By Dave Byrne
Ephrata Pride and the Strasburg-Willow Street Pioneers advanced to the Midget semifinals of the 67th New Era Tournament Friday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The Pride (14-3-1) got a yeoman effort from pitcher Seth Griffith and a three-RBI night from Brady Sipe to subdue the Lititz Oddfellows, 7-2 in the opening game of a quarterfinal doubleheader.
In the nightcap, SWS flirted with the 10-run rule, then hung on for dear life before overcoming Manheim Township Black, 11-10.
Ephrata and SWS will meet Sunday afternoon in the middle game of a scheduled tripleheader.
Solanco and Donegal open the afternoon’s action at 2 p.m. in the final quarterfinal contest of the tournament.
The winner of that game returns to face Manheim VFW in the final game of the day.
The Oddfellows (11-6-1) took a brief, 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning of the opener on Evan Haven’s two-run single.
Ephrata broke on top on Sipe’s RBI groundout and Sipe was in the middle of the fourth-inning uprising that gave the Pride the lead for good.
Loading the bases on an error, a walk and a pop single, Ephrata tied the game when Brandon Miller scored on a wild pitch by Lititz starter Robert Gerofsky.
Ethan Sipe’s sacrifice fly plated another run and Brady Sipe capped the outburst with an RBI single.
“I just do my job. It’s the guys getting on,” said Brady Sipe. “As long as you put the ball in play, the run scores.”
He singled in Josh Gehman to open the Pride’s three-run sixth and, after Ethan Sipe scored on a passed ball, came home on a wild pitch.
The support was welcomed by Griffith, who slammed the door after the Oddfellow fourth.
“He pitched a great game, he came together great at the end,” said Brady Sipe.
The early portion of the second game was a lesson in landing more punches than one’s opponent.
By the end of the game, both combatants were punchier than a drill press.
SWS (12-5-1) outscored Black in each of the first three innings, throwing two-spots up in the first and second innings and three in the third.
Due in part to the skills of SWS starter Alex Brown and also some suspect baserunning by Township, Black countered with single runs in the first three innings.
Early on, SWS got RBI hits from Brett Brooks (2 for 4, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and Michael Warfel ( 2 for 5, run, RBI).
Courtesy runner Avery Reynolds announced it was going to be a weird night when he stole home while Josh Wright was trying — and missing — to squeeze him home.
Cameron Enck doubled to the warning track in right center, driving in two runs for a 7-2 lead.
Black, which scored on Carter Krick’s single and sac fly from Ian Eriksson (3 for 4, run, RBI), missed a golden opportunity in the third.
With a run in and two on, Josh Cubell (3 for 4, run, RBI) singled to right. Nick Snyder got a late stop sign at third and suddenly Township (13-5) had a runner at third, a runner at second and a runner at shortstop.
After some chasing and attempts at eluding, Snyder was thrown out at third. Brown got two ground outs and the threat was deterred.
Soon SWS led 9-3, then 11-3 and had command when Brown gave way to reliever Brooks to start the sixth inning.
Brooks walked two, hit one and gave up three hits in two-thirds of an inning, and Township stirred with three runs to get to 11-6.
Enck came on to close out the sixth but ran into more trouble in the seventh on two singles, a force, an error and a hit batter.
Gavin O’Donnell scored on a wild pitch, as did Dan Vucovich, and Snyder scored when catcher Regan Hershey threw wildly trying to nab Vucovich.
Suddenly, Township had the potential tying run on second in the person of Sean Hennessy with the white-hot Cubell coming up.
Enck bulled his neck and got Cubell on a comebacker for the final out and SWS could finally think about Sunday.