Tuesday night was a “Sgt. Pepper’s” kind of night for Tyler Russell, as he got by with a little help from his friends.
Russell bulldogged his way to a complete-game victory and his teammates made four sterling defensive plays behind him as Manheim Township Black claimed the Junior-Midget championship of the New Era tournament with a 3-1 victory over Hempfield Black at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
Russell scattered six hits — stranding three Hempfield runners at third base — and took a shutout into the sixth inning before closing out the win.
“Tyler hung right in there,” said Township coach Ross Sachs. “He came through big.”
As did his defense, which turned Hempfield aside again and again.
The gems started early as first baseman Tyler Angermier snared Grant Oberholtzer’s second-inning liner, then caught Dustin Walter straying off third for an inning-ending double play.
One inning later, Hempfield had second and third with no outs when Tim Gailor grounded to shortstop Nolan Sachs, who was playing back.
Sachs threw a seed to catcher Matt Shatto, erasing Troy Walters who was coming on contact.
“He’s come up at times like that,” said his father. “Being in the ‘Jeter’ spot, being in the right spot at the right time.”
With two out in the fourth, Michael Hernandez hit a sinking liner to right. Right to Mark Kambic, who made the great catch.
“I was nervous. I was nervous,” said Kambic. “The minute I saw it coming in, the biggest thing was catching the ball. I knew I had to get it.”
Not the last time Hernandez would be robbed. Wth two outs in the sixth, a run in and a runner on third, John Stutz made an outstanding diving catch on Hernandez’s sinking liner to center.
“Coach always taught us to charge the ball,” said Stutz. “I charged it, dove, and hit the ground hard. It hurt, but once it hit my glove, I knew I had it.”
“I was kind of like, ‘Aw … I just have to go after the next guy.’ ” said Russell as the ball hit the fat part of the bat. “All of sudden I see the ball stay up for just a split-second more, he dives and comes up with the catch.”
Ross Sachs called it, “Our catch of the year.”
“They made some fantastic plays,” said Hempfield coach Eric Peterson. “We had our chances, we just didn’t get ’em in. It wasn’t our night that way.”
On the other hand, it was Township’s night early on.
Taking advantage of starter Michael Hernandez’s wildness — he walked three, throwing 13 balls in his 17 pitches — Township put a three-spot on the board in the first inning.
Nolan Sachs greeted reliever Grant Conway with an RBI single, scoring Russell.
When Dustin Walter bobbled Angermier’s grounder to second, scoring Kevin Bushong, Kambic pulled into third on the error and allowed himself the luxury of a huge lead down the third-base line.
Soon, he was in the dugout with Township’s third run, having stolen home.
“Coach always told us if we were far enough down the line, and feel we can score … I did my best. I was able to get safe,” he said.
Township had no further chances as Jon Peterson came on to pitch five shutout innings.
For the tournament, he threw 14 innings allowing four hits and no runs. He walked two and struck out 22.
“We didn’t bash (the ball) tonight,” said Ross Sachs. “(Peterson) is a heck of a pitcher. He was mowing them down. We were pleased to put enough up on the board to hold them off.”
With the finish line in sight, Russell had one more test to pass, in the form of Walters’ one-out double to center. No worries.
“It almost felt like a video game,” he said. “I was hitting my spots and everything was just going great.”
He got back-to-back strikeouts to nail the door closed.