Safe Harbor, SWS reach J-M semis

Sheldon Witmer rounds third after hitting a home run.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

There is no substitute for experience.

Monday night’s junior-midget doubleheader at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field proved that.

Two of the New Era Tournament ‘s most savvy teams — the Strasburg/Willow Street White Sox and the Safe Harbor Lions — advanced to the J-M semifinals last night.

The White Sox blasted four home runs to hammer the Mountville Angels 12-2 in the opener, while the Lions came from behind to defeat Mt. Joy Blue 9-6 in the nightcap.

The two teams will square off in the New Era Tourney’s semifinals, which will be held July 23 at Kunkle Field.

The other two junior-midget semifinalists will be determined tonight with another twinbill in Mt. Joy.

In tonight’s opener, the Clay Cubs take on the Hempfield Black at 6p.m., while the Manheim Township Blue faces Lititz VFW in the nightcap at 8.

With four players returning to the reigning J-M champions and three graduates from the midget-midget champion Cubs, this year’s edition of the Safe Harbor Lions (26-9) is a seasoned bunch.

But not as practiced as Strasburg/Willow Street (35-5) which has blended six players from the ’99 M-M champion SWS Cardinals with three lads who played for the SWS Pioneers in the J-M title game last year.

That experience shows up in an approach to the game that is all business, mature beyond this age level.

“I’m blessed with a good group,” admitted White Sox coach Dan Herr. “It comes from good homes, good family life.”

“They have the poise on the mound, the poise on the field,” said Mountville coach Bob Sholl, who has seen a lot of the White Sox this year. “They’re the real deal, the best there is out in the county.”

He should know. Counting last night, the Angels (15-20) have played the White Sox seven times. And lost seven times.

“Four times it was by a run, once by two runs and once by three,” said Sholl. “It’s always that one hit that beats us, and they’ve been doing it all year.”

It wasn’t just one hit that did it Monday night, however.

Shortstop Jeff Bianchi led the way for the White Sox with two home runs and five RBIs. His first was a three-run shot over the scoreboard in left, while his second was a two-run blast that barely cleared the foul pole in right.

The second blast, which came with one out in the bottom of the fifth, invoked the 10-run rule and brought the game to an early end.

Not a bad finish to a night that began with Bianchi going 0-for-2.

“I was just too overanxious and swinging at bad pitches,” he later said. “The last two times at bat I just told myself, “If you see a good pitch to hit on the first one, hit it.’ ”

While Bianchi swung the biggest bat for Strasburg/Willow Street, he wasn’t alone.

Ryan Visneski was 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the White Sox, while winning pitcher Sheldon Witmer helped himself by knocking in three runs with a double and a pair of solo homers.

Witmer’s night at the plate was easier than his night on the mound. The Angels took advantage of some loose play in the field and some early wildness by Witmer to make a game of it, 3-2, after 2 1/2 innings.

During the Angels’ third, Herr brought an encouraging word to Witmer that seemed to do the trick. He mowed Mountville down in the fourth to end his day.

Herr allowed there was, “no real magic,” to his visit.

“I looked like a genius,” he said, “but I just told him to take a deep breath, calm down and throw strikes.”

A concept that seemed to elude Safe Harbor starter Kyle Caruthers in the nightcap. Given a 2-0 lead on Darren Brunner’s first-inning homer, Caruthers walked five of the next seven hitters following Ben Gainer’s lead-off single for Mt. Joy (23-12) in the home first.

Lions’ coach Carl Caruthers reluctantly replaced Kyle with Matt Haverstick, who proceeded to walk in the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.

Nick Ebersole off the second with a base hit for the Blue, but Haverstick retired the next eleven in a row before Josh Chandler broke the spell with a solo blast over the center field fence.

By that time the Lions had taken a page from Haverstick and taken command offensively. Zac Charles got one run back with a homer in the third and Kevin Steinkirchner capped a three-run fourth, driving in the go-ahead run with a single to center field.

Haverstick helped himself with an RBI single in the fifth and catcher Dan Velcheck followed that with a 2-run double to give his reliever some breathing room.

Haverstick finished his 6 1/2-inning relief stint with 13 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter after the first inning.

Mount Joy Blue’s Andy Flattery slides into home as Safe Harbor catcher dan Velcheck awaits.