New Era Correspondent
Manheim Township Red and the Safe Harbor Cubs posted victories as the 55th New Era Baseball Tournament got under way Tuesday night with a Midget-Midget division quarterfinal doubleheader in Mount Joy.
The Penn Manor League rivals prevailed as Township (19-11) dusted the Ephrata Lions 9-2 in the opener and the Cubs (17-11) outlasted Rheems Blue, 8-6, in the nightcap.
They call it “Harbor ball”, although truth be told, Safe Harbor isn’t the only practioner of the madcap, go-go brand of baseball found in the 10-to-12 year-old age group.
(Witness any game played by Bob Souders’ Mountville Indians.)
“Harbor ball” is this: Get on any way you can. Run the bases with abandon, putting unbearable pressure on a basically unsophisticated defense.
And oh yeah, play with a polish usually unseen at this age level when you’re in the field.
“We do things to other teams and don’t let them do things to us,” said acting manager Jamie Roak, filling in for Dudley Rowe, who was out of town on company business.
“We spend a lot of time on defense. These guys don’t mind spending an extra half-hour going over what to do on bunts, first-and-third plays, things like that. We do them well and that’s why we win.”
It’s a formula that has paid off handsomely. This edition of the Cubs just won the overall championship of the Penn Manor League, the fifth in a row for Harbor, and Cubs’ alumni are making their marks in the other two divisions of the New Era Tournament .
The Safe Harbor Lions, comprised largely of the ’98 NET M-M champions, are the early-book favorites to take the Junior-Midget NET title and at the Midget level, the second-seeded Comet Blue team boasts several former Safe Harbor players.
“It’s quite a tradition, and these guys love it,” Roak said. “I’m not from here, I’m from Philadelphia, and I heard of “Harbor ball” when I was in college at Millersville.”
The Cubs took advantaqge of every opening Rheems gave them Tuesday night. A pair of pitchers for Blue (9-13) held Harbor to four hits — three by centerfielder Keith Rutt — but five errors in the field led to seven unearned runs.
Three of those errors produced runs for the Cubs, who also scored on a wild pitch, a balk and a fielder’s choice.
Rutt drove in the other two, singling in runs in the first and second innings as the Cubs rolled up four runs.
His single to center in the first inning was a prime example of “Harbor ball” as he rolled into third on a two-base error, then scored on a wild pitch.
Rheems stayed in the game however on RBI singles by Sam Schlosser (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) and Danny Lamar in the second and the Cubs’ only error of the game in the third.
Zack Martin walked, stole two bases and scored on an error for Harbor’s fifth run and the Cubs put three unearned runs on the board in the fifth to apparently put the game away. Not so fast.
Rheems closed the gap in a 3-run sixth-inning rally capped by Chris Jewell’s two-out, 2-run triple. But Harbor closed out the win, and gained a measure of revenge.
This past Saturday in Columbia, Rheems had beaten the Cubs by a run in the Kratzer Tourament. “We walked away knowing it was pretty even,” Roak said. Tuesday they walked away better than even.
Township’s win came via old-fashioned baseball values, pitching and defense.
Red’s Brett Conway scattered five hits, and walked one while striking out eleven to throttle the Lions (16-3).
His teammates backed him in the field, especially thirdbaseman Chris Hartl, catcher Austin Gallagher and second baseman Derek Donmoyer.
“I have never seen them make incredible plays like that,” said Conway after the game.
Hartl had two putouts and three assists including going to his left in the hole to cut off a basehit by Jeremy Martin in the third and throwing out Brandon Strenko at home on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the sixth inning.
Donmoyer ranged to his right to take a hit away from Dallas Stauffer in the fourth inning and Gallagher picked Derek Sipe off third in the first inning and gunned down Rob Lyons trying to steal second with in the fifth inning.
Tyler Seiverling, who led off the fifth with a triple, was left standing there after Gallagher gunned Lyons as Conway got a pair of strikeouts, but Gallagher showed his gutsiest play in the third inning.
Paul McHenry’s grounder to short was booted as Reid Martin steamed towards home. David Gerhart’s throw to Gallagher from first was a tad short and Martin leveled Gallagher as he slid home with Ephrata’s second run.
The catcher was badly shaken, but he resumed play after regaining his bearings and got an immediate test. McHenry, who took third on a first-pitch passed ball to Austin Haller, tried to come home on a delayed steal, but Conway gave Gallagher a good throw and Gallagher applied the tag with room to spare.
While Township was thwarting Ephrata’s scoring plans, the bottom of the lineup was coming through for Red.
Matt Wood, Hartl and Josh Bergman — the 6th, 7th, & 8th hitters for Township — were a combined 6-for-7 with 6 runs scored and 4 RBI, sparking a pair of 4-run innings for Township.
Bergman drove in three of those runs with an RBI triple in the second and a 2-run single in the fourth.
In the second inning, with Hartl on second, Bergman fell behind to Sipe, 0-and-2, then tomahawked a pitch up in his eyes to the rightfield fence.
With the bases loaded in the fourth, Bergman fell behind 0-and-2 again, but worked the count even before drilling the ball into right.
A nice piece of hitting for a fellow bounced from the 3-hole by a mid-season slump. “In practice the other day I was crushing the ball,” he said, “so I knew I’d be doing it in the game too.”
Having runners in scoring position helped too. “It takes a little more concentration,” he said. “It’s sometimes tough, but I think I can do it.”
His fourth-inning single broke up close game and Jo Jo Baciotti and Paul Hester followed with RBI hits to increase Township’s advantage.
It also gave Conway plenty of breathing room and he retired eight of the last eleven batters of the game… with a little help from his friends.