Experiencing tournament baseball success has been a 50-50 proposition for the Warwick Phillies this year. The Mountville Indians, on the other hand, are victory personified. In any venue.
The Phillies and Indians stepped off on the right foot Thursday, the opening night of the 58th LNP Baseball Tournament, reaching the Midget-Midget semifinals.
Warwick (25-13) edged Hempfield Red 5-3 in the second game of a quarterfinal doubleheader at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field. In the opener, Mountville, the defending M-M champion, stopped the Manheim Twp. Streaks 10-0 in a game shortened an inning by the mercy rule.
D.J. Ream set the pace for the Indians (38-0) pitching four innings of one-hit ball, walking none and striking out nine. He also dialed up the offense, going 2-for-3 with a two-run home run in the first inning and a two-run double in the fourth.
Ream is one of four returning players for veteran manager Bob Sauders. Nate Beck, Brandon Kline and Drew Schanz are also back.
“We try to have a nucleus (back) every year,” said Sauders. “Four we love.
“They’re expected to be the leaders. It helps us. The kids coming in learn a lot from the returnees.”
Mountville wasted little time getting the advantage on the undermanned Streaks (16-10-1). Chris Markel (3-for-3) stroked a one-out double in the first inning and, after a strikeout, Ream easily cleared Kunkle Field’s newly heightened fence in right.
Eric Macik and Chris Markel each drove in runs in the second to make it 4-0. Macik doubled home a run in the fourth and Ream banged a two-bagger off the fence in left for two more runs. Back-to-back triples by Schanz and Steve Remley, two errors and a hit batsman set up Beck’s game-ending base hit.
In all, the Indians totaled 14 hits on what Sauders called, “an off night at the plate.”
Ream was nearly untouchable, throwing a fastball, curve and splitter. Brian Sourber was Township’s only baserunner, singling off Ream in the second inning.
The Phillies — 15-3 in the Susquehanna League, but 10-10 in tournaments — stole 18 bases, including a steal of home, and scored their final two runs of the game on wild pitches.
Aggressive baserunning helped them overcome a 9-6 advantage in hits for Hempfield, as did some stellar defense by Warwick. Red loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning on three straight hits. With one out, Mike Marinaro executed a safety bunt.
Pitcher Austin Klinger’s throw home was high as Derek Longenecker scored, but catcher Josh Watson tracked down the ball and threw to firstbaseman Alex Ney, who had alertly covered home, nailing Jeff Lenhard at the plate.
That kept Warwick ahead 2-1. Ney played an important role again in the seventh inning when Hempfield, trailing 5-2, loaded the bases with no outs.
That forced Klinger from the mound in favor of Bryce Billow, who got Ryan Givens to ground to Ney. Ney ran the ball towards home before flipping to Watson for the force, nearly getting a double play by tagging Givens in the basepath.
Two grounders to shortstop Zack Shank later, the Phillies had their victory.
“Alex saved us that inning,” said Phils manager Dave Erb. “His glove is dynamite.”
As was Shank’s, which snared nearly everything hit in the vicinity of shortstop.
“He comes up with a lot,” Erb said. “When we have our leather going, we’re going to keep ourselves in games.”
Watson also gunned out Kevin Daly at second, trying to take an extra base on a fourth-inning RBI single and Klinger stranded David Ashline, who had tripled in the fifth, on a groundout to second.
Hempfield got all its production from the 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup as Longenecker and Lenhard were 2-for-3 and Daly 3-for-3. The rest were 2-for-17.
Warwick’s running game also had something to do with this win. Shank scored the first run of the game — on a single by Klinger — and drove in the second.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the fifth inning, Erb put on the suicide squeeze with Billow batting, no outs and Mark Stuckey at third.
Billow missed the bunt and Stuckey was a dead duck. Disappointing, yes. But not a cause for the ritual hanging of the head.
Billow reached on a single, stole over to third, then stole home on a 2-1 pitch to Watson. Klinger, who walked, stole over to third while Carson Geib got on after being hit by a pitch.
Klinger scored on a first-pitch wild pitch to Brent Hostetter and another wild pitch later in Hostetter’s at-bat plated Geib.
“We could’ve quit that inning,” Erb said. “We could’ve sank right there, but we battled through it. We battled every inning tonight.”
The two teams will meet in the first game of the M-M semis at Kunkle Monday night at 6 p.m. The winners of tonight’s quarterfinals will meet at 8 p.m.