Safe Harbor, Mountville gain Era Tourney semis

Chris Stark delivers against Lititz VFW.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

In the first game of Friday’s New Era Tournament Junior-Midget doubleheader at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, Safe Harbor taught Lititz VFW a lesson in the value of strong fundamental baseball.

In the nightcap, fundamentals wouldn’t have made much difference.

Taking advantage of timely hitting and some key Lititz errors, Safe Harbor rallied for seven runs in the fourth inning to turn a close game into a 10-4 victory in the opener, while the Mountville Angels’ offensive firepower overwhelmed the Manheim Cardinals 20-1 in the second game of the twinbill.

“We gave them too many outs,” said Lititz VFW coach Jeff Peifer of the first game. “We got rattled. That was the first time we were ever down by that many.”

For a while, the opener looked as though it would be a close struggle, as both pitchers managed to avoid some early scrapes. Safe Harbor (26-4-1) led 3-1 in its half of the fourth before it broke the game open.

After Lititz pitcher Greg Welsh walked Jeremy Morrison to open the inning, Keith Martin and Bjorn Sayers cracked consecutive RBI doubles to make it 5-1. Sayers later scored on an RBI single by Jimmy Fritsch that chased Welsh.

It was still 6-1 later in the inning when shortstop Tom Hexworth came up with two men on. Hexworth cracked the first pitch he saw into the left-center gap for a two-run double and later scored on Morrison’s two-run single.

When the dust cleared, Safe Harbor had a comfortable 10-1 edge.

“We play aggressive baseball,” said Safe Harbor coach Bruce Perry. “We like to work on the pitcher. We hit the ball well tonight, and I think their pitcher got down on himself a little in the big inning.”

After allowing the decisive rally, Lititz pulled itself together, but the damage was already done. Safe Harbor pitcher Chris Stark allowed several baserunners, but was always able to come up with a key out to get himself out of trouble.

Lititz left nine men on base in the game.

“Chris had a bad outing for him, but he hung in there,” said Perry. “He was able to battle and stay in there.”

“I told them before the game that (Stark) was not overpowering,” said Peifer. “We were too anxious at the plate. I think Kunkle Field intrigues some of the guys with its short fences, and a lot of batters went after high pitches trying to put one out and ended up popping the ball up.”

Lititz managed to cut into Safe Harbor’s lead in the top of the seventh when Welsh cracked a three-run homer, but the game would get no closer as Stark recovered to retire the side.

“I just don’t think we were ready to play tonight,” said Peifer, who saw his team fall to 21-4 with the loss. “But we have nothing to be down about. It was a good year.”

In the second game, Mountville wasted little time in establishing its dominance, taking a four-run lead before an out was recorded in the top of the first.

Cory Wright was hit by the first pitch of the game to take first, advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt by pitcher Jon Williams, and scored on an error by right fielder Chris Milley to open the onslaught.

With the score still 1-0 later in the inning, first baseman Aaron Zeamer cracked a three-run blast over the right field fence to make it 4-0.

Jerry King made it 6-0 with a two-run single, and later scored on Wright’s two-run home run as the Angels batted around.

By the time the first inning ended, Mountville (20-5) had a commanding 8-0 lead.

It got worse in the third inning, as the Angels piled on 11 more runs. Matt Metzler and Jake Shellenberger had RBI singles in the rally, while Josh Albright connected for a three-run homer. Jerry King added an RBI sacrifice and Wright had a two-run double.

Mountville closed the scoring with Vinnie Doyle’s RBI groundout.

While his offense exploded, Shellenberger made sure Manheim couldn’t respond in kind. The Mountville pitcher allowed just two hits – one a solo home run by Kris Kalicicki in the second – and walked two while fanning 10 in four innings before giving way to relief pitcher Justin Weaver.

Weaver pitched three scoreless innings, allowing no hits and striking out six.

With the win, the Angels advance to the junior-midget semifinals, where they will take on Safe Harbor. The semifinal round will be played Tuesday at Mount Joy.

Perry said his team will be ready to face Mountville, which has scored 43 runs in two tournament games thus far.

“We haven’t played them yet this season, but I know they have a good team,” said Perry. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep our momentum going and shut them down.”

Mountvilles Aaron Zeamer beats pickoff throw to Manheim Kris Kalicki.