Over the course of his long coaching career, it hasn’t been very often that Mountville’s Bob Sauders has been on the receiving end of an inning like the one Manheim VFW dropped on his Indians Monday night.
In the second game of a midget-midget semifinal doubleheader at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, Manheim’s offense was shackled for the first three innings. But the Susquehanna League champions exploded for 11 runs in the fourth on its way to a 12-3 victory.
In the opener, Strasburg/Willow Street was held to just five hits, but made the most of them. The Lancaster County Youth Baseball League champion Cardinals knocked off the Ephrata Dragons 5-1.
Monday night’s winners return to Kunkle this evening to determine the Midget-Midget championship of the 63rd LNP Tournament. The game is set for 7 p.m.
Manheim sent 15 batters to the plate in the fateful fourth, benefiting from seven hits, two walks, one hit batter, two fielder’s choices and two errors.
“I told you they were good!” Sauders reminded a reporter after the game. “When that steamroller starts, it’s hard to put the brakes on sometimes.”
Mountville starter Zac Getz retired the first eight Manheim batters of the game, six on ground balls. No.9 hitter Daniel Weiderecht broke the string when he singled, but was immediately erased when he was caught stealing second base.
“They were making the plays,” said Manheim assistant head coach Jeff Flanagan, manning the helm in the absence of head coach Jeff Knosp.
“And I’m thinking to myself, ‘They can’t do this all night. They’ve got to fall in sooner or later.’ ”
It would be sooner.
Ben Bomberger singled to lead off the fourth and the next hitter, Hunter Pearson, tripled him home.
Pearson was then gunned down at the plate trying to score on Kyle Winter’s grounder to first. It was the last thing that went right for Mountville (29-14) for quite a while.
When the carnage had finally ended, Colin Fry had hit a two-run single, Blake Reiff had a pair of RBI singles, Damon Crouse had a two-run triple and Pearson knocked a two-run double — into the same rightfield corner where he’d placed his triple.
“It’s like turning on a light switch with the kids,” said Flanagan. “Hitting’s contagious.”
“They hit the ball where we weren’t,” said Sauders. “That’s baseball.”
The big inning made a winner out of Winters who, despite pitching well, found himself trailing 3-0 on RBI singles by Josh Brubaker and Trevor Beamer in the second inning and Matt Hartman’s run-scoring hit in the third.
“He never gave in,” said Flanagan. “He missed his spots here and there, and they have some good hitters who are going to take advantage of that, but he hung in there.”
Like Manheim, Strasburg/Willow Street didn’t get its first hit until the No.9 batter, Brandon Cox stepped to the plate in the third inning.
Unlike Manheim, the Cardinals already had pushed across an unearned run in the first inning.
Regan Hershey reached on an error leading off and stole over to third where he scored on Jared Horn’s RBI groundout.
Ephrata (15-11) matched that tally with a tainted run in the third as Steve Long walked, stole over to third and scored on a wild pitch.
But the Dragons’ die may have been cast in the top of the first when, after loading the bases with nobody out, they came up empty.
With one out, Brandon Miller’s grounder to short hit Colin Albright in the basepath between second to third.
The dead-ball play erased the run Logan Rutt had scored, forcing him back to third where he remained as the inning ended.
“The game definitely hinged there when we didn’t push one run across,” offered Dragons’ coach Dave Albright.
By the time Cox came up for his second at bat for SWS, in the bottom of the fourth, the Cards had utilized a hit and a walk, along with a couple steals and a pickoff error, to go back on top, 2-1.
With two runners on, Cox poked a 2-1 pitch into right field plating two more runs.
“He’s been hitting,” said Cards’ coach Dale Hershey. “The last couple games we’ve had him at DH and he started hitting the ball.
“That kind of got us rolling,” said Hershey, whose team added an insurance run in the fifth in Horn’s RBI single to center.
“It was one of those games where, hats off to the kids. They did what it took to win tonight.”