New Era Correspondent
There are many athletic rivalries in Lancaster County. None match the fire, the deep-seated, stick-in-the-craw intensity of Manheim Township/Hempfield.
It’s the Hatfields and McCoys. The Montagues and Capulets.
And it begins here. The foundation of the 2005 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 baseball race was poured last night at Kunkle Field as the Manheim Township White Sox held on to defeat Hempfield Black 2-1 in the New Era Tournament Midget-Midget division opener.
“We did really want this game very badly,” said Township coach Tom Sota. “That rivalry has an awful lot to do with it.”
With the tying run at third base, Township’s Dane Yoder slipped strike three past Scott Wengrenovich to end the game and send the Sox (20-7) into next Tuesday’s semifinals.
“I was sweating bullets,” Sota said. “But this team has come through all year long. I had a lot of confidence in them.”
Yoder had Hempfield Black (24-7) blanked through five innings on two hits, but Kyle Enoch opened the home sixth with a double and Geoff Dornes singled him to third.
Enoch scored on Drew Kise’s ground out with Dornes taking second. Brandon Ringer came on to pinch run for Dornes, taking third on a wild-pitch ball one to Phil Harnick.
Every heart leapt into its respective throat on Yoder’s next offering as Harnick smoked it way out of Kunkle… but just foul.
“He had a great swing on the ball,” said Hempfield Black coach John Enoch. “It just went foul.”
Yoder got Harnick on a comebacker on the next pitch and went to work on Wengrenovich.
Wengrenovich had hit the ball hard twice to the opposite field, singling to right in the second and hitting a sinking liner that rightfielder Matt Rieker made a great diving catch on in the fourth.
Pitching Wengrenovich away, Yoder fell behind, 3-and-1.
“I was trying to keep it outside so he wouldn’t get a good hit on it,” Yoder said. “I was just hoping to get him to swing at it.”
Wengrenovich was having no part of it though, so Yoder got the nod to complete the unintentional, intentional walk. But he threw the ball straight down the middle of the strike zone, giving the Township brain trust a collective heart attack.
Wengrenovich swung and missed.
“I was supposed to have it on the outside,” Yoder noted. “I got it in too far.”
Blessed he got away with a mistake, Yoder then threw the game-ender for his ninth strikeout.
Township always seemed to have the big play behind Yoder. Rieker’s denial of Wengrenovich came with Harnick on third.
“It was a tough play,” Sota said with admiration. “(Rieker) was coming in, the ball was sinking on him. He really did save the game there.”
Jeff Watson reached in the second inning on an error by Mike Beatty – the first of two times that would happen. Trying to steal third, Watson continued home when George Eager’s throw sailed over Tim Rieker. Alertly backing the play, Beatty threw home to Eager to gun down Watson.
There were also times when Yoder helped himself. He picked off Wengrenovich in the second and stranded baserunners in the first and fifth with strikcouts.
Meanwhile, his mound counterpart, Enoch – cousin of J-M Black’s Jayson Enoch – pitched well, but Township nicked him coming out of the chute.
Andy Dochterman walked to open the game, stole over to third and scored the first run of the game on Eager’s ground out.
Alex Sota got Township’s first hit in the second inning, but Enoch got a double play ball to end the inning.
Enoch, a speed-changing lefthander, threw Township ground ball upon ground ball, but when he surrendered a single to John Stutzman in the fourth, then walked Yoder, he yielded to Harnick.
Harnick avoided damage with a strikeout and a ground out, but Township reached him the next inning.
Beatty singled with one out and stole second and third. John Dettinger then walked, and Dochterman knocked an RBI single into centerfield to give Township a 2-0 lead with six outs to go.
“That was the difference in the game,” Sota said. “We had made a couple of mistakes in the game, but Andy really picked up the whole team.
“One or two timely hits for us,” said Sota. “That was the difference in the game.”
Township mounted one last threat on an error and walk in the sixth, but Harnick got a strikeout to slam the door and give his team one last shot.
And about that rivalry?
“I’m not sure the boys really see the rivalry as much as the parents might,” Enoch said.
“This is where it starts,” Sota said in counterpoint. “These boys will be seeing some of these Hempfield boys on the way up as they get older. It’s good to get it started here.”