Roaring again: St. Leo returns to title game against Lititz Oddfellows

St. Leo’s Robert Lehman celebrates his shutout over Manheim Township.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

Hunger.

It is one of the most primal desires.

Hunger burned within the St. Leo Lions as they took the field in the second game of a New Era Tournament Midget division semifinal contest.

And it fired the belly of pitcher Adam Zipko, taking the mound for the Lititz Oddfellows in the first game.

The Lions yearned to return to the Midget title game of the New Era Tournament.

But standing in their way was Manheim Township Black, the team that defeated them for the title in 2007.

For Zipko, it was a more practical condition.

He hadn’t eaten all day.

Both Zipko and St. Leo satisfied their respective hungers Monday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Zipko allowed just one hit and two unearned runs, striking out seven and walking two, as the Oddfellows (13-5), the 2006 NET Midget champions, returned to the title game after a one-year absence, defeating Solanco 3-2.

In the nightcap, Robert Lehman shut out top-seeded Manheim Township on two hits and St. Leo (12-5) punched its return ticket with a 7-0 victory.

“I wanted to win so bad,” said Lehman, who was a teammate of many of the Township players on last year’s NET Junior-Midget champion MT Black.

Lehman, limited by an elbow injury to just 6 2/3 innings on the mound this summer, surpassed that total by going the distance Monday night.

He threw 129 pitches — 71 for strikes — and always seemed to have the pitch he needed, stranding eight Township baserunners.

He walked five while striking out six, yielding Alex Manacher’s infield single in the third inning and Matt Neil’s basehit in the fifth.

“I had a good changeup going,” Lehman said, “I got a lot of outs (with it).”

“He was incredible,” said Lions’ centerfielder Travis Jankowski. “After (having) the game-winning hit last game, he throws a complete-game shutout. That’s pretty big.”

Down 2-0, Township (16-3) twice had an opportunity to make a game of it.

In a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth, Lehman went 3-0 to Brian Sourber.

But instead of disaster, Lehman got a called strike, a foul ball, then struck out Sourber swinging.

He then repeated that sequence in a three-pitch strikeout of Ben Woratyla to end the threat.

An inning later the baseball gods smiled on Lehman.

With Manacher on second and Darren Yoder on first, Township’s Taylor Good looped a short fly to center that fell in front of Jankowski.

Unsure whether Jankowski would make the catch, Manacher had to remain close to second base. He was easily forced at third when Jankowski threw to Gene Nissley covering.

Dan Long gave Lehman all the runs he needed with a two-run single in the third inning. A three-run sixth gave him some more breathing room.

Jankowski tripled to right on the first pitch he saw from Adam Yunginger, then scored when Yunginger threw a first-pitch wild pitch to the next hitter, Kevin Cotchen.

Cotchen then doubled off the base of the scoreboard in right and was sacrificed to third.

He was still there after Lehman walked and, when courtesy runner John Roda attempted to steal second, Township catcher Greg DePanfilis threw to third, trying to catch Cotchen napping.

But DePanfilis threw the ball into left field, scoring Cotchen, and Roda hustled home from second when Township was slow getting the ball back in.

Steve Remley’s two-run single in the seventh capped the scoring.

“They were the better team,” said Black coach John Dochterman. “I’ve been telling our guys all year long, (St. Leo) is one of the most dangerous teams in the league. They have no fear.”

Mixing an above-average fastball with a sweeping curveball, Zipko had Solanco (10-7) off balance all night.

“Zippy shut ‘em down,” said Lititz coach Frank Camera. “They scored the two runs, but it was really because of one botched play.”

With Lititz leading 2-0, and Zipko throwing a no-hitter, Solanco’s Brock Snider walked leading off the fourth inning.

Trying to bunt him over, Mike Malloy popped up in front of the mound. Zipko scrambled to catch it, didn’t, and third baseman Darren Erb fielded the ball, throwing it away at first.

Second baseman Dylan Adams inexplicably joined the crowd at first base as Snider continued to third and, with shortstop D.J. Johnson covering third, second base was left unattended.

Malloy dashed to the unoccupied bag, and Solanco quickly scored two runs on RBI groundouts by losing pitcher Dan Wimer and Dan Stoltzfus.

Zipko put the Oddfellows on the board in the first inning. His infield single to short knocked in Nate Lawrence, who had tripled leading off the inning.

In the third it was the Lawrence-Zipko combo once again as Lawrence reached on an error, advanced on Kyle Keener’s single, stole third and scored on Zipko’s sac fly to center.

Lititz then went back on top with a tainted run in the fifth inning.

Pinch hitter Cody Snyder, hitting for Johnson, singled. Johnson re-entered the game and was bunted over by Adams before taking third in a passed ball.

With the infield up, Lawrence lined to second base and Wimer could see his way clear as J.T. Garner popped up to third baseman Brad Dunn. But Dunn dropped the ball, Johnson scored, and the Oddfellows were on the fast track to the finals. “We play a little more solid defense, we’re winning that game,” observed Solanco coach Dave Thomas.

St. Leo’s Robert Lehman gets congratulations after his victory.

Lititz’s Adam Zipko is congratulated by teammate Darren Erb.

Solanco’s Mike Malloy slides safely into second as D.J. Johnson takes the throw.

Manheim Township’s Matt Neil tags out St. Leo’s Dan Long.

Manheim Township’s Taylor Good tags out St. Leo’s John Roda.

Adam Zipko winds up for Lititz.

Solanco’s Brad Dunn catches the ball which teammate Mike Malloy also goes after.