Safe Harbor and Mountville reach LNP M-M finale

Ryne Christian of Rheems Gray slides safely into third base as Mountville third baseman Cody Wile bobbles the ball during action Monday in a LNP Midget-Midget semifinal.

By Dave Byrne
LNP Correspondent

They’ve seen a lot of each other this year, and it looks like they’ll see each other one more time before it’s over.

The Safe Harbor Cubs and the Mountville Indians advanced to the Midget-Midget championship game of the 52nd LNP Baseball Tournament with victories Monday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.

They will play a week from tonight at Kunkle Field at 7 p.m.

Safe Harbor (34-5) downed Mount Joy Blue 9-4 in the opening game while Mountville (25-13) topped Rheems Gray 12-4 in the second game.

That sets up a rematch of these Penn Manor M-M League rivals, rivals who have played four times already this year, most recently in the league championship game last Wednesday night.

That contest, like the previous three, went to Harbor but it was the best game yet and the closest of the four, a 4-3 verdict.

“That was a great game” said Indians’ coach Bob Sauders. “The guys would like another shot. And I’m sure Harbor would like another shot at us.”

In one of the best games of this tournament to date, Mountville came from behind to grab its third LNP championship appearance in Sauders’ coaching career.

These two teams had met before, in the Mountville tournament two months ago, with Rheems taking a 7-6 come-from-behind nod.

“I knew we’re not the same team we were two months ago,” Sauders said, “and I didn’t think they were either.”

The Indians, who won LNP M-M titles in ’90 and ’95, fell behind 4-0 to Rheems (18-10) as Ryne Christian (2-for-3) and Tyler Hostetter knocked RBI singles to complement some aggressive baserunning.

Not wishing to be beaten at its own game, Mountville got two runs back right away, sparked by Cody Wile’s baserunning.

Wile, who walked, ran up two bases on an errant pickoff throw from starter Tyler Hostetter and scored on a wild pitch.

His twin, Brent, then walked and eventually scored on Matt Johnson’s ground out.

Mountville took the lead in the third inning and widened it in the fourth, banging out 11 hits for 8 runs.Key blows in the third were a 2-run triple by Brent Wile and an RBI double by winning pitcher Keith Dowell (3-for-3, 2 RBIs).

Back-to-back-to-back singles by Jason Smith, Scott Fultineer and Dan Nice (3-for-4, 3 runs scored) produced three runs in the fourth and, off the bench, Brandon Nace pulled a long double to left that produced another run before Dowell closed out the carnage. Cody Wile drove in the Indians’ final two runs with a fifth-inning single.

“Boy, they hit the ball. Holy smokes, they hit the ball!” exclaimed Gray coach Tony Kreider. “No team has had that many hits off us all year long.”

“They do hit well,” Sauders allowed. “We have two coaches who can really bring the ball into them pretty well (in batting practice). None of this lolly-pop stuff.”

Dowell settled in on the hill after the second inning, allowing just two hits the rest of the way.

But, typicaly, it was his hitting, and his team’s, he wanted to talk about first. “I just got pieces of the ball,” he said, “and they went out there. We’ve hit like that all year.”

In the opener, Mount Joy Blue coach Scott Everhart did not want to get in a slugfest with Harbor, feeling any chance for victory lay in keeping the score down and close.

“The last time we played it was 4-3 (Harbor) and I thought we needed another ballgame like that,” he said.

So there they were, trading haymakers with the Cubs in the first inning.

Harbor jumped out 2-0, but Blue (21-10) came back with a three-spot, reaching winning pitcher Corey Caruthers for four solid singles up through the middle and a hard-hit fielder’s choice back to Caruthers.

Harbor regained the lead on Jarred Texter’s 2-run triple and Danny Kauffman’s RBI hit in the second inning.

Blue missed a golden opportunity to stay in the game, loading the bases in the top of the third, but Caruthers escaped unscathed with a fielder’s choice out at home and a pair of strikeouts.

From there he scattered two hits the rest of the way and was never in serious trouble again.

“My curveball wasn’t working,” Caruthers said. “It slipped out of my hand today. (And) I was throwing down the middle of the plate so I changed my location.”

“He made the adjustment all on his own,” said his father and Harbor head coach, Carl Caruthers whose approach to coaching, at least the pitchers, is, “the kids know best.’

“All season long we’ve just let the pitcher do what he wanted to do,” he said. “Those two boys, Corey and Jarred, play baseball the year round. They’ve been to a lot of camps and a lot of professional help.”

The Cubs opened an 8-3 lead in the fourth on Texter’s RBI double and Kauffman’s RBI ground out and the teams traded runs in the fifth; Harbor scoring on Corey Wagner’s sac fly and Blue, on a groundout by Jermaine Rivera, who drove in two of Blue’s four runs.

After five innings Caruthers gave way to Texter who struck out the side in the sixth to end the game.

“That’s the way it goes,” said Everhart. “We got beat by a good team and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Safe Harbor catcher Josh Smith gets set to tag out Mount Joy’s Justin Kaley at home.