New Era Correspondent
It was a pitcher’s night Thursday at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy as the top half of the New Era Tournament ‘s Junior-Midget semifinal picture came into focus.
The Willow Street White Sox and Mount Joy Blue posted shutout victories to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals. They will face off at 6:15 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader at Mount Joy.
Both winning pitchers took a walk on the wild side Thursday night (a whole bunch of walks, actually), but found the moxie necessary to emerge on top.
Jeremy Reinhart tossed a one-hitter, walking seven while striking out ten as the White Sox (30-4) topped the Gap Indians 6-0 in the opening game.
Justin Bish scattered four hits, walking five and striking 14, as Mount Joy (33-7) nipped the Lancaster Township Royals, 2-0, in the nightcap.
Reinhart and the Indians’ Gabe Abreu were locked in a near-even standoff after four innings as Billy Houder got the only hit of the game for Gap (16-4), a single in the second inning.
Abreu had given up only two hits, but they came back-to-back in the second inning and the Sox used them to forge a 1-0 lead.
Willow Street broke through for two unearned runs in the fifth inning when an error opened the door to RBI singles by Reinhart and Brad Lingenfelter.
As in the second-inning rally, catcher Alex Torres (2-for-3) got things started in the sixth and the Sox added three more runs to put the game away.
“It seemed like it took forever to get started,” observed Sox coach Dean Hostetter. “Gabe threw a good game. He had us frustrated.
“I thought Jeremy struggled a little bit early. That’s probably the most batters he’s walked in the two years I’ve coached him.”
While walking the base-on-balls highwire, Reinhart twice got inning-ending strikeouts with a runner on third as his fastball raised welts on Torres’ glove hand.
“I was nervous the first few innings, but my defense really helped me out,” he said.
Shortstop Ray Stefanik snuffed two Gap rallies to aid Reinhart. He cut behind the mound to throw out Chris Slaymaker twice on high bouncers and made five good plays in all.
“The saving grace was our defense tonight,” Hostetter said. “Ray Stefanik played one heck of a game.”
“We knew coming in we’d have to play our best game to beat them,” said Gap coach Ted Sagnor. “Gabe really threw well (but) we made a few mistakes behind him and they capitalized on them.
“Reinhart just pitched a great game tonight. He really shut us down. He’s the big key to this game.”
The second game was the rubber match for two Susquehanna League rivals as Lancaster Township (19-11) and Mount Joy had split a pair of games this season.
On any other night, LT ace Bill Benner’s stuff would’ve been good enough to nail down a win. He scattered two hits and spaced out four walks as his defense turned three double plays behind him.
But a botched routine grounder on Blue’s Jere Hess leading off the game proved fatal when Jonathon Burns doubled him home. Burns eventually scored on a wild pitch.
It was all Bish would need. He admitted to a case of nerves early in the game, jitters that nearly made him sick. But it was the Royals’ bats he made queasy with a nasty slider that bit more than a heavyweight boxer and a fastball that trailed sparks.
“I just tried to throw strikes,” Bish said, and in that he was moderately successful. “Normally, I walk maybe three a game,” he said and his eyes widened in surprise to find he struck out 14. “I didn’t even know I had that many.”
“He was on,” said Blue coach Greg Schneider. “I guess they had hits in the first four innings. He pitched out of that and came up with the big one when we needed it.”
Bish stranded Alan George, who hit a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a wild pitch in the first, but LT had its best chance in the fourth.
A double by Benner and a pair of walks loaded the bases, but Bish, who got nine of his 14 strikeouts on the five, eight and nine batters, struck out the number eight and nine batters to end the threat.
“No timely hitting,” lamented Royals’ coach Frank Mincarelli. “Bish threw a beauty. We practiced, but we just weren’t ready for him. At this level, with a pitcher like that, you can go a long way.”
“We’ve pretty much lived with our pitching,” Schneider agreed. “I think that’s 12 or 13 games that have been decided by three or less runs and we’re 9-3 in those.
“I hate to send Frank home,” he added. “He and I are the senior coaches in the Susquehanna League. We’ve been banging heads for eight or nine years now and every one of them seems to be like this.”
With the White Sox next on the agenda, a team that has split four games with Blue this season, it won’t get any easier.
“That ought to be another good one,” Schneider said.