”
It was the third time this season that Mount Joy Blue beat Hempfield Black.
“I was worried about that,” said Wagner. “But these guys played great ball.”
“They have our number for some reason,” said Byers. “I had a feeling we’d win tonight. We were crushing the ball in BP.”
Now Mount Joy Blue will have to figure out a way to beat the Mountville Indians.
“We’ve just got to play a good game,” Wagner said. “You can’t make any mistakes against Mountville. Then you have a shot at them.
“But it’ll take a great team to beat them.”
Tradition is key to Indians’ success
By Keith Schweigert
Assistant Sports Editer
Bob Sauders is big on tradition.
His Mountville Indians Midget-Midget team is steeped in it. Players know about the glorious exploits of previous champions and strive to equal them.
This year’s group has a lot to live up to. Mountville is gunning for its third straight New Era Tournament title and its fifth since 1995.
The Indians took the first step with Thursday night’s 7-2 victory over the Mountville Phillies.
“The New Era Tournament is the big one,” said Sauders, who is in his 17th season with the program. “It’s very meaningful to the kids. We play in a lot of tournaments in a season, but this is the one the kids really want to win and the one we aim for every year.”
This year’s team is much different than the one that romped through the early rounds of the tournament and won the title with a 4-3 extra-inning victory over Hempfield Black in last year’s final.
That team was literally perfect, going 40-0 to become just the second team in 57 years to win the New Era Tournament with an undefeated record.
Most of the players from that team have moved on to the Junior-Midget level. Only four are back this season.
But the winning tradition continues.
The Indians’ victory Thursday night improved their record to 42-7. Only two of those losses were to area teams. The rest came in the weekend all-star tournaments they regularly attend.
“Last year, we were fairly dominant,” Sauders said. “This year, we’ve had to scuffle more. We’ve been in a lot of 1-run games. It’s been tougher, but we’re trying to keep it going.”
They’ve been going for a long time. The Indians’ season started all the way back in March. In addition to their Penn Manor League schedule, they’ve played in several all-star and AAU tournaments.
Mountville plays about 50 games in an average season.
That’s a big commitment for your average 12-year-old, but Sauders has no trouble keeping his players focused.
“It’s not hard to get them out,” he said. “They’re at practice early, every day. I don’t have to push them to attend – they push each other.
“I believe in a lot of practices, but not long ones. We’re there for an hour or so, that’s it. We want to make it fun.”
Such a rigorous schedule can also be tough on the parents. Vacations have to be scheduled around games. Shuttling the kids to the games can be a grind, especially when you throw in four or five out-of-state tournaments.
But Sauders rarely has any problems.
“We have a talk with the parents every year,” he said. “For the most part, they know what they’re getting into, and they’re very supportive. They know we’re going to play all the kids as much as we can, but there’s no guaranteed playing time.
“Have there been some years where we’ve had some problems? Sure. But overall I’d say we’ve had less than the average team. The support system we have in place has been great.”
He gets plenty of support at home as well. His wife, Deb, understands his commitment and supports it.
“If you ask her, she’ll tell you this is my life,” he said with a laugh. “I couldn’t do this without her understanding. She’s there at every game.”
Sauders must be doing something right. Thursday night, the hills around Kunkle Field were dotted with former players back to cheer on the Indians and their longtime coach.
And he still enjoys teaching youngsters how to play the game.
“I like the kids,” he said. “It’s a good age group. They’re eager to learn, and they work hard. Over the years, my coaches and I have developed a good chemistry with them. That’s the thing I like the most.”