Mountville coach Bob Sauders calls it the third season, but it’s better known by its official title, the LNP Tournament of Champions.
The 57th edition of the LNP Tournament got off to a perfect start Monday night with quarterfinal action in the Midget-Midget division, as Erick Baker threw a perfect game in Maytown/Marietta Blue’s 10-0 victory over the Akron A’s in a five-inning game shortened by the 10-run rule.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Mountville knocked off Lancaster Red 12-2, also in five.
Baker was all but untouchable Monday night while acheiving perfection for M Blue (23-6). He struck out 14 of the 15 batters he faced.
Akron’s Jeremy Laughman, the second batter of the night, was the only A to put the ball in play, chopping a ball high off the plate that Baker settled under before firing to first for the out.
Beyond that, the 12-year old used a crackling fastball and biting curve to subdue Akron (17-2).
“My curve was all right,” he said. “It’s my finishing pitch basically.”
After several one-hitters this year, Baker broke through, but didn’t feel he had no-hitter stuff when the game started.
“Not until the third inning,” he said. “Then it started getting to me.”
“Erick’s been throwing good all year,” said Rick Baker, his father and Blue’s head coach. “His (earned run average) for the year is probably under 1.00, and he doesn’t walk many.”
On this night he didn’t walk any, something that could not be said of his mound opponent. The A’s Morgan Bartholomew allowed just three hits, but walked nine batters. Seven of those walks scored. In all M/M batters walked 10 times, with eight scoring.
“He threw hard, he was no softy,” Rick Baker said. “But early on we recognized he was a little erratic. When you’re not getting pitches to hit, you can’t hit. He didn’t give us a lot to hit.”
Still, the Susquehanna League champions did manage enough offense to trigger the 10-run rule, even with a surfeit of hits, by using good situational hitting. Third baseman Seth Hershey was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Catcher Nate Witwer knocked in two runs with a groundout and a sacrifice fly while Baker plated two with a pair of sac flys.
In the second game, centerfielder Jonathon Moser went 4-for-4 with 4 RBI to pace a 13-hit attack for the Indians (47-3). Hitting out of the four-hole, Moser looked the prototypical cleanup hitter, dominating the Indians’ lineup like the Greist Building dominates the Lancaster skyline.
He doubled in the first run of the game in the first inning, scored two with a single in the second and singled in the penultimate run in the fifth inning, triggering the 10-run rule.
After the game he modestly allowed that he was, “A pretty good hitter. I’m hitting a lot of good pitches,” he said. But when asked if he knew his numbers this year he said, “Nah, I don’t have a clue.”
Sauders gives out a lot of “Willie Stargell-style stars” to his players for outstanding performances. Suffice to say, Moser has collected his share.
“When he’s on a tear, he’s on a tear,” Sauders said. “He hits that ball and kids take notice.”
Moser’s Monday output gives him 83 RBI in 50 games for the Penn Manor League champions. That gets you noticed.
He also scored two runs, as did first baseman Darren Ream and third baseman Josh Lantz. Lantz and second baseman Aaron Brenneman had multi-hit games — each with two — and Brenneman drove in two runs. Shortstop John Brubaker singled and walked twice, scoring three runs.
The beneficiary of all this was righthander Bill Pennington, who had enough to stop Red (17-14) despite not having his best stuff. He walked four and uncorked four wild pitches. One of those errant offerings led to Red’s second run while another errant throw — this one a pickoff at first — broke Red into the scoring column.
Despite that, Pennington struck out eleven and allowed but two hits, an infield single to short and a double off the fence in right, both by Mike Schusko.
Now the teams renew old acquaintances. Mountville stole a 4-1 victory from Maytown/Marietta in last year’s semifinals. Rick Baker is looking for a different result this time.
“It’s always a good game between us and Mountville,” he said. “Hopefully, this time we can beat them.”