New Era Correspondent
Hockey (remember hockey?) has a great tradition where the members of the Stanley Cup Championship team kiss the Cup while skating around the rink.
A new tradition was born Tuesday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field. Following Mount Joy Blue’s 5-0 victory over Hempfield Black, the coaches of the newly-crowned Midget-Midget New Era Tournament champion took turns kissing a pig.
Kissing a pig?
Let catcher Taylor Nauman explain.
“We always have our picnic in the middle of the season and Dylan Houseal’s mom came up with the idea: if we win the New Era, we were going to kiss a pig.”
Somehow the idea morphed from kids kissing to the coaches puckering the porker — actually a piglet — which, all in all, had a pretty good demeanor as he was dutifully passed from assistant coach Mike McClenaghan to head coach Ron Wagner.
Assistant Buzz Albert passed on the ham.
All of which put a humorous cap on a celebration 35-plus years in the making.
That was, at the least, how long Wagner has been coaching Mount Joy boys at the midget-midget level.
In that time, he estimates he took four or five teams to the New Era finals. Every time he watched the other team go through the rituals: the championship trophy presentation; the team photo with trophy and index fingers held high.
“We never could get that win,” he said after the game. “We got her now though.”
With five players returning from last year’s New Era Tourney Midget-Midget semifinalists, Wagner had a championship nucleus in place, especially with Jason Sauder and Kevin Newcomer taking care of the pitching. Sauder got the win in relief of Newcomer in Blue’s tournament opening win over the SWS Cardinals, then came back to best the Norlanco Redbirds in Monday’s semifinals.
Which meant it was Newcomer’s turn and he was up to the task. He allowed Black just three hits and seven base runners total.
“I’ve had a lot of shutouts,” Newcomer said, looking back on his young career. “But this is one of the ones to remember.”
After escaping a first-inning jam, he was lights out, using his curveball to keep Black hitter off balance. He struck out six and got eight ground ball outs, four on balls back to the mound.
“The curve worked for me nicely,” he said. “I just figured it was one of my better games with the curve.”
Newcomer threw 65 pitches, 24 in the first inning, getting three outs on three pitches in the third and three outs on five in the fifth!
“We kept asking him, ‘Have you had enough?’,” said Wagner. “He’d say, ‘Nah, I want to do it.’ “
“When it got to the fifth inning,” Taylor shared, “I told coach Albert, ‘He started it. Let him finish it.’ He was throwing great the whole night and was handling the big guys pretty well.” Hempfield loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on a single, walk and hit batter, but Newcomer got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
Nauman helped his batterymate by throwing out pinch runners Dylan Gromen (in the second inning) and Charlie Raffensberger (in the fourth) both of whom were trying to steal third base.
“Give Mount Joy a lot of credit,” said Black coach Dan Brookhart. “They played a great game defensively. We struggled to get anything going.”
Maybe that was a hangover from Black’s emotional semifinal win over the Mountville Indians one night earlier.
But Blue had an emotional victory too, not that Wagner worried about any letdown.
“Not this team,” he smiled. “They’re always ready to play ball.”
“We were in a slump,” said Taylor, recalling the late-season slide that saw the Susquehanna League regular season champs flat-line in the league playoffs. “We pulled out that 6-5 game (in the NET first round) and coach Albert said once you pull it out, you’ve got to win a championship.”
So they set about achieving that goal with Peter Sheetz leading off the second inning with a base hit.
He took second on a balk call on Black starter Lee Eckert and advanced to third as Eckert threw away Travis Hess’ sacrifice bunt.
Hess stole second and, after Brandon Kerlin fouled off a squeeze bunt, Eckert balked home Sheetz with the first run of the game. After taking a ball, Kerlin got the bunt down, scoring Hess, and beating it out to boot.
Newcomer and Jason Sauder greeted reliever Ben Peachey with singles to start the third inning, but then Newcomer was erased in a rundown on Nauman’s grounder to third.
With two outs, Jon Heisey worked a 3-2 count, then fouled off a good pitch from Peachey.
“On a full count I just wanted to make contact,” Heisey said. “Hopefully something good would happen.”
Something good did happen. He lined the next pitch to right, scoring Sauder and Nauman.
That was all the runs Newcomer would need and Sauder iced the win the next inning, pulling the first-pitch he saw from Jordan Neff down the leftfield line and over the fence.