By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent
After several near misses in the ’90s, Hempfield Black has made a habit of winning the New Era Tournament’s Midget division.
Black, the defending NET champion, has won five titles since 1997, four in the last five years, and appears poised to repeat this year.
Hempfield opens defense of its crown tonight against Donegal in the second game of a doubleheader as the New Era Tournament begins at Clipper Magazine Stadium, home of the Lancaster Barnstormers.
In tonight’s opener at 5:15, Manheim VFW takes on Mennonite.
All of this year’s Midget games will take place at The Clip. The quarterfinals continue with a doubleheader on Thursday, while the semifinals will be held Monday, July 31 starting at 5:15.
The title game follows on Wednesday, Aug. 2 and 7 p.m.
Following is a look at each of the eight teams in this year’s tournament.
COACH: Frank Camera
LEAGUE: Lanco School, first seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
KEY PLAYERS: Pitchers Jason Griffith (6-0), Mike Freeman (4-0; .432), Zach Snyder (2-0; .458), Mark Stuckey (2-0; .447); Zach Shank (.438), Skyler Gingrich, Justin King, Andy Thompson.
COACH: Jeff Mummau
LEAGUE: Lanco School, second seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 1. Town teams also won in 1953-54.
KEY PLAYERS: p Jeff Knosp (7-0; .478, 20 RBI), p Tony Ferrari (5-2), c Mike Kemp (.516, 17 RBI, 16 stolen bases), 2b/c Scott Garber (.458), cf Justin Herman (.444), 1b Brandon Keath (.368), 3b Jeremy Knosp (.324), ss Devin Almodovar (.300).
COACH: Jack Merrifield
LEAGUE: Lanco School, third seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 5. Defending champion.
KEY PLAYERS: lf Derek Dornes (.519, 33 RBI, 21 runs, .889 slugging pct.), ss/p Mark Merrifield (.395, 15 RBI; 1-1, 2.69 ERA), rf John Moser (.447, 18 RBI), p/ut John Brubaker (.422; 4-0, 2.04), p/1b DJ Ream (4-1, 1.87), P Mark Schusko (4-1, 1.80), 3b/of Jordan Arment (.385), cf Mike Cosimano (.310).
COACH: Bill Demora
LEAGUE: Lanco School, fourth seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. Strasburg won in 1973 & ’76.
KEY PLAYERS: p/3b Chad Babcock (6-1, 3.20; .463), p Cody Harmes (3-1), of Mark Thiboldeaux (.467), p/3b Randy Hess (4-2 1.95), of Ben Demora (.323), 1b Joe Good (.364), 2b John Calrson (.308), of Danny Snyder (.306).
MANHEIM TWP. BLACK
COACH: John Dochterman
LEAGUE: Lanco School, fifth seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. MT based teams have won six titles.
KEY PLAYERS: p Keith Bires (5-1; .468), p Pat Kelly (3-2), p/2b Andrew Peiffer (4-1; .440), dh Gene Gross (.352), ss/2b Ethan Rieker (.339), of Kyle Karpinski (.306), 1b Tyler Stoltz (.353), Carlo Deangelis (.429). Carlos X Medina hit .389 in 18 ABs while playing mostly American Legion ball.
COACH: Ryan Hamilton
LEAGUE: Lanco School, sixth seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 1. MJAA teams won 3 titles.
KEY PLAYERS: p Darryn Giberson, c Nate Witwer, ss Taylor Rettew, dh Nick Herbert, cf T.J. Houseal, rf Nick Zito, of Morgan Rupp.
COACH: Randy Gibson
LEAGUE: Lanco School, seventh seed.
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. First year of summer competition. Gibson, the LM high school coach, managed two NET champions: Conestoga Valley in 1995 & Pequea Valley in ’99
KEY PLAYERS: ss Jordie Smucker (.471), p Andrew Martin (5-2, 1.78), 3b/p Ben Adams (4-0; .464), of Darin Miller (.364), c David Adams (.467), 1b Bryan Lapp (.323), eh/p Allory Melhorn (.391; 2-0).
COACH: Scott Keddie
LEAGUE: Lanco School, eighth seed (defeated MT Blue, Lanco Community first seed, in play-in).
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0. The pre-merger Manor Ridge program won 3 titles.
KEY PLAYERS: of Tony Oktela (.520), of/p Aaron Breneman (.390), p/1b Andy Sellers (.333), 1b/p Cam Black (.317; 1.63 ERA), p Nick Schroyer (2.72), p Brad Stout (2.16), 2b Mike Spisak (.319), c Tyler Gault (.319), ss Mayy Rayha, 3b Jimmy Gault.