By Dave Byrne
Can the Mountville Indians repeat their feat of 2002-04, when they consecutively won their fifth, sixth and seventh New Era Tournament titles?
The two-time defending champion Indians shoot for their 10th title overall as the Lancaster Newspapers New Era Tournament gets underway tonight with four qualifying series in the 12U — aka Midget-Midget — Division.
The qualifying series are a prelude to the 68th edition of the New Era, which begins July 8 at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
The tournament will be double-elimination with the championship game scheduled for 7 p.m. July 12.
If needed, a second, final championship game would be held July 15, also at 7 p.m.
Going for the three-peat, Mountville is the top seed and hosts Garden Spot in a best-of-three series.
The returning M-M runner-up Warwick Phillies are the No. 2 seed and hope to secure their fourth overall title, and first since 2009, as they entertain the Penn Manor Comets.
Warwick Travel Baseball has two representatives in the tournament as the Warwick Braves — formerly the Lititz Braves — moved up to Section One play in the Lancaster County Youth Baseball League this season.
The Braves, seeded fifth, face the fourth-seeded Strasburg-Willow Street Cardinals, who last won a M-M title in 2008 and have claimed seven NET crowns.
The Manheim Township Streaks and Ephrata Dragons match up in a series that features Township, the No. 3 seed, with two titles overall, the last coming in 2001, and Ephrata, which won its only title as the Norlanco Redbirds in 2006.
The Warwick Phillies and Braves will share hosting duties at the Warwick Township Field No. 2.
The Comets host the Phillies in the middle game of the series at Cresswell Park.
Township and Ephrata will split between Overlook Park and the Ephrata Township Field.
SWS plays its home sets at the Herr’s Flowers Field, off Lampeter Road.
All games are best-of-three and start at 6 p.m. The top seeds, Mountville, Warwick Phillies, Manheim Township and SWS, have home-field advantage.
Mountville Indians vs. Garden Spot
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Indians (40-4) went 18-0 and finished first in the Pacific Division of the Lancaster County Youth Baseball League (LCYBL), earning the No. 1 seed. Garden Spot (9-10-1) defeated Manheim VFW 10-4 in a play-in qualifier to nab the No. 8 seed.
ABOUT MOUNTVILLE: The defending champion Indians return eight players, six of whom are hitting over .400, four of those over .500. Ryan Moffatt (12-1, 1.36 ERA) and Ty Vaughn (10-1, 1.36) head a pitching staff that goes seven deep.
ABOUT GARDEN SPOT: Making its NET debut, Garden Spot has one player, Aiden Bracken, who played at the 12U level last year. Bracken, Dylan Crosson and Daniel Skinner top both the offensive and pitching categories with Travis Myers also getting the ball on the mound.
Warwick Phillies vs. Penn Manor Comets
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The No. 2-seeded Phillies (34-5) nailed down the LCYBL Atlantic Division with a 16-1 record. The Comets (11-8) blanked Solanco 4-0 in a play-in qualifier to take the seventh seed.
ABOUT WARWICK PHILLIES: Two players return from last year’s M-M runner-up squad, Nick Breznak and Max Bright. Breznak hit .443 and is 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA. Leading the Phils offensively is Colby Martin (.539), Ethan Heller (.500), Brock Fassnacht (.494) and Kyle Gibble (.444). Fassnacht (7-1, 2.64) backed Breznak on the hill with help from Colby Martin (5-0, 0.26), Brendan Martin (5-1, 2.32) and Dagen Young (5-0, 2.42).
ABOUT PENN MANOR: Brady Hinkle (.448) is the only returnee from last year, when the Comets exited in the first round. HeÕs back in action after missing eight games with a broken arm. Josh Gibson (.512), Michael Morris (.449) and Blake Martin (.426) lead the team in hitting. The starting staff is led by Ty Erisman (4-1) and Ryan Shirk (3-2).
Manheim Township Streaks vs. Ephrata Dragons
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Streaks (16-6) secured the No. 3 seed, finishing second in the LCYBL Atlantic Division. The Dragons (10-7-1) finished third in the Atlantic Division and improved to the No. 6 seed after a play-in loss in 2012.
ABOUT MANHEIM TOWNSHIP:Brenden Moshos, Cameron Barto and Ben DeMarco return from last yearÕs Section One squad. Moshos, DeMarco and Bryce Behmer all hit over .400 to lead the Streaks. Behmer, Barto and DeMarco are part of a pitching staff that goes six deep.
ABOUT EPHRATA: Zachary McGillan and Dylan Embiscuso return from last year’s Dragons. Nine players from Ephrata’s Section Two representative, the Knights, move up. McGillan and Nate Young lead the attack with McGillan heading a five-man pitching staff.
Strasburg-Willow St. Cardinals vs. Warwick Braves
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The LCYBL Pacific Division runner-up Cardinals (25-7) are the No. 4 seed. The Braves (21-13) finished just behind SWS in the Pacific and are seeded fifth.
ABOUT SWS: Kris Pirozzi (2.55 ERA) is the only returning player from the 2012 Cardinals and is part of a nine-man pitching staff that includes Connor Blantz (2.89) and Dylan Byler (1.80). Blantz (.482, 35 RBIs) and Byler (.402, 24 RBIs) are part of a balanced attack that features Nevin Book (.410, 19 RBIs), Patrick Holmes (.413, 26 RBIs) and Austin Lauver (.413, 16 RBIs).
ABOUT WARWICK BRAVES: For the first time in a long time the Warwick Travel talent level was deemed deep enough to field two Section One teams. Nick Fucci leads the team with a .400 average. Zach Shertzer (.365 avg.) is tops in hits (27) and RBIs (23). Isaac Erickson (.327), Adam Kurtz and Trey Glass also are among the Braves’ leaders. Nate Madeira and Jackson Davies each won seven games while Blake Hoover and Adam Kurtz account for the Braves’ other seven victories.