Strasburg-Willow Street’s Midgets may be trending young this summer, but it was the team’s two returning veterans leading it to the semifinals of the 68th Lancaster Newspapers New Era Tournament.
Austin Pletcher and Cameron Enck, the only two holdovers from last year, were a combined 5 for 7 with three runs scored and an RBI as SWS defeated Manheim VFW 6-3 in the second game of a quarterfinal doubleheader Monday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
In the opener, top-seeded Hempfield Black denied Donegal’s upset bid with a 4-1 victory.
SWS and Hempfield will meet in the first game of a semifinal twin bill back at Clipper on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m.
In a rematch of last year’s championship game, Enck doubled in Pletcher in the third inning, then scored on an RBI groundout by winning pitcher Dan Eshleman to put SWS on top 3-2.
“As an older guy, you want to be a leader,” Pletcher said. “I think the young guys look up to (us) as role models.”
The teams traded runs as Josh Flanagan singled in Frank Bowman in VFW’s first inning, but Pletcher doubled to right — the first of two he directed there — took third on Enck’s base hit and scored on Devon Weiant’s ground out.
“I just tried to put the ball in play,” Pletcher said. “There’s a lot of good guys behind me who can … drive me in.”
Manheim went back on top in the second on Dan Weiderrecht’s RBI groundout and the score remained that way until the SWS third.
Then the game got goofily entertaining.
Ben Rhoades led off the SWS fourth with a single, taking second with one out as David Greenwood reached on catcher’s interference.
Bear Shank singled in Rhoades with the fourth run, but Greenwood was out at second after taking a big turn.
Losing pitcher Chad Neely’s first offering to Pletcher was a good 10 feet above the plate and a tad wide and Shank motored all the way to third as catcher Skylar Wilson tracked down the errant offering.
Having reached third, Shank stepped off, perhaps thinking he had time. He did not. Starner took Wilson’s threw and tagged Shank for the third out of the inning.
That was nothing.
The next inning, Enck singled with one out, only to be forced by Weiant on a great play by shortstop Blake Reiff.
Eshleman hit a ball that arrived at the second-base bag just before Weiant. Mitchell Shenk couldn’t control the ball, Weiant sneaked in and Eshleman was on with an infield single.
Then Jake Howells hit a ball deep in the hole at short, Reiff knocked it down, but threw wildly to first.
Howells already had the bag — for another infield hit — and Weiant scored on the error, with pinch runner Andrew Hay taking third.
Then Neely picked off Howells, who survived the ensuing rundown long enough to allow Hay to steal home. Manheim nicked Enck for a run in the seventh inning as Weiderrecht doubled in Kevin Starner with two out, but Enck struck out Bowman on a foul tip to close out the victory.
The first game had its share of baserunning adventures too.
Hempfield broke on top with an unearned second inning run on Andrew Corso’s sac fly.
Donegal tied the game in the third as Camren Ney tripled into the right-field corner, then scored on Adam Kolenda’s infield single.
Black struck back in the fourth as Jon Peterson, who picked up the save with two innings behind winning pitcher Michael Hernandez, dropped a one-out hit into left field.
Ney, who took the loss for Donegal, retired Jon Beck on a fly to left, but Dustin Walter reached on a bad hop single to short.
Corso knocked in his second run, singling to center and Walter took the big turn around third before hitting the breaks.
He tried retreating to the bag but got trapped in an entertaining rundown as he advanced, retreated, advanced, retreated and finally made a jailbreak for home, diving under Chris Beaudoin’s tag.
“I was a little aggressive on the bases and got stuck in that pickle,” Walter said.
“I’ve been in a lot of rundowns, I just had to stick with it. Luckily, I slid a certain way where I got around the guy and tug home plate.”
With that sticking in their craw, Donegal loaded the bases on Hernandez with one out in the top of the fifth.
Hernandez got Ethan Hess on a fly to shallow center, with no advance by the runners, then struck out Beaudoin in a seven-pitch at bat to end the threat.
“I just tried … to hold the lead,” Hernandez said. “When I’m struggling … strikeouts help a lot.”
He fed Beaudoin a diet of curveballs, then dropped the hammer with a high fastball.
The stranded trio became a part of Donegal’s eleven left on base total, which did nothing to help its cause.
Black closed the scoring as Derek Manning singled in the sixth, eventually scoring on a wild pitch.