Perennial contenders are back in the field

By Dave Bryne
New Era Correspondent

When its comes to the 2007 New Era Tournament’s Midget-Midget scrum, one thing is certain. There will be no repeat by last year’s champion.

The Norlanco Redbirds have left the building, graduated to the Junior-Midget division. So while there will definitely be a new champion, it may turn out to be a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The three prime contenders for the New Era M-M title have an NET history almost as long as their long pedigree.

The seven-time champion Mountville Indians are poised to better last year’s runnerup finish. Mount Joy Blue, the 2005 champion, returns eleven players from last year’s semifinalist squad.

Perennial contender Hempfield Black is back, once more looking for that elusive first NET title at this age-group.

Right behind them are two teams whose fortunes might rest on the prowess of their ace pitchers: Ryan Wilson of Manheim VFW and Devin Eberly of Rheems Gray.

“I do think this is going to be an exciting tournament,” said Mountville manager Bob Sauders.

For Mountville, the excitement begins right away as the Indians are paired against Manheim in the first round.

Here’s a look at the teams:

HEMPFIELD BLACK
COACH: Bob Gantz
LEAGUE: Lanco Youth 1st seed.
RECORD: 30-5-1
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Cory Gantz, Nick Yarnall, Anthony Dornes, Nolan Myers.
NOTABLE: Hempfield entered last year’s tournament as an unheralded fifth seed and gave the eventual champion, the Norlanco Redbirds, all they could handle in a very competitive first-round game.

MOUNT JOY BLUE
COACH: Ron Wagner
LEAGUE: Susquehanna 1st seed and league champion.
RECORD: 27-7
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 1 (in 2005).
RETURNING PLAYERS: Michael Houseal, Justin Prescott, Jerel Sensenig, Matthew Deibler, Dylan Houseal, Eric Ebersole, Chris Robinson, Dalton Garrett, Alex Wohlfeil, Jonathon Sauder, Tommy Hatt.
NOTABLE: With that many players returning from last year’s semifinalists, it’s hard not to foresee Mount Joy giving everybody else the blues.

MOUNTVILLE INDIANS
COACH: Bob Sauders
LEAGUE: Lanco Youth 2nd seed and league champion.
RECORD: 40-12-1
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 7 (last in 2004).
RETURNING PLAYERS: Ian Bentley, Zach Bookman, Zach Burke, Bryan Haberstroh, Adam Law, William Welsh, Joe Yourgal.
NOTABLE: The Indians couldn’t beat Hempfield in the regular season, dropping 6-5, 3-0 and 3-1 decisions. But they did find the answer in the league championship game, 2-0.

RHEEMS GRAY
COACH: Allen Toth
LEAGUE: Susquehanna 2nd seed.
RECORD: 13-9
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Austen Brendle, Justin Drescher, Alex Faus, Gavin Horning, Bobby Lesnik, Ryan Mascia, Allen Toth.
NOTABLE: The nucleus of this team qualified for a play-in berth in last year’s tournament as the Susquehanna 5th seed. Personnel issues derailed that appearance when a lack of players forced Rheems to forfeit.

SWS CARDINALS
COACH: Mike Yeager
LEAGUE: Lanco Youth 3rd seed.
RECORD: 17-17
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 1 (last in 1999; but the Willow Street Cardinals won 5 before the merger with Strasburg).
RETURNING PLAYERS: None.
NOTABLE: The Cardinals have been completely retooled from last year. Coach Yeager says that one of the biggest strengths of this team is its lack of superstars.

MANHEIM VFW MAROON
COACH: Jeff Knosp
LEAGUE: Susquehanna 3rd seed.
RECORD: 18-11
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 3 (last in 2000).
RETURNING PLAYERS: Kyle Winters, Chris Good, Ryan Wilson.
NOTABLE: The word on the street is that Wilson can bring it. If so, that can be a great equalizer, even in a tournament designed to favor deep staffs.

WARWICK PHILLIES
COACH: Randy Ross
LEAGUE: Lanco Youth 4th seed.
RECORD: 12-20
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 2 (last in 1992).
RETURNING PLAYERS: Tyler Morris, Braidy Weiler.
NOTABLE: The Phillies defeated Marietta/Maytown Blue, the Susquehanna 5th seed, 7-2 to earn a spot in the tournament.

RHEEMS BLUE
COACH: Andy Breault
LEAGUE: Susquehanna 4th seed.
RECORD: 9-14
NET CHAMPIONSHIPS WON: 0.
RETURNING PLAYERS: none.
NOTABLE: In its second year back in travel ball, after several years of playing in-house, Rheems split the talent evenly between Blue and Gray. Still, six of the eleven players on Blue are first-year players. Blue defeated Penn Manor, the Lanco Youth 4th seed, 5-2 to earn a spot in the tournament. In the end, however, the team did not have enough players to play in the tournament, and Penn Manor Comets replaced them.