Mountville captures Era title; Solanco doomed by 13-run 1st inning

The Mountville Indians pose with the New Era Tournament Midget-Midget Division championship trophy.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

The Team That Wouldn’t Die remained true to its reputation. But this time its opponent, well versed in the art of victory, also lived up to its reputation.

The Mountville Indians won the Midget-Midget Division championship of the 57th New Era Tournament Monday night, defeating Solanco 17-9 at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.

Making its fifth title-game appearance in the last eight years, Mountville (53-4) used a 13-run first inning to ensure the Indians’ fourth New Era Tournament title since 1990 and their fourth in Bob Souders’ 15-year tenure as manager.

Solanco (24-10) had come from behind with last-at-bat rallies to defeat the Warwick Phillies 10-9 and Hempfield Black 7-6 earlier in the tournament. Coming back from thirteen runs down just wasn’t in the cards this time.

“Too big a hole from the start, against a team like that,” Solanco’s Jeff Miller said. “We did chip away a little bit. We won five of the six innings… ”

But oh that inning they lost.

The Indians stung starter Jason Long for seven hits and nine earned runs, and roughed reliever Ben Miller for three more hits and four unearned runs in their opening salvo.

“We were just looking for good pitches in our zones,” said shortstop John Brubaker, who singled twice in the first to drive in two runs.

“We were seeing the ball really well and the pitcher didn’t have all that much speed,” observed catcher Brandon Kline (3-for-4), who had a 2-run triple and a 3-run double in the first inning. “We were just sitting on it and driving it.”

Allowing that Long’s short outing wasn’t a representative one, Miller said, “It seemed like he didn’t have that pop in his fastball, or any of his pitches, like he did last week. Maybe throwing 93 pitches last week and trying to come back in three days was a little too much to overcome.”

Mountville sent 16 batters to the plate in the first inning, and when it was over, every one of the starting nine had reached base at least once. Brubaker (2-for-5, 2 runs, 1 RBIs), Kline and winning pitcher Bill Pennington (2-for-4, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) had two hits apiece in the inning.

“We knew if we hit, we would be fine,” Souders said. “And we hit.”

Did they ever! Jonathon Moser (2-for-4, 3 runs), Ryan Feister (3-for-4, 2 runs) and Josh Lantz (2-for-3, 3 runs), all had multi-hit games.

But after taking a 13-1 lead after one inning, Mountville backed off the accelerator.

“I was worried that we might let up, and I think we did. I don’t like that,” said Souders. “I understand it, but I don’t like it.”

Pennington had some issues with the strike zone — he walked nine in 3 innings — and allowed seven runs, two earned, on just four hits, before giving way to Brubaker.

Brubaker yielded an unearned run and pair of hits while closing out the victory.

“You’ve got to hand it to Solanco,” Souders said. “A lot of teams would’ve just folded up their tent and gone home. They kept plugging away.”

Solanco got one of those 13 runs back on a bases-loaded walk by Neil McGettigan in the first inning. McGettigan was not in the starting lineup, but got the call when starter Joel Kendig took ill, right before the first pitch.

An RBI single by Ben Miller (2-for-3, 2 runs scored), an error and a wild pitch accounted for three Solanco runs in the second, and a passed ball, wild pitch and error posted three more in the fourth.

Jason Long (2-for-3) drove home his second run of the night with an infield single in the fifth inning. That run erased, one final time, Mountville’s 10-run advantage and assured the game would go a regulation six innings.

The Indians flirted with the mercy rule, scoring on D.J. Ream’s walk and a two-base error on Moser’s single in the third and a wild pitch and Drew Schanz’s RBI double in the fourth. Moser singled and journeyed around the diamond in the fifth on a stolen base, a throwing error and a wild pitch.

All part of an effort that erased the taste of last year’s championship game loss to Manheim Township.

“We’ve played in a lot of tournaments (this year),” Souders said. “We’ve gone up to Reading, we’re going up to Cooperstown, (both part of the Indians’ participation in the USSSA) but I will tell you, this is the tournament we wanted. It’s always important. This is the goal for all of us.”

And once they finally put this year to bed, they can point to next year. “If they’ll have me back, we’ll try it again next year,” Souders promised.

Mountville captures Era title; Despite long season, Indians going strong

By Keith Schweigert
New Era Sports Writer

To say Mountville traveled a long road to win its fourth New Era Tournament Midget-Midget championship since 1990 would be a vast understatement.

Monday night’s title-clinching 17-9 victory over Solanco at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field was the end of a journey that began all the way back in March.

The Indians have played in an astounding 57 games since then, posting a 53-4 record. They’ve traveled across the state to play in weekend tournaments and have gathered several nights a week to practice.

And in all that time, Mountville coach Bob Souders has never had to beg anyone to show up.

“The kids this year have been really super,” he said Monday night, moments after receiving a celebratory dousing from his players. “They work hard, they listen, and they really want to learn the game. We’ve played 57 games this year, and they’re not burned out at all. They love it, and it makes my job easy.”

And it shows in the results. Souders has guided five different Mountville teams to the New Era Tournament finals since 1994. He’s won four times since 1990, the last coming in 1997.

To have that kind of success, the talent must be there. This year’s team had a deep pitching staff and solid hitting up and down the lineup.

But the number one factor in every championship team has been the players’ dedication, according to Souders.

“I hear some real horror stories from other organizations, about how they can’t get kids out to practice,” he said. “We had a practice scheduled for tonight at 5:00 to get ready for the game. I got to the field 20 minutes early, and there were already six or seven kids there throwing around.”

Of course, that dedication runs both ways.

“My coaches and I don’t just show up at the last minute before a game or a practice,” said Souders. “We’re there early, too. I think the kids see our dedication, and it sort of rubs off.”

Sauders’ objective is to teach his players the fundamentals. In his view, the best way to do that is to get them out on the field as much as possible.

The formula certainly worked this year. In addition to its busy Penn Manor League schedule, Mountville won six tournament championships in competitions across Berks and Lehigh Counties.

“In those tournaments, we were up against all-star teams from entire leagues,” said Souders. “It really gives us a sense of how we stack up. It tells me that there’s a lot of good baseball in Lancaster County, and we should be proud of ourselves.”

The extra games also gave Souders a chance to develop several pitchers. Instead of using a two-man rotation, he was able to put six or seven different players on the mound.

“If we had only played once or twice a week, I probably would’ve been content to use one or two guys,” he said. “The tournaments allowed me to use a lot of different players, and that worked to our advantage.”

Normally, the New Era Tournament marks the end of Mountville’s season. But this year, the Indians will be in action until the end of August.

Earlier this summer, the Mountville was invited to participate in the Hall of Fame tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y. The week-long tourney, which opens on Aug. 23, will pit the Indians against all-star teams from across the country.

“We want to play the best, and that’s what we’re getting,” said Souders. “It’s a chance to see how we stack up.”

To prepare themselves for Cooperstown, the Indians will play in another weekend tournament the week before.

So when it’s all said and done, this year’s season will be over 70 games long for Mountville.

That’s a lot of baseball for your average 12-year-old.

But Souders said his kids are anything but average.

“When parents sign their kids up to play for Mountville, they understand that we’re going to have a lot of games and a lot of practice,” he said. “Our objective is to see how far we can bring them from March to August.

“The team that we had back in March isn’t the same team you see now. They’ve improved by a lot. They’re a special group of kids.”