SWS’s near-perfect outing too much for Manheim

Bear Shank throws for SWS.

By Dave Byrne
Sports Staff

Ever since HBO originally broadcast the World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers” in 2001, it seems just about every sports team has declared themselves to be a band of brothers. To the point where it’s almost become a cliché.

But, there’s a reason why the camaraderie, the espirit-de-corp that was the central focus of that program resonates.

One unit, coming together as one team, for one purpose.

Brothers.

In the afterglow of victory Tuesday night, Strasburg/Willow Street first baseman Chase Nelle remarked, “This was pretty much what our dream was from March to now.”

Brothers banded. Dream realized.

The SWS Cardinals put together an almost perfect game and claimed the Midget-Midget championship of the 65th New Era Tournament with an 8-2 victory over the Manheim Lions, Tuesday night at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.

The Cardinals (20-9-1) got timely hitting up and down the lineup, great pitching, and fielded the ball cleanly. A stark contrast to Monday night’s defensive misadventures.

“We played much better tonight,” said Cards’ coach Steve Shank moments before getting the obligatory victory baptism.

“I was really proud of our defense,” he continued. “I mean, you couldn’t ask for a nicer game for us.”

The Cards banged out 11 hits, every starter reached, and five different hitters drove in runs.

None bigger than the pair plated by Nelle in the second inning that gave the Cards a lead they would not relinquish.

Colin Eckman had just tied the game at 1-1, singling in Dan Eshleman, and Tyler Thomas reached on an infield hit. Nelle sliced the second pitch he saw into right field and the ball settled between the line and Alex Studenroth.

Courtesy runner Andrew Hay and Thomas scored as Nelle pulled into second and the Cards were on their way.

“It was amazing,” Nelle said. “I didn’t even know where (the pitch) was, (location-wise). I got lucky with the gap between the line and right and got my two ribbies.”

With the lead, Colin “Bear” Shank came on in relief of Eckman, who started and gave up a run on two hits. Shank finished out the game, allowing two hits and a Trevor Hosler’s RBI groundout, and picked up the victory.

“My dad had trouble picking the starting pitcher,” Shank said, “and I had five inning left. I love (pitching with) the lead and my teammates just (kept) getting more runs.

“I was throwing fastball most of the time,” he said. “My knuckle curve wasn’t working, so I changed to my changeup. It was just mixing my pitches and keeping the hitters guessing.”

Manheim (13-16) found itself in an unusual position, as far as the NET went, taking a 1-0 lead as Tyler Lyons walked to lead off the game and scored on a wild pitch.

“That was kind of backwards, wasn’t it?” said VFW coach Jeff Flanagan whose team trailed 3-0 in the first two tournament games.

Once they took the lead the Cardinals kept adding to it.

Shank and Eckman knocked in runs in the third inning. Ben Rhoades and Casey Regan did the damage in the fourth. Hay, pinch hitting for Thomas, scored Eshleman with a safety squeeze in the fifth inning to close out the scoring.

“Our guys have been at the batting cage every day for the last three weeks,” said Steve Shank, “and you could tell, it really paid off. We were hitting line drives and were finding holes.”

Finding holes. Monday night Manheim seemingly caught everything off the bat on defense.

Tuesday night, not so much.

“When they got guys on, they just hit … in the right spot,” said Flanagan. “That’s the name of the game. They put it in play. Last night we were making those plays, Tonight we came up a little short.”

SWS Cardinals pose with their championship trophy.

Manheim catcher Craig McKee checks the bases after tagging SWS’s Dan Eshleman out at home.

SWS Cardinals’ Ben Rhoades watches the flight of his double and RBI in the fourth inning.

SWS Cardinals Devon Weiant and Connor Brown celebrate their victory.