New Era Correspondent
Nobody coaches “little ball” like Mountville’s Bob Sauders.
He’s the Gene Mauch of Lancaster County baseball, with one notable exception. Sauders wins when it really counts.
Sauders spun gold out of straw again Thursday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, when his Mountville Indians edged the Manor Ridge/West End Raptors 2-1 in a New Era Midget Tournament game that was great to win, a shame to lose and a joy to behold.
The win earned the Indians (28-23 overall) the right to play Maytown/Marietta Blue in the Midget-Midget Division semifinals Tuesday night back at Kunkle. Maytown/Marietta beat the Conestoga Valley Braves 14-3 in Thursday’s first game.
The Blue-Indians game will follow the 6 p.m. pairing of Manheim Township Black and the Safe Harbor Cubs. The division championship game is set for July 31 at 7 p.m.
Mountville’s Zach Rineer surrendered an unearned run on four hits, walking none while striking out six. MR/WE’s Michael Thomas allowed just two hits and walked two while striking out six. A hit-batsman and a wild pitch cost him dearly.
Deron Ream led off the fifth inning of a 1-1 game, pinch-hitting for Andy Long. From the third-base coach’s box Sauders called out, “Any way you can!”
Ream obliged by taking a 1-1 fastball in the thigh. Ream tried to walk it off, but Long re-entered the game and promptly stole second base. He then took third on a ground out by Brent Denison.
When a Mountville player gets to third base with less than two outs, fans lean forward, trying to make sure they have the pitcher, the runner, the batter and the catcher all in one sight line.
Will Sauders squeeze? Suicide or safety? Perhaps a straight steal of home? Or, will he be content to pounce on a wild pitch/passed ball opportunity?
With Long on third, Thomas went to work on Rob Devereaux, who had tripled to lead off the game. He got two quick strikes on Devereaux, then bounced one off the plate, and over catcher Casey Cole.
Long jetted down the basepath and stomped on home with the go-ahead run.
“We were hoping for a wild pitch with the curveballs,” said Sauders. “The guys were anticipating it and I didn’t care where it got to. If it got by (Cole), they were going.”
Rineer then had to navigate past the top of the Raptor lineup in the top of the sixth.
He got Cole on strikes and cleaned up Thomas’ bunt attempt in front of the mound. Bobby Adams was the last hope for the Raptors (26-9), and he nearly changed the outcome of the game.
Rineer threw a 1-2 mistake — a dropball that didn’t drop — and Adams sent a towering drive into the left-center alley. Denison, on the dead run from straightaway centerfield, dove for the ball, nearly colliding with leftfielder Jonathon Moser.
As the ump stared to flash the safe sign, Denison rolled over, lifted his glove and showed the ball, nestled in the webbing. Game over. Cue mad Mountville celebration.
“This is a pretty new team,” said Sauders. “They’ve really come together. You can count on different kids to come through when they need to.”
“We’ve been playing really good ball the last three, four weeks. You just saw them jelling as the season went along. I’m really happy to be associated with them.”
With Devereaux on third in the first inning, Rineer dropped a bunt up the first-base line. Thomas fielded the ball, and as soon as he commited to first, Devereaux came home on the safety squeeze.
The Raptors’ run came in the third inning. Cole hit a one-out single and stole second. Thomas grounded to short and Cole took third.
Long, playing first, tried to catch Cole straying off third as the play ended, but he threw the ball past the bag, allowing Cole to tie the game.
That set up the fantastic finish.
“We’ve battled these guys all year like this,” said Raptors coach Joe Oktera. “Out of our Penn Manor League, if I feared anybody it was Bob Sauders and Mountville. They just hang and if you let them hang, they find ways to win the ballgame.”
In the opener, Nate Witmer tripled twice and scored three runs. Davin Green drove in three runs with a single and a triple and Erick Baker pitched four innings of two-hit, shutout ball as Maytown/Marietta Blue (26-7) knocked out the CV Braves.
Blue blended a 10-hit attack with five walks and 10 stolen bases, but thanks to seven CV errors, five of the runs were tainted.
While most of the Braves (23-2) had trouble solving Baker, he was no mystery to Chad Yowler, who singled and tripled off Baker. The CV catcher also doubled home one run and scored another in the middle of a fifth-inning uprising against reliever Seth Hershey.
That outburst brought the Braves their three runs. There could’ve been more. Ben Aigler, who tripled, was nailed at home trying to advance on Mark Royer’s infield single. Omar Cirilo, who singled home Yowler, was doubled up at third trying to tag-and-run after Sean Steffy’s fly ball.