Township, Manheim VFW play for Midget title Tuesday

John Lentz was even more valuable on the mound than at the plate.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

It’s a tale of two pitchers who arrived at the same destination by entirely different methods.

It’s a tale of two managers, and two teams. One could write a book on how to win the New Era Tournament . The other is looking for that first taste of victory.

Manheim Township and Manheim VFW will play for the Midget title of the New Era Tournament tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Lampeter-Strasburg’s Varsity Field.

Manheim (25-2-1) outslugged Reamstown 15-11 to make a winner, in relief, out of Ryan Sutter in the first game of a sunbaked semifinal doubleheader, Saturday afternoon.

Township (29-6) outlasted Hempfield Black 6-4 in the second game behind a crafty, complete-game effort by Jonathon Dochterman.

Many of the current Manheim midget players were part of the magic when their present coach, Jeff Mummau, directed three straight J-M titlewinners (1994-96). They know what it takes to win.

It’s the third straight tournament appearance for this group of Township players, too, but their record of achievement isn’t quite as gaudy. They exited the ’96 J-M tourney in the quarterfinals and last year’s Midget tourney in the semis.

Sutter was rocked by the West Lampeter Pioneers in a J-M quarterfinal start two weeks ago. Saturday he sauntered into someone else’s inferno – Jeremy Hershey left with a 9-5 lead, but the bases were loaded – and promptly walked in a run and hit a batter to force in another. When Reamstown’s big cannon, Dustin Hoffert (4-for-5, 7 RBIs), ripped a 2-run single to right, Reamstown (11-10) had pulled even again, tying the game at 9-9.

Hoffert’s 3-run homer in the second inning, off Hershey, had tied the game at five and he would crank a solo blast in the sixth inning, but Sutter – nephew of former big-league reliever Bruce Sutter – benefitted from double-play grounders in the fourth and fifth innings to cap a 2 1/3-inning relief stint.

While Manheim was breaking out the leather for Sutter, the lumber wasn’t aslumber.

Hershey, who was 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs and 4 runs scored, stroked RBI singles to spark 3-run outbursts in both the fourth and fifth, and Manheim took command, 15-9.

When Reamstown nicked Sutter for a pair of runs (one on Hoffert’s dinger) in the sixth, John Lentz came in to get the last six outs for the save.

After the game Mummau told the team, “It wasn’t real pretty, but we’re there.”

No need to explain where there is. But how are these kids different from when Mummau had them two years ago?

“They understand baseball a little bit better,” he said. “Now they ask me questions about situations and strategies. They keep me on my toes.”

And he sees a big difference when he looks at Hershey.

“His hitting has improved immensely! Two years ago he struggled to make contact,” Mummau says. “We worked a lot in the winter and he’s exceeded my expectations.”

Like Hershey, Hoffert’s biggest impact Saturday was at the plate. But the big righthander deserved a better fate on the mound.

A pair of errors in the early innings let in five unearned runs, as Reamstown committed four errors overall.

“We knew we had to play good defense,” said coach Al Reddig. “We made a couple errors and that hurt us.”

Walking seven didn’t help the junior-to-be at Cocalico High School either. Four of those who walked scored.

Manheim reached Hoffert for nine hits in 4 2/3 innings (and 11 overall) as Craig Smoker went 3-for-4. Brandon Bosch scored three runs, Lentz and Tanner Strickler each scored twice and VFW never trailed in the game.

“We battled back and made it a seven-inning game,” Reddig said. “We hit the ball. We never played with the lead and that first inning (when Manheim threw up a 5-spot) hurt us.”

A Lancaster County veteran coach of both high school and summer ball once said that one of his pitchers wouldn’t break your TV set if you put it at home plate.

Jonathon Dochterman wasn’t even born when that statement was made, but it fit him like a glove Saturday.

Using every square inch of the perimeter of that imaginary rectangle that is the strike zone, Dochterman dipped and darted, sailed and slid pitches that would’ve put a radar gun to sleep.

“My fastball, early in the game, seemed to get over the plate,” he said. “In the middle of the game (after his fastball checked out) I had a changeup that really got them off stride.”

“He was throwing very well,” said his father and coach, John Dochterman. “He had such good location… What we did, because they’re an aggressive team, we were throwing in the dirt and outside-and-high on purpose. We had such confidence he would come back.”

He gave up two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings, walking five but, in a tribute to his ability to wiggle out of jams, none of those scored.

Two tainted runs came along with five Township errors, but, just when Dochterman might’ve wondered where the defensive support was, Greg Lausch saved the game.

Chad Berdiner poled a long drive to left field to lead off the fifth that sent Lausch racing to the fence. He cradled the ball just before it left the yard.

That was the first sign that Hempfield (20-7-1) was figuring Dochterman out. Black did reach him for RBI singles by Mike Richards in the fifth and Travis Bowman in the sixth.

But, as he had all game, Dochterman pitched out big trouble. Black had runners on second and third with two out in the first but didn’t score. It had a runner at third with one out in the second but didn’t score.

Bases loaded, one out in the third… Nada. Runner at second, one out in the fourth… Uh, uh. First and second, two out in the fifth… Nope. Third with two out in the sixth, first and second, two out in the seventh… No and no!.

In all, Black stranded 12 runners.

“He pitched well,” Black coach Ken Gerber said with a tip of his cap. “He was pitching to his defense and our guys were hitting it there.”.

Dochterman escaped the third and fifth with two of his three strikeouts and got a first-pitch foul popup to end the sixth.

“There’s not much to say. We had a lot of opportunities,” Gerber said. “Give them credit, we just couldn’t break it open.”

While Dochterman was spinning his web around the Hempfield bats, Township’s sticks were alive. At least until Jason Miller relieved.

Dochterman delivered a run-scoring base hit in the first and Matt Davey (2-for-3) added an RBI double in the same inning.

Two of Hempfield’s four errors came on the same at-bat and severely damaged Black’s chances.

Chris Pawling threw away Andy Sapovchak’s bouncer to the mound leading off the third and Sapovchak was cruising into third on the three-base error when firstbaseman Jason Miller uncorked the ball out of play in left field.

Sapovchak crossed with Township’s fourth run and when Wayne Deaven singled in Jordan Arena (2-for-4) the Vealers were up 5-2.

Hempfield, which breifly led 1-0 when Keith Gerber scored on Davey’s wild pickoff throw, began pecking away at Dochterman in the middle innings.

Pawling got an RBI single in the third and scored on Richard’s hit in the fifth. Gerber, who reached on a 2-base error in the outfield, crossed on Bowman’s hit.

But Davey provided a key insurance run in the sixth inning with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly after Hempfield had crept within a run and when Dochterman got Gerber to ground to Snyder for a force, the gauntlet had been run.

“When they had the tying runs on, that really scared me,” young Dochterman said. “But I threw a fastball, a little bit chest high. He grounded it to the shortstop, who made the play and we won the game.”

Jonathon Dochterman delivers for Manheim Township.