By Dave Bryne
While the LNP Baseball Tournament of Champions is now eligible to collect Social Security, there is little talk of retiring this annual gathering of Lancaster’s baseball best.
Ever refreshed by a constant infusion of youth, the NET stays relevant even as it kicks off its 65th tournament Thursday evening at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.
The three-week gala begins with the Midget-Midget tournament featuring a balanced 12-and-under field of eight teams from the Lancaster County Youth Baseball League. The Junior-Midget (14-and-under) tournament begins next Thursday, also at Kunkle Field, while the Midget tournament runs Aug. 2-5, once again at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Here’s a look at the M-M tourney:
Mountville Indians (29-8) vs. Manheim VFW (8-9); 6 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: After a rare first-round elimination, with a roster that was even rarer for its youthfulness, the Indians are back, having won the Pacific Division championship of Section 1 of the LCYBL 12-U league. The Indians lost to Ephrata, 9-8, in the semifinals of the league tournament, but have titles from the Mount Joy, Mountville and Manheim tournaments under their belt. Manheim, fourth in the Atlantic Division, pulled the 8th seed for the NET and drilled MT Black, the 9th seed, 9-1 in a play-in qualifier.
LNP TOURNAMENT HONORS: Winners of seven NET M-M titles overall, Mountville will shoot for its first title since 2004. With back-to-back runnerup finishes behind it, Manheim is looking for title No. 4.
LOOK FOR: With an unprecedented seven returning players, Mountville’s 5-man deep pitching staff is lead by pitchers Jonathon Beck (10-1, 1.29 ERA) and Ben Miller (10-2, 0.83).
Warwick Phillies (22-13) vs. Donegal (16-7); 20 minutes after completion of first game
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Phillies finished second in the LCYBL playoffs and also took second in the Mt. Joy tournament. Donegal was runnerup to Mountville in the LCYBL regular season before being upset by Warwick in the first round of the league playoffs. Donegal won the MOSELF tournament and placed second to Mountville in the Mountville tournament.
LNP TOURNAMENT HONORS: The Phillies are the defending M-M champion after claiming the program’s third overall NET crown. In its second year of competition Donegal looks to go at least one step beyond last year.
LOOK FOR: Luke Mariano (.475), Jordan Cipalla (.328, 2 HRs), Colin Gibble (.304) and Tyler Martin (.301) stick for the Phils while Zach Peters (7-2, 1.70), Gibble (6-3, 4.72) and Tim Griest (4-3, 3.33) toe the rubber. Camron Nye (.434 avg; 7-3 pitching), Zaak Hall (.428), Derek Mohr (.425) and Ben Ross (4-2) return for another NET blast for the Indians.
Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals (17-9-1) vs. Garden Spot Blue (8-13); 6 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Cardinals won the Atlantic Division regular season crown but were eliminated by Warwick in the semifinals of the LCYBL playoffs. The last seed for the NET, Garden Spot knocked out Mt Joy Blue, 6-1, in a play-in qualifier.
LNP TOURNAMENT HONORS: The 2008 M-M champions, SWS failed to qualify last year. The Cards look to rectify that by winning the program’s 8th overall title. After a near-generation’s absence from the NET, the sky’s the limit for the Spot.
LOOK FOR: Casey Regan (.482), Collin “Bear” Shank (.431), Devon Weiant (.392) and Ben Rhoads (.375) lead the Cards with Shank, Regan, Colin Eckman and Dan Eshleman heading a pitching staff with an ERA under 2.00. Nick Lehman tops Blue’s pitching staff with Mason McKinley and Logan Eby as the most consistent hitters.
Ephrata Green Dragons (24-12-1) vs. Hempfield Black (15-11); 20 minutes after completion of first game
HOW THEY GOT HERE: After finishing second to the SWS Cardinals in the regular season the Dragons edged Mountville 9-8 in 9 innings in the semis of the LCYBL playoffs, then 10-runned Warwick in the championship. Ephrata also won the Donegal Springs and Cocalico Diamond Challenge tournaments. Hempfield placed third behind Mountville and Donegal in the Pacific Division regular season, then was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by â€¦ Ephrata. Payback time?
LNP TOURNAMENT HONORS: Ephrata area programs have won three NET M-M titles. Hempfield ended years of frustration by winning its program-first NET crown in 2007.
LOOK FOR: Nate Fassnacht (.412, 29 RBI, 41 runs) and Justin Carvell (.379, 22, 37) pace the Dragons’ attack with Matthew McGillan (7-5, 3.15 ERA) getting the bulk of the mound work. Tim Gailor (5-0, 3.00 ERA; .565, 34 runs, 16 extra-base hits), Ty Jackson (.475), Greg Gambler (.463) and Ted Granbois (.463) are the top hitters for Hempfield.
MONDAY, JULY 19
Winners of Thursday’s games; 6 p.m.
Winners of Friday’s games; 20 minutes after completion of first game.
TUESDAY, JULY 20
Winners of Monday’s games; 7 p.m.