Strong pitching was the key to victory for Hempfield Black and the Strasburg-Willow Street Cardinals in Friday’s quarterfinals of the New Era Midget-Midget Tournament at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy.
Bear Shank put on a dominating performance for SWS in the first game, overcoming some early-game jitters and control problems to throw a complete game two-hitter and a 6-2 win over the Garden Spot Spartans.
The second game saw Hempfield’s Tim Gailor breeze through the first three innings without surrendering a hit and striking out 11 in five innings for a 9-2 win over Ephrata, the first time Hempfield had beaten the Green Dragons this season.
Garden Spot opened the game by putting the first two runners on base via the walk, as Shank struggled to find the plate. The runners moved to second and third on a passed ball before Brock Kauffman doubled to right field to score both runs. Shank settled down from there, striking out the next three hitters to prevent further damage.
“We haven’t played for two weeks so I think it was a little bit of jitters,” said SWS head coach Steve Shank. “I gave him a chance to refocus, he calmed down and we were fine.”
SWS got one run back in the bottom of the first, but took the lead for good two innings later.
Dan Eshelman walked and Devon Weiant reached on an error. Another error loaded the bases with one out for Chase Nelle, who drove in one with a single. The bases remained loaded for Connor Brown, who laid down a perfect suicide squeeze that brought Weiant home with the go-ahead run.
The Cardinals added another run in the inning and two in the fourth on a walk, single, two errors, a passed ball and a stolen base.
“Every game we are behind and respond and play well the rest of the way,” said Shank.
Bear Shank took care of the rest, retiring the last 12 batters of the game as the Cardinals advanced to the semifinals.
Hempfield took the lead early against Ephrata with clutch hitting up and down the lineup. Gailor walked and stole second and Andrew Corso singled to bring in a run. Tyler Jackson singled to left, but a bobble in the outfield allowed the second run to score.
Hempfield added another run in the third on a delayed steal, one of two scored in the game by this method. The team had runners on first and third and Jackson stole second. Catcher Justin Carvell threw to second, but as he did, the runner on third, Ted Grambois, came in to score.
The Black added two more runs in the fifth on a two-RBI double by Corso to deep center field for the 5-0 lead.
“I knew our team could hit like that and we finally put it together in a game as big as this,” said Hempfield head coach Brett Jackson. “We put our hitting together with great pitching by Tim. We need to keep hitting the ball and playing tough defense to keep winning.”
Gailor perplexed the Ephrata hitters with his mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches. He surrendered his first hit in the fourth to Evan Frees, who later scored on another single, and allowed a double and triple in the fifth for the second run. His last batter faced was Frees, who fanned for Gailor’s 11th strikeout.
Hempfield added four runs in the sixth off two Ephrata relievers, and Kyle Kerr then retired all three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning to secure the win.