By Dave Bryne
The 66th New Era Midget Baseball Tournament gets underway Thursday evening as the cream of Lancaster County’s 12-and-unders battle to crown a new Midget-Midget Division champion.
And a new champion it will be as the 2010 M-M champ, the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals, did not qualify for this year’s competition.
The tournament begins at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy at 6 p.m. Thursday with the top-seeded Warwick Phillies accepting the challenge of Mount Joy Blue.
Twenty minutes after the conclusion of that contest, Donegal and the Penn Manor Comets take the field for the nightcap of a quarterfinal doubleheader.
The quarterfinals continue Friday with Manheim Township Black facing Hempfield Black at 6 p.m., followed by the Mountville Indians against Manor Ridge.
The semifinals are set for Monday, July 18, at Kunkle with the first game of the doubleheader beginning at 6 p.m. The championship game will be played Tuesday at 7 p.m. In the event of weather-related interruptions, the first rain-out date is Saturday.
In a year of parity, and with no clear favorite, this could be the most competitive Midget-Midget tourney in years.
Warwick Phillies (28-12) vs. Mount Joy Blue (14-16), 6 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Phillies claimed the LCYBL regular season crown, earning the NET top seed, on a tiebreaker over Township and Mountville. All three finished 13-5. The Phillies finished second in the Donegal Springs, Mount Joy and Mountville tournaments, then swept the LCYBL playoffs, defeating Mountville 14-4. Blue bested Strasburg/Willow Street in a play-in qualifier to nail down the eighth seed, and final NET berth.
NEW ERA HISTORY — Warwick has won three NET titles, the last in 2009. Mt. Joy won its only M-M title in 2005.
LOOK FOR — A lot of offense from Warwick, if you go by the stats. The Phillies feature eight players who have combined to score 262 runs this season, not including Monday night’s league championship outburst. Justin Smith, Zach Peters and Dalton Uibel all hit over .400. Ethan Norman, Patrick Mullen, Tyler Martin, Ethan Price and Derek Zimmerman are all better than .300.With only two returning players and nine 11-year olds, Blue’s best chance may be next year, but with Collin Brown, Tanner Shirk and Ean O’Connell on the mound, Blue has become competitive in late stages of the season.
Donegal (26-19) vs. Penn Manor Comets (16-12), 20 minutes following conclusion of first game
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The fourth seed of the tournament, Donegal has achieved success outside the LCYBL, winning 16 of 27 “non-league” games. The Comets pulled down the fifth seed.
NEW ERA HISTORY — Neither has won an M-M title. Donegal is in its third year of NET competition. The Comets are back in the field after debuting in 2009, although the multiple PM programs from which the Comets sprang have accounted for 12 NET titles.
LOOK FOR — Donegal features possibly the most productive M-M player in the county in Connor Green, a Triple Crown threat who hit .544 with 13 home runs and 66 RBI. Returning along with Green are Ian Rapp and Tim Nell. Jeff Taylor, Austin Roberts and Grant Gale are returning Comets.
Manheim Township Black (20-7) vs. Hempfield Black (12-14), 6 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Swept by Warwick (4-0, 9-0) in the LCYBL season series, Township took the second seed for the NET. In an example of the current parity, Black bested Warwick in the championship games of the Donegal Springs and Mount Joy tournaments. Hempfield defeated last year’s runnerup, Manheim VFW, in a play-in qualifier.
NEW ERA HISTORY — Township has twice won the New Era, the last time in 2001. Hempfield claimed its only NET in ’07.
LOOK FOR — Strength up the middle for Township as catcher Jordan Scott, and keystone combo Bayley Jamanis and Jack Mentch return. Jamanis also pitches, and when he’s on the mound infield whiz Zach Schaefer takes over. Hempfield’s central infield is also in good hands as Alec Miller and Tyler Hilton return from last year’s semifinalists. Collin Green and Luke Granbois, who saw action last year, split the catching duties.
Mountville Indians (24-10) vs. Manor Ridge (10-13), 20 minutes following conclusion of first game
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The third member of the LCYBL’s U-12 title troika, and a traditional NET contender, the Indians split the season series with Township and Warwick, then shaded Township in the league playoffs, 5-3, before falling to Warwick in the title game, 14-4. When all was said and done, the Tribe grabbed the third overall seed. Back in the New Era after a long absence, Manor Ridge aced Hempfield for the sixth seed and the final automatic tournament berth.
NEW ERA HISTORY — Mountville is the New Era’s M-M king, having won seven titles overall. None, however, since 2004. Manor Ridge won titles in 1971, ’77 & ’79, with the ’77 squad going 36-0.
LOOK FOR — Mountville returns Austin Allison, Nick Boulanger, Brandon Hartman and Connor Moffatt with Moffatt and newcomers Jeremy Brubaker and Jonathon Pleger fronting a pitching staff that has gone nine deep. Playing in Section Two last season, Manor Ridge went 14-1-1. Returning from that squad are Ryan Witmer, Tanner Simet, Matt Tulli, Mark Yoder, Daniel Fry and Kyle Bigelow. Simet leads the team with a .476 average while Tulli has knocked in a team-best 25 runs and Witmer has scored 32. He has also walked 31 times and stolen 50 bases.