New Era Correspondent
Catcher Scott Hellberg couldn’t find his equipment and his pitcher, Adam Zimmerman, couldn’t find the plate, but things eventually worked out as the Strasburg Twins defeated East Petersburg 12-5 in the first game of a New Era Tournament junior-midget doubleheader Wednesday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
In the nightcap, Mount Joy Blue showed why it is one of the favorites to claim the J-M title in the 50th New Era Tournament , crushing the Leola Blue Jays 18-3.
Blue (25-4) pounded out 10 hits and took advantage of six errors and 13 walks from the overmatched Leola mound staff. Leola saw its 10-game win streak snapped and its season end at 13-6.
“I doubt they saw anybody this strong all year,” said Mount Joy coach Greg Schneider.
Mount Joy flexed its muscle early. The first two hitters, Matt Bachert and Ryan Hamilton, were each 2-for-2 with three runs scored in three innings’ work. Hamilton added three RBIs as the Susquehanna League kings opened a 14-1 lead behind starter Ryan Torborg.
Torborg and reliever Adam Swarr combined for 13 strikeouts in five innings while giving up two hits, two walks and one earned run. Bryan Engle pitched the last two innings, allowing Leola’s last two runs.
“That’s pretty much the way it’s been,” said Schneider. “We get the good pitching, do enough with the bats and we always play good defense. Always.”
In the opener, Hellberg’s catching equipment couldn’t be found, so East Petersburg was gracious enough to share its equipment with its opponent. Once that crisis was averted, Hellberg had to deal with a skittish pitcher.
Pitching in the Conestoga League, Zimmerman hadn’t thrown off a mound all year and was clearly troubled by the perch at Kunkle Field.
“Our field is flat,” Hellberg said. “It was such a change for him.”
After being fronted a 3-0 lead, Zimmerman walked four of the first five batters in the second inning and gave up an RBI single and the lead, 4-3.
But he reached back to escape the inning and settled in, retiring 11 of the next 13 batters before East Pete (10-6-1), representing the Penn Manor League’s Section 2, reached him for its final run in the seventh inning.
“We were this close to getting him out of there, but we kind of fizzled after that,” said East Pete coach Mike Glick. “He really did a good job after that.”
Strasburg coach Nick Ferretti said once Zimmerman finds a groove, “He’s OK. It just takes him a little bit to find it.”
While he was finding himself, his teammates were finding the offerings of East Petersburg pitcher Randy Paules to their liking.
Paules was right around the plate, issuing no walks but allowing 12 hits and 12 runs, seven of which were earned.
The Twin who did the most damage was Andy Dietzel. The son of Lancaster Mennonite baseball coach Dan Dietzel was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, including singles in the fourth and fifth and a home run in the seventh.
“I’d been swinging underneath the ball,” Dietzel said in recounting his first homer of the season. “I just wanted to hit it solid, so I swung level.”
Hellberg also went 3-for-4, scoring three times. Brendan Zigler hit safely twice, driving in three and Joel Denlinger drove in two.
The Twins (19-3) will face a tougher test when they get the Blues – the Mount Joy Blues – in the quarterfinals next Wednesday at Kunkle. Ferretti says his club is up for the challenge.
“They want to play, so we’re here to play,” he said.
In the meantime, where’s that mask and helmet?