New Era Correspondent
Mike Berkey opened Monday night’s New Era Midget Baseball Tournament Junior-Midget quarterfinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy by striking out 12 batters to lead Lititz VFW to a 15-1 victory over the Warwick White Sox.
But the West Lampeter Pioneers stole the thunder in the nightcap with a tremendous power surge, smashing six home runs en route to an 18-2 win over the Manheim Lions.
The Pioneers (25-1) advanced to the Junior-Midget semifinals next Monday at Kunkle Field, where they’ll take on Lititz VFW (35-1) at 6:15 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader.
The nightcap at 8 p.m. will feature the winners of tonight’s quarterfinal matchups at Kunkle Field – Mount Joy Blue battles Denver at 6:15, while the Ephrata Phillies take on Hempfield Black in the second game.
It might take until next Monday for the Pioneers’ bats to stop glowing.
West Lampeter already owned a 4-0 lead in the second inning when the first home run left the diamond, a one-out solo shot to right field by first baseman Tim Bianchi, the Pioneers’ No. 9 hitter.
But the offense really exploded in the third inning.
Adam Devlin smashed the first pitch of the inning deep into the darkness in right field. The thirdbaseman also drove in the Pioneers’ first two runs with a line-drive single in the first inning.
Rob Duvall waited on one strike before crushing the next pitch high over the centerfield fence. The shortstop finished the game with three hits – including a double down the leftfield line in the first inning – three RBIs and three runs scored.
After Steve Williams reached on a fielder’s choice, catcher Nate Geesey turned on a 3-2 fastball and drove it into the parking lot in left field to make it 9-0.
Bianchi and leadoff hitter Mark Wagner followed with doubles, Dan Hanecak drove Bianchi home with a single to left, and Ryan Ewing followed with a double.
Duvall ended the scoring in the seven-run inning with a single to make it 12-0.
“I think they were a little pumped up tonight,” said Pioneers coach Steve Ewing, Ryan’s father. “This is what they worked so hard for during the season. The kids are really focused for this tournament . We still consider this the elite tournament of the year.”
As if the Pioneers needed extra incentive, this team went by the name of the Willow Street Yankees last year when it lost 3-1 in the Junior-Midget final to the Willow Street White Sox.
But an already potent offense has grown fearsome, thanks to some work in the batting cage over the winter.
“We work a lot on hitting,” Ewing said. “We hit the ball where it’s pitched and you saw that tonight with a lot of balls hit deep to the opposite field.”
Substitute Matt Plaza wrapped up a six-run fourth inning by bouncing a shot off the roof of a car in center field for a three-run homer, his first of the season.
And Bianchi ended the explosive display with another homer that just cleared the fence in right field to lead off the fifth.
It was more than enough for Ryan Ewing, who struck out 13 batters in the five-inning game.
The righthander struck out the side three times, but lost his shutout to the Lions (19-6) in the fourth inning when Brad Barnett ripped a one-out double into the leftfield gap and Ryan Sutter followed with a homer to right-center. Sutter is the nephew of former major league pitcher Bruce Sutter.
The fireworks in the nightcap quickly overshadowed what had been a fine pitching performance by Berkey for Lititz VFW in the opener.
The Warwick White Sox (16-2) threatened in the first inning when Eric Wagner singled with one out and Dan Fund followed with a walk, but Berkey struck out the next two batters with a heavy fastball to end the inning.
The only other White Sox hit came in the second, a one-out liner to left by Nathan Weiler.
“That’s about normal for (Berkey),” said Lititz coach Ron Jones. “He has some trouble with location at times, but his fastball was on tonight.”
Even with the lopsided score, Jones didn’t think his team hit particularly well.
His son, centerfielder Nathan, drove in three runs with a double in the fifth inning and scored three times.
Catcher Chad Gallagher also had a double, a two-run shot to the leftfield gap in the fourth inning, and drove in a run in the first inning with a single.
Ty Flowers followed Gallagher in the first inning with a double to make it 4-0.
Pat Link also had two hits for Lititz, with two RBIs and three runs scored.