Play-in games set for Thursday
By Dave Byrne
As Donegal, the Mountville Indians, Manheim VFW and the Warwick Phillies prepare to open the New Era Tournament Midget-Midget championship series on Monday, their Junior-Midget brothers dip their toes into the tournament pool Thursday night with play-in qualifying games.
The Mountville Angels host Mount Joy Blue in a 6 p.m. start while, waaaay over in the opposite corner of the county, Garden Spot Gray opens the gates to a Route 322 neighbor, the Ephrata Railers, also at 6.
Thursday’s winners enter the New Era’s best-of-three quarterfinals, which also begin on Monday, opposite the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, the Strasburg-Willow Street White Sox and Lititz VFW.
While those pairings will ultimately be decided by the seeding position of the play-in victors, the remaining two series are set in stone.
The No. 3 seed, the Manheim Township Streaks, take on the sixth-seeded Penn Manor Comets, while fourth seed Elizabethtown Navy faces No. 5 seed Solanco Gold with the higher seeds earning home-field advantage.
The quarterfinal series will be contested July 9-12 with the four winners opening championship play beginning July 18.
It all gets under way Thursday night at Mountville and New Holland.
The Angels (7-7 LCYBL, 15-13 overall), who won the Mount Joy wood bat tournament earlier this summer, can rake.
Brendan Keller (.436) leads the team with 29 runs scored. Ben Sahd (.404), Reilly Workman (.348), Avery Dombroski (.333) and Wyatt Miller (.328) provide support.
Miller (5-3, 1.08 era, 90 strikeouts in 58 innings), Dombroski (6-3, 1.53, 61Ks/59 IP) carry the pitching load aided by Workman (3-3).
A blend of the Donegal (nee Maytown-Marietta) and Mount Joy J-M programs, Blue (7-10-1, 9-11-1) returns six MJ players from last year: Tyler Amspacher (.391), David Fehr, Chris Beaudoin, Noah Zern, Brandon Ross and Ethan Hess (.378) along with Derek Mohr (.545) from Donegal.
Moving up from 2011 NET M-M runner-up Donegal are Conner Green (.422), Collin Brown, Tanner Shirk and Ian Rapp. Brown, Zern, Hess and Amspacher form the pitching staff.
Making its Section One debut, Garden Spot (9-8-1) matriculates its entire 2011 Section Two squad with Logan Eby, Nick Lehman and Brock Kauffman manning the mound.
Doubling their 2011 LCYBL win total, the Railers (8-7-1, 11-10-1) have Chase Weik (.357) and Nate Fassnacht (.333) as their top hitters, while Charlie Warden and Evan Frees each knocked in 17 runs.
Injuries kept top prospects Warden and Matt McGillan from pitching until mid-June, giving Weik (5-4, 29 Ks in 30 IP), Jerrad Malmer (3-0, 27-23), and Ben Molchany (1-2, 14-29) an opportunity to show what they could do.
Meanwhile, the White Sox (17-1, 24-5) and VFW (15-2, 26-6) have spent the summer renewing acquaintances.
While the two teams were in opposite divisions — SWS won the National Division while Lititz claimed the American — and thus did not meet in the regular season, VFW was responsible for two of SWS’s losses, coming in the finals of the Penryn and SWS tournaments.
Six players return from the Sox NET semifinalists: Connor Brown, Colin Eckman, Dan Eshleman, Ben Rhoades, Bear Shank and Devon Weiant.
Eshleman, Shank and Weiant all hit over .400, while Eshleman (9-2), Shank, Eckman and Garrett Groshong formed a staff that held a 2.88 earned run average.
VFW brings back one member of last year’s NET qualifier: Luke Mariano (.429, 37 runs, 29 RBIs).
Second-year promotees from Section Three’s Warwick White Sox include Chase Gilbert (.582, 5 HR, 45 runs, 34 RBIs), Matt Cover (.358, 44 runs, 21 RBIs) and Tim Griest (.441, 27 RBIs).
Promoted from the M-M Phillies and rounding out the roster are Zach Peters (.413, 37 runs, 31 RBIs), Dalton Uibel (.363, 25 runs, 23 RBIs), Tyler Martin (.352, 23 runs, 25 RBIs) and Justin Smith (.314, 27 runs, 20 RBIs).
As one might surmise, Lititz can hit a little.
VFW can also pitch, led by Peters (10-2, 1.88), Gilbert (5-1, 2.60, 2 saves), Cover (8-2, 4.58) and Griest (4-0, 3.92).
Five players return from Township’s 2011 New Era champions: Tyler Angermier (.550, 25 runs; 7-2, 67 Ks pitching), Jack Hankin, Cole Hoffman (.315, 3 HR, 4 3b), Matthew Shatto (.545) and John Stutz.
Aidan Zimmerman (3-1, 2 saves, 48Ks) joined the Streaks (14-4) from the Section Two MT Black.
Pitching and defense have been a hallmark for the Comets (11-7), who won six of their last seven to qualify for the tournament.
Colin Whiteside and Eric Snyder return for a team that allowed 60 runs, second lowest in the league, a 3.33 per game average.
Cole Epler (2-1, 2.07), and Jeremy Newswanger (.563, 10 RBIs) are veteran 14-year olds for E-town (13-5), which did not field a Section One squad in 2011.
At the other end of the spectrum, Dillon Marsh, the youngest player on the team, hit .432 with a team-high 17 RBIs and four homers. He also went 0-2 with a 3.66 ERA.
In between, Logan Yohn (10 RBIs), Joey Lonardi, Justin Shelly (11 RBIs), Jeremy Sabatine and Nick Stoner (11 RBIs) all hit over .320.
Santino Buonamici (3-2, 2.78) and Stoner (1-0, 1.50) also pitched.
Solanco (12-5-1, 19-13-1) also enters the tournament with an entirely new cast of characters. A cast that won the LCYBL Section Two title as 13-year-olds, going 19-2.
Joe Murray (.460, 16 RBIs, 2 HR), Matt Gote (.364, 13 RBIs, 3 HR), Bailey Keys .361, 15 RBIs, 2 HR) and Derek Lavin (.357, 14 RBIs, 3 HR) lead the attack.
Murray (2-1, 2.95 era), Noah McCardell (5-2, 4.70) and Brady Thomas (4-2, 2.24) do the pitching.