New Era Correspondent
It was a perfect defensive play that swamped the playoff hopes of the Strasburg-Willow Street Cardinals while lifting Mt. Joy Blue to the Midget-Midget semifinals of the New Era Tournament.
Rightfielder Derek Miller gunned down the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, allowing Mt. Joy (18-12) to hold on to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals in the second game of a Midget-Midget doubleheader Friday night at Kunkle Field.
“We played well and we never gave up,” said catcher Tanner Edgell.
In the opener, Hempfield Black (31-5) used a 15-hit attack to 10-run Solanco, 14-3.
Hempfield and Mt. Joy will face one another Monday night in the second game of a semifinal twinbill at Kunkle. In the first game, the Warwick Phillies will take on the Mountville Indians at 6 p.m. Monday’s winners advance to the title game of the Midget-Midget bracket, which is for players age 12 and under.
Friday night, SWS trailed by a run in the bottom of the sixth when Adam Stellar led off the inning with a walk. The next hitter, Jon Carlson, grounded to third but lived on an error as Chris Royer overthrew first base.
Steller took the turn at second, then steamed around third as the ball rolled down the rightfield line. Miller made a heads-up play, scooping up the ball in foul ground and firing a strike to Edgell, who applied the tag for the out.
“I can’t believe he did that,” said Edgell of Miller’s throw. “I’m just thinking, “Get out in front of the plate. Get the tag down.”
Watching from the third base coaching box, SWS coach Bill DeMora probably wished he could have reeled Steller back from the unfolding disaster.
“For a kid to make a play like that at this age is great,” he said.
“Usually with no outs I’m going to hold a kid at third, but it looked like a sure thing to me. He (Miller) made a tremendous play, the catcher blocked the plate and it was over.”
As was the game shortly afterward. Carlson took third on the play, and was stranded there as winning pitcher Jarred Dettinger got the final two outs.
Dettinger bulldogged his way to the win scattering six hits, walking five and striking out seven. The Cardinals (16-8) put two up in the first inning on an RBI grounder by Chad Babcock and Ryan Shultz’s run-scoring hit.
They left the bases loaded in that inning and came up dry in a first-and-third, one out situation in the second, after having a runner thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice.
Dettinger then retired six in a row and eight of the next nine.
Meanwhile, Babcock was throwing one of the most unlikely no-hitters you’ll ever see, carrying a gem into the fifth inning despite allowing seven walks. He also struck out 10.
DeMora called Babcock’s wild streak uncustomary.
“He’s not wild, not at all,” DeMora said. “His grandfather said he only slept two hours last night because he was so nervous about the game. Twelve years old. That’s just the way it is.”
Morgan Rupp followed Gorski with a one-out walk followed by a base-on-balls to Royer.
Edgell then smoked the first pitch he saw to deep center for a 2-run double, giving Blue its first lead of the night on its first hit of the night.
“I just watched the ball hit the bat and swung through,” said Edgell, who took third on a sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch.
Babcock, who finished with a nine-walk, 13-strikeout two-hitter, gave up a run in the third when he wild-pitched Dettinger home. He got a big assist from Mike Mannix with a great catch on Devon Gorski’s line shot to right to open the fifth.
“I knew, with the way their outfielders were playing so shallow, all it was going to take was for somebody to connect on one,” said Mt. Joy manager Ron Wagner.
But that was easier said than done.
“The whole game we had them taking a first strike before they started swinging,” Wagner said. “It paid off. All year long, (we’ve had) tight games, one run games. That’s why they keep their cool out there when we’re down.”
And when they’re up.
The Cardinals got a run back in the fifth when Tyler Good tripled and scored on Babcock’s single. It was all they got.
“We really thought we’d score a lot more runs than we did,” DeMora offered. “We just left too many on base. We needed to get the hits. We didn’t get them and Mt. Joy hung in there, played us tough and got one big hit when they needed it.”
Hempfield Black got one big hit in the first game. Fifteen times.
Chris Wise and Andrew Kulp each went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Brandon Hinkle was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored, while Brendan McCandless was 2-for-3 with a run and RBI. Jared Horning also knocked in three with a double and ground out, scoring twice.
Mark Enoch was 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored out of the nine hole as the bottom of Black’s order (6-thru-9) was a collective 8-for-12 with eight RBIs and six runs.
“We finally brought our hitting sticks,” said Black coach Gary Stepanchick. “They were relaxed. We took the approach to go out and have fun. Whatever happens happens.
“We played (Solanco) twice in tournaments and even though they’re 1-AA, they’re a very good team. I told the kids we’re not taking anyone lightly.”
So they came down heavily on Solanco (18-13), scoring six runs in the first inning, all coming with two out. Horning hit a 2-run double and Hinkle followed with a 2-run single. Wise lined an RBI triple to right and came home on Enoch’s single.
Black’s offense proved relentlessly efficient, scoring two in the second, one in the third and five more in the fourth. Hinkle got the start for Hempfield and pitched two hitless innings — Solanco had four foul balls off him — walking three and striking out five as his command came and went.
“At times he’s struggled some,” Stepanchick admitted. “Last year Brandon was one of the better pitchers in the league, and he still can be. There’s been two games (this year) that he’s been flat on and he’s pitched well.”
Solanco nicked Hinkle for a run in the first as Brock Snider walked, stole second, took third on an errant pickoff and scored on a wild pitch. They did nothing in one inning against Hinkle’s relief, Brett Houseal, but posted two runs off McCandless over the last two innings on triples by Jack Buzzard and Snider.