New Era Correspondent
There was a chill in the air Monday night, but it did little to cool the smoking-hot bats of Manheim Township Black and Mount Joy Blue.
Those Junior-Midget hit machines advanced to tonight’s championship game of the New Era Midget Baseball Tournament.
In the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, Township (26-2-1) flirted with the 10-run rule, soundly beating Hempfield Black (Susquehanna League), 14-5.
Several hours later, Mount Joy (23-7) kept the Strasburg-Willow Street White Sox at arm’s distance, coming away with an 8-5 victory.
The two teams will meet for the title tonight at 7 at Kunkle Field.
Catcher Mike Pelton (2-for-4, 1 run) drove in Mount Joy’s first run of the night with a first-inning single and, most importantly, drove in the last two with a two-run knock in the sixth inning.
His late RBI blunted the momentum SWS had grabbed with three runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Mount Joy had led 3-0, 4-1, 5-2 and 6-2, but the White Sox (21-10-1) kept clawing back.
Blue starter Kevin Newcomer gave up five hits and four walks in 31-e innings, but seemed to get the out when he needed one.
SWS scored on a delayed steal of home in the second inning and on Ryan Berryman’s third-inning RBI single, but the Sox left the bases loaded in the second, third and fourth innings.
When Newcomer walked two with one out in the fourth, manager Buzz Albert replaced him with Kyle Maurer.
Maurer, who was credited with the win, kept SWS off the board until Jon Pugliese’s two-run single in the sixth.
“When you leave the bases loaded three times, you have to give it to ’em that they worked out of it,” offered Sox manager Dan Herr.
“We would agree (we) dodged the bullet,” said Albert. “Our pitchers made pitches when they had to.
“We didn’t want to give them the same look two pitches in a row, and I thought our kids did a good job of doing that.”
After Alex Ferretti’s single in the sixth, Maurer then gave way to Jason Sauder, who won Blue’s first game of the tournament.
Sauder gave up Pugliese’s hit and an RBI double by Matt Carta – and Chris Garraffa’s solo home run in the seventh – but struck out the side in the seventh, all looking, to nail down the save.
Mount Joy banged out four of its 13 hits in the first inning as Maurer and Newcomer followed Pelton with RBI singles off Pugliese, the Sox starter.
Jon Heisey kept the offense going for Blue, driving in two runs on a third-inning single and a fifth-inning ground out.
“We stress, ‘Win the innings.’ If you win the innings, you’re going to win the game,” said Albert.
“We got out in front and we held on.”
But SWS seemed poised to come all the way back, having drawn to 6-5 after 5½ innings.
Opposite field singles by Sauder and Kyle Kreider put reliever Andrew Jordan in some hot water to start the bottom of the sixth, but he got ahead of Pelton 0-2 on a pair of called strikes.
“Yeah,” Pelton admitted. “But you just have to relax, take it as it comes, try to do all you can.”
Finding his inner calm, Pelton knocked the next offering into centerfield, giving Sauder some room for error in the top of the seventh.
He needed it. Without it, Garraffa’s solo blast ties the game. Instead it was just a footnote.
“Give it to Sauder,” said Herr. “He came out and did what he had to do.”
Hempfield Black’s NET visit seemed destined to be a footnote in an otherwise successful season as Township opened a 12-0 lead after three innings.
MT Black broke slowly out of the gate, 3-0, after two innings on an RBI single by Jon Rieker (4-for-4, 2 runs) and Ben Woratyla’s two-run hit.
Robert Lehman’s two-run single and another run-scoring hit by Woratyla triggered Township-s nine-run third inning, highlighted by a grand slam homer from Adam Yuninger.
“I was happy with the way we swung the bats,” said Township manager Lew Chillot.
Less pleased was he with a defensive effort that saw Township commit five errors.
Just when it seemed like an early night was in the offing, Hempfield (26-7) battled back on a three-run homer by Luke Gatti and Doug Totaro’s solo blast, both coming in the fourth inning.
“Right in front of that inning,” Chillot recalled, “I told the kids, ‘It’s 12-0 but remember the field we’re on.’ And I still think they came out a little flat, like they didn’t believe me.
“Tip your hat to them,” said Chillot, nodding to the Hempfield dugout. “They’re a good hitting team.”
“I like the way we battled back,” said Hempfield manager Dan Brookhart. “We’re down 12-0 in the third inning and there was no quit in these boys. I’m proud of them.”
That ended the evening for Township starter Darren Yoder, who was replaced by Alex Manacher when the fifth inning began.
Hempfield nicked Manacher on Nick Oberholtzer’s solo home run in the fifth, but Lehman doubled his RBI total, popping a two-run tater over the batting cage in right for the final runs of the night.