New Era Correspondent
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it breeds great respect.
And some pretty good baseball, too.
Such was the case Thursday night in the New Era Tournament midget-midget semifinals.
For the second year in a row, Maytown/Marietta Blue and the Mountville Indians locked horns in the semifinals. And for the second year in a row the Indians (52-4) sent Blue home, this time by a 4-1 score in the first game of a doubleheader in Mount Joy.
In the nightcap, for the fifth time this year, Hempfield Black took the field against Solanco. And for the fifth time this year one run separated two teams that split their first four meetings. This was the deciding game.
Wes Foley scored from third base with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, delivering a 6-5, extra-inning victory to Solanco (23-9). It was Solanco’s second straight last-at-bat victory of the tournamaent.
“We’ve been doing this all year,” said manager Jeff Miller. “We just keep coming back. I don’t know if the kids have gotten used to it, but I’m not used to it yet.”
Foley started the winning rally, looping a one-out single behind first base, his first hit of the night. With Ben Miller at the plate, Foley took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on another wild pitch, this one on a pitchout.
Hempfield manager Jack Merrifield then intentionally walked Miller and Jason Long and pulled his infield in.
Joel Kendig fouled off two attempts to bunt Foley home as Hempfield reliever Mark Merrifield kept the ball away. Kendig worked the count to 2-and-2, then showed bunt on the next offering.
The pitch was high, a little away, and wild, and Foley scampered home with the game-winner.
“I’m not real fast,” Foley said, “but I did what I could do. I was ready the whole time (Kendig) was at bat.”
“This was a fantastic game,” declared Jack Merrifield, with no fear of contradiction. “They made the plays. We did, too. I thought we played a great game. We were just one run shy.”
It was an anticlimactic ending to a long battle that began with each team scoring twice in the first inning.
Black’s Mike Cosimano knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice and scored on an error. Solanco answered by scoring runs on a balk and a wild pitch.
In the second inning, Jordan Arment lashed a ball that went through an opening in the fence in the rightfield corner for a ground-rule double. The hit scored John Fortna, but Brandon Hinkle, who was already around third before the ball exited the field, was sent back to third. He never scored.
Derek Dornes doubled home Cosimano in the third, and Ed Gailor drove in Black’s fifth run with a hit in the fourth inning. It was a last hurrah, as Hempfield (28-8-1), with nine hits in the first four innings, got only three in the last four and stopped scoring.
Meanwhile Solanco stayed close on Kendig’s RBI single in the third and tied the game in the fifth on another hit by Kendig and an error.
Hempfield missed an opportunity to cash in on a first-and-third, one-out situation in he sixth inning, when reliever Ray Brackin coaxed a pair of grounders to Ben Miller at short. The first, a fielder’s choice, erased Jordan Arment at home.
“We said before the game, “Defense will win it,” Jeff Miller said. “We knew Hempfield was going to put the ball in play. (Defense) really helped us stay in the game.”
Ben Miller, who got the win, pitched the last two innings for Solanco, allowing only 1 hit, by Fortna. Solanco had a chance to win in the bottom of the sixth, when it loaded the bases on two infield singles sandwiched around an intentional walk.
But Merrifield, who releived Hinkle in the fifth inning, retired Kendig for the first time in the game, striking him out on three pitches.
Mountville didn’t make much contact against Blue’s Erick Baker, who held the Indians to four hits. But Mountville still got the job done in typical Indian fashion, manufacturing three of its four runs.
The Indians broke on top in the first inning on winning pitcher Bill Pennington’s sacrifice fly, but they should’ve gotten more out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
“We had an opportunity to open it up,” said Indians coach Bob Sauders. “We did not take advantage. But you know, they’re 11 and 12 (years old). They make mistakes. We (coaches) still make mistakes out there.”
They almost didn’t get that run, as Darren Ream couldn’t get back to first in time and was gunned down to end the inning. At first his out was ruled a continuation play and the run was disallowed.
Upon further review, it was decided the throw into the catcher from left field broke the continuation, and the run stood. For the longest time, it looked like it would be the only run of the game.
But Baker walked four, Blue (27-6) committed three errors and Mountville took advantage. Two of the walks and two errors, on a ball hit by Brandon Kline, brought in two Mountville runs in the fourth inning.
In the fifth inning, John Brubaker scored his second run of the night on a walk, two steals and a throwing error by the catcher.
Maytown/Marietta missed a chance to get back in the game in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and two out. Pinch-hitter Joel Keefer hit a towering fly to left field, but Ryan Fiester settled under it for the third out.
In the next inning, Blue broke through on Taylor Rettew’s RBI single, which scored T.J. Houseal who reached on an error. That was all Pennington allowed, as he scattered six hits, walked one and struck out fourteen.
“We knew it was going to be scratching and clawing,” said M/M manager Rick Baker. “You’re not going to get them out every time. To hold them to four, and only one earned run says a lot.”