BY DAVE BYRNE
The 2014 LNP Tournament is just around the corner, with the Midget-Midgets kicking off the double-elimination festivities on Monday, July 7.
But, before then, there is much to be accomplished in terms of preliminary games.
The first of those preliminaries are tonight with single-elimination play-in games between Penn Manor and Donegal and Mount Joy Blue and the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals.
Tonight’s winners turn around Wednesday as the four best-of-three qualifying series play out over the course of seven days — should any of the series go the distance.
The Penn Manor-Donegal winner draws the top-seeded Manheim Township Streaks while the Mount Joy-SWS winner is slotted opposite the second-seeded and returning runner-up Mountville Indians.
Defending champion and No. 3 seed Warwick Phillies host the sixth-seeded Ephrata Dragons, while No. 4 seed Manheim VFW and fifth seed Cocalico Eagles pair up.
There have been many exciting championship games in the M-M division over the years, last year’s being no exception.
Warwick walked off with a 6-5 victory on Dagen Young’s sixth-inning RBI single. This after Mountville rallied for three runs in the top of the inning.
With the championship cast of both teams matriculating to the junior-midgets, that leaves this tournament wide open.
LNP TOURNAMENT 12U PLAY-INS
Donegal at Penn Manor
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Donegal (3-14-1) placed 10th overall in the Lancaster County Youth Baseball League, fifth in the Pacific Division. Penn Manor (10-8) placed seventh overall, second to Mountville in the Pacific. Penn Manor owns a pair of regular-season wins over Donegal, 7-5 and 14-2.
ABOUT PENN MANOR — A play-in win over Solanco advanced Penn Manor to the qualifying round last year, where Warwick swept them out. Ty Erisman (.500 avg., 6 home runs), Josh Gibson (.468, 3 HR) — now there’s a baseball name! — Gage Hilton, Aaron Gale and Masyn Jones return from that team. All but Gibson make up the pitching staff. Collin Adelman (.526, 5 HR) has been a productive addition to the attack.
ABOUT DONEGAL — While Donegal’s record may not stand out, it also does not reflect how competitive they’ve been; five of the 14 losses were by a run and only four times were they noncompetitive.
SWS Cardinals at Mount Joy Blue
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Cardinals (6-12) placed ninth overall and fourth in the Pacific, just behind Mount Joy (7-11), eighth overall and third in the Pacific. In their only regular season head-to-head, Blue prevailed, 8-5.
ABOUT MOUNT JOY BLUE — Noah Karichner (.437 avg.) and Hunter Schlaybach (.405) lead Blue. Karichner, Kyle Bitting, Zach Leid and Joe Fox return from last year’s edition of Blue.
ABOUT SWS CARDINALS — While the Cardinals advanced to the knockout round of last year’s tournament, no players return from that group. Ten second-year players move up from the Section Two and Section Three ranks, paced by Christian Garver (.483 avg.), Logan Davidson (.457) and Michael Tribuzio (.500). First-year player Neil Eckman (.429) also carries one of the top averages.
LNP TOURNAMENT 12U PLAYOFF SERIES
Manheim Twp. Streaks vs. Previous-round winner
HOW THEY GOT HERE — The Streaks (17-1) earned the top seed and home field advantage throughout while winning the Atlantic Division.
ABOUT MANHEIM TOWNSHIP STREAKS — The Streaks went two-and-out in the championship round last year. Bryce Behmer (.421, 21 RBIs, 21 runs) and Kyle Donton (.456, 16 RBIs) return from that side. Evan Proulx (.523, 19 runs; 3-0, 2.90 ERA) is one of four second-year players who moved up to Section One. Nick Kurtz (.564, 29 RBIs; 2-0, 0.62 ERA), Drew Sassaman (.450, 20 runs, 28 stolen bases), Evan Clark (.383, 18 RBIs; 3-0), Colin Fitzgerald (.426, 15 RBIs; 3-1, 2,52 ERA) and Caden Brubaker (.341) were members of the undefeated 2013 10U tournament championship team.
Mountville Indians vs. Previous-round winner
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Winning the Pacific Division title earned Mountville (12-4-2) the No. 2 seed over Atlantic Division runner up Warwick, despite the Phillies have the better league record.
ABOUT MOUNTVILLE INDIANS — After a 3-3 start the Indians went 9-0-2 over their next eleven games before closing with a 5-2 loss to Manheim. With no returning players from last year, Mountville relied on Ryan Buchwalder, Sam Cox, Anthony Droege, Tim Hermansen, Wyatt Hershey, Carter Kauffman, Luke Miller, Jayden Ruby and Ben Sheaffer, second-year promotees from the Section Two and Three ranks. All nine have won at least one game pitching in addition to playing multiple defensive positions.
Warwick Phillies vs. Ephrata Dragons
HOW THEY GOT HERE — A 6-4 Atlantic Division loss to Township sealed the Phillies (16-1) fate as the No. 3 seed. Ephrata (10-6-2) placed sixth overall in the LCYBL, fifth in the Atlantic Division, a point behind Cocalico.
ABOUT WARWICK PHILLIES — While no players return from the NET champion Phillies, four played in the NET qualifying series as members of the fifth-seeded Warwick Braves: Ethan Minnich (.437), Zach Shertzer (.558), Brody Price and Trey Glass. Also providing offensive punch are Collin Beech (.526), John Seibert (.494) and Colin Brubaker (.438).
ABOUT EPHRATA DRAGONS — The Dragons were eliminated by Township in last year’s qualifying round. All those players aged out to the next level. Anthony Andrews (.442), Logan Usner (.424) and Nick Garman (.342) carry the top averages while Garman, Usner and Gavin Grove share the load on the mound. The Dragons’ signature victory thus far is a 5-4 verdict over Township — the Streaks only loss — on June 2.
Manheim VFW vs. Cocalico Eagles
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Manheim (12-6) nabbed fourth overall after placing third in the Atlantic Division. Cocalico finished just behind at 11-7. VFW nudged by by virtue of a 15-9 decision.
ABOUT MANHEIM VFW — Eight second-year players make their first foray into the NET, paced by Nolan Weaver (.457; 2-1, 3.53 ERA), Hunter Hess (.365; 4-4, 3.26), Jake Harbach (.349) and Colby Wagner (.321).
ABOUT COCALICO EAGLES — Dakota Reigel is the only returning Section One-level player for the Eagles, who missed out on the NET in 2013. Andrew Zettner, Austin Porter and Ian Martin comprise the Eagles’ pitching staff.