Solanco, Lititz, St. Leo to Midget semis

Ian Bentley pitches for St. Leo.

St. Leo avoids upset trend with 11-1 rout of Manhemp Twp. Black

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

St. Leo pitcher Ian Bentley showed up hungry Friday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

No, seriously, the lad was hung-gree. Jonesing for sustenance.

“My dad’s tried this new (nutritional) program. You’ve got to eat three hours before the game,” Bentley said Friday night. “I was starving the whole game! I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Unlike the other top seeds in this ultra-competitive tournament, Bentley and his teammates made it, feasting on Manheim Township Black Friday in the final game of a New Era Tournament Midget Division quarterfinal tripleheader.

St. Leo blasted Black, 11-1, in a game shortened to six ininings by the 10-run rule.

The victory earns St. Leo a spot in Tuesday’s Midget semifinals opposite the Lititz Oddfellows. Their meeting is set for 20 minutes following the completion of the SWS Blue-Solanco Gray contest.

The Lions banged out nine hits and Bentley settled in after a ragged start as No. 3-seeded St. Leo avoided the upset whammy that befell the first, second and fourth seeds.

“We were aware of it,” Lions coach Paul Mattaini said, discussing the minefield that claimed Hempfield Black, Ephrata Pride and Donegal. “We’ve played all these guys and there really isn’t a big difference between one and eight.”

St. Leo wasted little time, jumping on Township after Black hit Bentley around for a first-inning run.

“I had a rough start,” said Bentley, who finshed with a four-hitter, striking out nine. Maybe he was distracted by the aroma of burgers and fries wafting from beyond his dugout.

Township put together three hits, including Gavin O’Donnell’s RBI single, but Bentley settled down and allowed two more baserunners the rest of the way — Josh Cubbell’s walk in the second inning and Michael Bracero’s third-inning single.

“I just kept making my strikes and it worked out,” he said. “I liked my curveball the second time through (the linup). My fastball, I didn’t think they could touch it.”

They could not as Bentley retired the last 12 Black batters.

Meantime, the Lion bats were roaring.

St. Leo answered in the bottom of the first with four runs on two errors, Joe Yourgal’s grounder and sacrifice flies from Andrew St. Clair and Steve Long.

The hits, and runs, just kept on coming as St. Clair doubled in two and Patrick Kenney drove in one in the third inning.

Mac McCafferty and Tom Mattaini added an RBI doubles and Long drove in his second run with a fifth-inining single. Mattaini’s hit mercifully triggered the mercy rule with two out in the home sixth.

Ephrata’s Tim Murray is tagged out at home by Lititz pitcher Robert Gerofsky.

Lititz 9, Ephrata 7: Lititz jumped all over Ephrata in the first two innings, taking advantage of four errors while banging out six hits to score seven runs. Brady Weiler knocked in three of those runs with a pair of base hits.

“Like (the paper) said, we hit,” Lititz coach Frank Camera declared. “They made some mistakes right away that we were able to capitalize on.”

Ephrata got two back on a bases-loaded walk and a throwing error by starting pitcher Robert Gerofsky.

Zach Hurst came on in relief of Gerofsky and had a 1-2-3 third inning. The fourth inning was another story, as his relationship with the strike zone became strained.

He walked three, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch as the Pride scored five runs to tie the game, chasing Hurst in favor of Weiler.

In Hurst’s defense, he scuffed his pitching hand stealing second in the top of the inning. “He just couldn’t get a comfortable grip on the ball,” said Camera.

Ephrata’s reprieve was short-lived.

In the top of the fifth Travis Reapsome’s bases-loaded single put Lititz ahead for good. Alec Rhoads followed with an insurance RBI fielder’s choice.

Solanco’s Jake Johnson is congratulated by teammate Zac Leonard after Johnson made the final catch to end the game against Donegal.

Solanco 7, Donegal 5: In the opener — the continuation of Thursday’s suspended contest — Solanco Gray scored early and late and held off Donegal.

Solanco took advantage of early control trouble by Donegal’s Dalton Garrett, who walked two in front of Eli Groff’s sacrifice fly and Eric Lefevre’s RBI double. Zack Bechtold got the scoring started stealing home on the back end of a double steal with Matt Murray.

Garrett settled in, retiring 12 in a row at one point, but Jake Johnson snapped the streak with an infield single to start the sixth inning.

In short order Solanco had loaded the bases and Eli Groff plated a run on a fielder’s choice. Lefevre stroked his second double of the afternoon, scoring two. Gray would add a seventh run in the seventh inning. It came in handy.

Donegal got on the board with an unearned run in the second and tied the game in the fourth inning on Nick Katko’s double and a fielder’s choice from Eli Schramm.

Down 6-3, Donegal posted an unearned run in the sixth, but pinch runner Chandler Petersheim scored on Jake Johnson’s single to restore the two-run margin.

Justin Prescott walked and Garrett doubled to fan the embers of a rally in the Donegal seventh. Calab Groff made an outstanding catch on Michael Houseal’s pop to second for the first out. Kyle Bohan knocked in Prescott with a sac fly before Chris Robinson skied to center to end the game.

Lititz’s Garrett High beats the tag by Ephrata’s Jarred Martin.

Solanco pinch runner Chandler Petersheim runs past Donegal’s Eli Schramm, who has trouble field an infield hit.

Lititz’s Braidy Weiler drives in a run with a hit against Ephrata.

Robert Gerofsky pitches for Lititz.

St. Leo players enjoy their game against Manheim Township.