New Era Correspondent
They’re young, but experienced. They’ve been to the Midget finals of the New Era Tournament , and they’d like to get there again.
Monday evening in Lampeter, Solanco (23-3) took the first step to achieving that goal with a quarterfinal 9-7 victory over fellow Lanco League foe Manheim VFW (23-5).
“We’ve been waiting since last year,” winning coach Dave Aument said of his squad, which lost 7-3 to Leola in the ’95 Midget finals.
“We lost to Leola,” he added, “but that gave them a taste of it.” So there they were, top of the seventh, down a run, bibs on and hungry when the table was set.
Leading off against Tyrell Yealy, Manheim’s third pitcher of the night, Ryan Bowe reached second on a throwing error and Jed King laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. It was so good in fact, he beat it out for a base hit.
Solanco was 1-for-2 to that point on the old first-and-third steal – one run scored, one runner thrown out at home – so they tried it again.
King lit out for second and when the decoy throw to shortstop went under Ryan Gerlach’s glove and into left, Bowe scored and King went all the way to third.
Matt Wimer followed with an RBI single and was bunted over to second by winning pitcher Greg Aument. Wimer then scored Solanco’s ninth run on another fielding miscue.
“All year long we’ve been taking advantage of other peoples’ mistakes,” Dave Aument said. “But we haven’t had to battle back like this.”
Manheim threatened in the bottom of the seventh on a pair of walks, but Aument got a double play ground ball and a strike out to seal the victory.
Solanco had painstakingly built a 3-1 lead on Wimer’s second-inning steal of home, Jeff Argue’s solo home run in the third and a classic “little-ball’ run in the fourth.
Wimer singled, advanced on a pair of ground outs and scored when Brad Groff’s grounder went through the legs of first baseman Josh Longo. Greg Aument was in the thick of it in the fifth inning. King had already singled in a run with a sharply hit ball up the middle and Wimer walked to load the bases.
Manheim coach Barry Lewis lifted starter Clark Showalter and brought in lefthander Robert Ocasio to go left-left against Aument with the infield pulled way in.
Aument spoiled that strategy by singling past second baseman Derek Schnader to drive in two more runs.
“I think it was an inside pitch, a fastball,” said Aument who welcomed the opportunity to bat with the infield up. “If you hit it hard enough, the fielders don’t have a chance to react to it.”
That hit gave Solanco a safe 6-1 lead. Safe for about five minutes.
Bowe, who started but labored, gave up back-to-back walks to open the home fifth and Showalter bounced an infield single to third to load the bases. Jeff Smoker then smoked Bowe’s first pitch to left scoring Gerlach and bringing on Chris Dearlof in releif.
Shane Ecenrode, pinch-hitting for Ocasio, walked to force in Mark Bell, but with one out Schnader bounced into a pitcher-home force play. When the potential double play throw to first trickled into foul territory, Smoker scored.
Casey Bires plated Ecenrode with an infield single and Schnader completed the rally scampering home on a passed ball. Smoker’s RBI double in the next inning gave VFW a one-run lead going into the seventh.
“It was a heck of a ballgame,” said Lewis, “it was up and down. They did a great job, we did a great job. We had our chances to win.”
Manheim stranded six baserunners in the first three innings, including loaded bases in the second.
“We certainly left lots of men on base,” said Lewis. “We had our chances to score early and we didn’t do it. We didn’t get a couple of hits there, made some mistakes in thefield and that was the difference.”