New Era Correspondent
For the second year in a row, Hempfield Black and Strasburg/Willow Street will meet to decide the Midget Division championship of the New Era Baseball Tournament.
The familiar foes will take the field tonight at 7 at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
Hempfield Black — with two members returning from the 2002 Midget championship team — did all its scoring in one inning and held off Lititz Oddfellows 5-4 in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader Monday night at the War.
In the opener, the Strasburg/Willow Street Storm — with eight members back from SWS Red, the ’02 runnerup — scored early and often to defeat Ephrata Pride 18-8 in a game ended after five innings by the 10-run rule.
Hempfield blanked SWS 7-0 in ’02, winning its second straight Midget title. For the longest time Monday night it seemed Black (17-4) would be denied a shot at a third title.
Lititz lefthander Bobby Thompson had a no-hitter going through 3 innings and a 1-0 lead courtesy of Alex Hart’s second-inning RBI single. It was familiar territory for the southpaw who 1-hit Hempfield earlier this season.
Black’s Charlie Parker broke up the no-hitter with an infield single past Thompson’s follow through in the fourth inning but was stranded.
Geoff Dornes took the same route for a leadoff single in the fifth inning and Thompson followed by skimming Phil Harnick’s toe with a pitch. When Cory Beddick pushed a bunt past Thompson and toward third, the bases were loaded.
Thompson got an out with no advance by the runners, but the next hitter, Keith Unton, lashed a single to center field, scoring two runs.
“I was just trying to put it in play, hit it anywhere,” he said. “(Thompson) is a quick worker. (The coaches) told me just to slow the pace down and be ready.”
Both Beddick and Unton moved up a base on the hit when Kent Gerdes bobbled the ball in center and Beddick scored as winning pitcher Kyle Enoch singled to center.
On that hit Gerdes came up throwing as Unton tried to score behind Beddick. The throw home was high and Unton touched home as catcher Evan Scheffey spied Enoch trying to stretch into third.
Scheffey’s throw there sailed into left and Enoch completed the circuit, putting Hempfield ahead 5-1.
“We knew we had to start making things happen,” said Black manager Jeff Unton.
“They played smart ball,” observed Oddfellows manager Frank Camera. “They weren’t hitting Bobby. They made some adjustments… put the ball in play. They executed beautifully.”
“We got everything at one time (including four of their five total hits) and every one of them counted,” said Jeff Unton.
That was because Lititz (16-3) fired right back. The Oddfellows loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a hitbatsman before Enoch coaxed a first-out infield pop.
After Nick Ruscigno worked a walk to force home a run, Enoch got another popup for out number two. He put the next batter, Steve Sellner in an 0-2 hole, then popped him up.Elizabethtown’s Erick Baker avoids a pitch in front of catcher Mike Thomas.
The ball drifted toward the rightfield foul line. Firstbaseman Geoff Dornes went back after it.
Beddick drifted over from second. Unton came in from right. The ball fell between them as two runs crossed the plate.
Enoch got out of the inning without further damage and Phil Harnick came on to pitch a 1-2-3 sixth inning for Hempfield. The seventh inning was a little more adventurous.
Lititz loaded the bases again on a one-out walk and single, and a two-out walk, bringing Hart to the plate. There was no deliverance, however, as Hart hit a soft fly to Drew Kise in center, ending the game.
“It would’ve been nice to see that ball fall in there,” Camera said. “Alex hits that ball a little more square, or in on the handle a little more, it’s 6-5 and Jeff’s over there talking about what could’ve been.”
Instead, Camera was left to ponder losing to a team after beating it twice by a 15-1 aggregate. And he was left to ponder a second-straight, one-run, bottom-of-the-seventh, NET elimination.
In the ’02 quarterfinals, Kyle Jones’ liner to center blunted a 4-run rally and was the last out of a 7-6 win by SWS.
Strasburg/Willow Street went on to defeat Ephrata (8-3). This year was much different.
The Storm (25-4) accepted 10 walks issued by Ephrata pitching — scoring eight of them — banged out 11 hits and took advantage of five errors to fashion the runaway.
Winning pitcher Jeff Bianchi drew three of those walks, scoring all three times, and Chris Shehan ripped a pair of 2-run doubles in his 3-for-3 effort.
SWS scored six runs in the first inning on Shehan’s first double, a single by Charlie Haley, an error and Mark Zurbrick’s 2-run double.
Eric See’s sacrifice bunt and Ben Longenecker’s 2-run single keyed a 4-run second inning. Two more crossed the plate in the third on sacrifice flies from See and Tyler Gansner.
Ryan Visneski’s RBI double, Shehan’s second double and Justin Guiliano’s 2-run single off the bench highlighted a 6-run fourth that brought the 10-run rule into play.
“You have to hit the ball when you get guys on,” Storm manager Garry Shehan said. “We’ve been doing that all year. We can put nine guys up there who will hit the ball hard every time.”
“One thing a team cannot do is help the other team out with walks, not making the fielding plays,” Pride manager Craig Kliewer said with a sigh. “We had to play a perfect game to beat them. We made too many mistakes.”
The Pride (12-9) did make a game of it early, scoring three runs in the first inning on Zach Harbold’s 2-run triple and an RBI groundout by Adam Gerhart.
Harbold added to his RBI total with a sacrifice fly, and Jon Ebersole knocked in two runs with a fifth-inning double, but it was too little, too late.