New Era Correspondent
After pitching the Mountville Angels into the Junior-Midget championship game of the New Era Tournament on Monday night, the last thing D.J. Ream expected was a curtain call 48 hours later. And yet, with Lititz VFW making like the ’27 Yankees Wednesday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, the 13-year old lefthander was asked weave his spell one more time.
With the memory – and discomfort – of his 6-inning, 101-pitch effort still fresh, Ream entered the game in the third inning and held VFW at bay with his offspeed repertoire as the Angels defeated Lititz, 6-3.
Mountville (30-0) battled out of an early 3-0 hole, scoring two runs each in the second and third innings before icing the game with a 2-run fifth.
It was a history-making victory for the Angels, a team evenly split between seven first-year players and seven second-year veterans.
All played on the 2002 NET Midget-Midget champion Mountville Indians. The seven old-timers were also part of the 2001 NET runner-up team, while the seven younger players were the nucleus of last year’s undefeated M-M champions.
In fact, the youngsters haven’t lost a baseball game wearing Mountville’s colors since Scott Rolen played third base for the Phillies, way back in July of 2002.
And yet, despite Mountville’s phenomenal record at the Indians’ level – six New Era titles since 1990 – the Angels have never been able to replicate that success at the next level.
Seldom even qualifying for the tournament, the best the Angels did was an appearance in the 1996 J-M semis, followed by a preliminary-round exit in ’97.
What made this group different? “Mountville has had, historically, some good programs,” said Angels coach Ron Brubaker. “But this group is very strong.
“We’ve had the same group of kids, minus one or plus one, together since 1997,” he said, “and we’ve played an extremely large amount of baseball. Most of these guys have played 60, 70 games a year for five years.”
There’s no substitute for experience, and that experience came in handy Wednesday night when Lititz threatened to take home the champions’ trophy.
VFW (32-6-1) cuffed Angels starter John Brubaker for four hits and three runs in the second inning, taking command of the game.
Losing pitcher Mike Freeman led off the inning driving a pitch the opposite way over the left field fence.
Brent Stoltzfus followed with a shot that bounced off the top of the fence in center and back into play for a single.
After Austin Klinger was hit by a pitch, and both runners advanced on an infield out, Joe Cassidy’s sacrifice fly scored the second run.
Tyler Hill brought home the third run, poking a single into right.
“They were getting around real quick on John,” Ron Brubaker said. “I knew I had to make a change, and I knew I had D.J. fresh from the other night.”
The view was a little different from first base. “Coach Ron said, ‘I might need you to close.’ ” Ream revealed. “I was like, ‘I’ll try.’ I didn’t think I was going to be able to come back.
“I thought (John Brubaker) was going to go the whole game, but coach pulled him out right away.”
Which didn’t necessarily surprise Lititz coach Joe Noll. Getting Ream did.
“We were gambling we would get (Bill) Pennington,” Noll said. “As you could see, my boys like fastballs. The harder the better,”
So Ream’s offerings seemed like kryptonite.
“We’ve struggled with it all season,” admitted Noll. “I think that’s why he brought in D.J. instead of Pennington.”
Still, they greeted Ream with an infield single by Zach Snyder and Freeman’s second hit of the night, a single up the middle, leading to a first-and-third, no out situation.
On a 1-1 pitch to Brett Garner, Noll called for a squeeze bunt. Garner bunted through the pitch and Snyder was hung out to dry.
Ream then got Garner and Klinger on strikes and retired the next seven hitters in a row and nine of the next ten.
Lititz managed just one more hit as Ream struck out 10 and walked none.
Ream entered the game trailing 3-2 as Mountville got on the board on Eric Macik’s 2-run homer to dead center.
The next inning the Angels tied the game on Nate Beck’s sacrifice fly and took the lead as Ryan Fiester’s popup fell between second and the pitcher’s mound for an RBI single.
Noll cited that as the turning point of the game, rather than the missed first-and-third opportunity.
When Beck singled home John Brubaker in the fifth and Ream steamed home as the ball was misplayed in the outfield, VFW’s fate was sealed.
All that was left was for the winners to assemble in front of home plate for the champions photo. A familiar ritual for this bunch.
“This is my favorite tournament of the whole year,” Ream said afterward. “This is what we aim for every year.”
In three appearances over six days Ream allowed five hits in 13 innings, walked two and struck out 23 batters. He gave up three runs, two earned.
And playing all that baseball?
“I love playing,” Ream said. “I’ll play any day.”
Just don’t ask him to pitch for a while.
Champion Angels craft another perfect ending
By Keith Schweigert
Assistant Sports Editor
Eric Macik couldn’t explain it.
Asked if there was a secret to Mountville’s recent dominance of the New Era Tournament, the 13-year-old third baseman shrugged.
“I don’t think there is one,” he said. “We do the same thing everybody else does.”
The only difference is they do it better.
Wednesday night Macik and the Mountville Angels captured the New Era Tourney’s Junior-Midget championship with a 6-3 victory over Lititz VFW.
While it was the first J-M title for Mountville, winning the New Era Tourney is old news for Macik and most of the Angels. He and six other players captured back-to-back titles in the Midget-Midget bracket in 2002 and 2003.
Macik, D.J. Ream, Nate Beck, Drew Schantz, Brandon Kline and David Perales have never lost a New Era Tournament game. Wednesday’s victory raised their record to 16-0 dating back to 2002.
Their overall record during that span is 134-4. Wednesday’s win completed a 30-0 year for the Angels. Last year they went 51-0 on their way to the M-M title, and they were 53-4 the year before.
“It’s an incredible group of kids,” said Mountville coach Ron Brubaker. “They’re very teachable, they’re good athletes and they have an amazing amount of dedication. Most of them have been together in the Mountville program for 5-6 years, and they love to play the game.”
If there is a difference between Mountville and everyone else, that level of dedication could be it.
For Mountville, the season begins in early March. They spend weekends traveling to tournaments across the state and up and down the East Coast. They normally practice four times a week.
“We’re very fortunate to have six or seven different fields in our area, and two of them are lighted,” said Brubaker. “We have lots of time to practice that other teams don’t have. We never have to worry about a shortage of facilities, where some teams do.”
Still, Brubaker doesn’t have to push his players to show up.
“They all want to be there,” he said. “We don’t force it on them.”
The extra practice time has paid off. Even though they’re all 13 or 14 years old, the Angels have the look of a veteran team. They play a clean game. Errors and walks are rare occurences, and they never seem to get rattled.
Wednesday’s game was a fine example. Lititz VFW jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the third inning, touching starting pitcher John Brubaker for three hits – including a solo home run.
But Mountville answered with two runs in its half of the third, including a two-run blast by Macik.
Once the Angels took the lead in the fourth, the outcome seemed inevitable. Brubaker settled down and allowed just three baserunners after the third, collecting 10 of his 12 strikeouts in the process.
When Lititz was able to get the bat on the ball, Mountville’s defense did the job. The Angels played error-free baseball as they calmly held on for the win.
Afterward, Ream was asked to reflect on his third straight title.
“We’re kind of used to it,” he admitted. “But it still means a lot to us. This is the one we’re always gunning for. I’m glad we won it again.”