While his brother Casey was pitching Manheim Township into the American Legion District 10 finals, Cory Pfautz was rewarding Glenn Gallagher’s confidence in him.
Gallagher and Manheim Township’s other coaches were huddled behind the backstop prior to the first game of last night’s LNP Tournament Midget-Midget semifinal at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field, wondering whether or not to use a designated hitter.
It was decided that there would be a DH, and it would be Pfautz. He responded by driving in half of Township’s runs in an 8-4 victory over the Safe Harbor Cubs.
The win put Black (30-7) in the Midget-Midget championship game against the Mountville Indians. The final is set for Tuesday back at Kunkle Field at 7 p.m.
Mountville (29-23) stole another LNP Tournament win, topping Marietta/Maytown Blue, 4-1, in the second game of Tuesday’s twinbill.
Pfautz singled in two runs in a 3-run first inning for Township, then knocked in another pair in a 4-run fourth that broke the game open. Not bad for a player who has used mostly as a pitcher.
“He’s been starting to hit the ball lately,” Gallagher said. “He had a good batting practice (Tuesday) and (Monday). I saw Cory was ready to play.”
“This was only the second time this year that I DH’ed,” said the tall 12-year-old. “All you focus on is hitting. When you’re playing, you’re more into the game.”
His efforts were part of a 7-hit, 7-walk attack that was aided by three errors that produced five unearned runs. Nick Downey scored three runs and Carlos Medina and Austin Gallagher two runs each. Medina also drove in two runs as the top half of Township’s order proved prolific.
Township needed all of it. The game looked like a blowout early on, but Safe Harbor (10-20) climbed off the deck and made things interesting.
“We got down,” noted Harbor’s Jamie Roak. “I grabbed them and said, “One batter at a time, lets get back in this.’ We didn’t die.”
Andrew Sellers led the comeback, doubling home two runs, then scoring on an error to make it a 4-3 game. But Township overcame its own miscues — four of them in all — to go up 8-3 on Pfautz’s fourth-inning hit.
“That one felt a little better,” said Pfautz. “It was a closer game at that time.”
Township threatened to trigger the 10-run rule in the fifth inning, loading the bases with one out. Roak, who had already used his top two pitchers, turned to rightfielder/firstbaseman Jordan Gibbs.
Later noting this was Gibbs’ first year of baseball at this level of competition, Roak said, “At the beginning of the year he had some bad experiences pitching, so we sat him down for a while.
“I asked him if he wanted to come in and he said yes! We’ve got bases loaded and Austin Gallagher coming up and the kid said, “Yeah, I’ll go in.'”
He proceeded to strike out Gallagher, Medina and two more in the sixth — and final — inning, to slam the door on Township.
“I’m thinking, “Holy heck, maybe I should’ve asked him earlier in the game,'” Roak said with a laugh.
There were very few laughs as Mountville played its second tense game in a row.
“I was concerned,” admitted Indians coach Bob Sauders. “After you play a game like Manor Ridge/West End, it’s tough to do that two games in a row.”
Despite only getting four hits, the Indians got eight runners to third base. Four of them scored, two on wild pitches and two on balks.
“Bob puts pressure on you out there,” said Blue coach Rick Baker. “He likes to run, move runners, work the pitcher.”
Winning pitcher Zach Rineer hit a ball that pinballed off the shortstop and second baseman for an infield hit in the first inning. He stole second, took third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.
Geoffrey Hess singled in the second, stole a pair of bases and also trotted home on a wild pitch. In the third, Rob Devereaux got an infield hit to third and soon was standing on third after a steal and sacrifice bunt.
With two outs and Jonathon Moser on second via a walk and wild pitch, Devereaux broke for home on a dead run. Blue pitcher Erick Baker balked him home.
“Our hope was to get him to balk,” Devereaux said. “We always say, “Anybody (pitching from) a windup, as soon as he starts we go.’ If I’m out, we get the run anyway.”
After a brief argument from Rick Baker, the game continued. But Baker had no argument the next time. John Brubaker singled and jetted to third on a two-base error in right field. With Brent Denison on first with a walk, Brubaker strolled down third as Denison broke for second.
Erick Baker turned his head, and shoulders, balking Brubaker home.
While this was going on, Rineer was tossing a gem. He held Blue to three hits — two in the second inning — and one run, driven home by Blake Sweigart’s triple.