He wasn’t the biggest player on the field, but he got the biggest hit of the night.
Ben Wirth’s RBI singled home Ryan Dornes from second base and Manheim Township Black overcame Rheems Blue 6-5 in extra innings in the nightcap of a New Era Tournament Midget-Midget quarterfinal, Friday night at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
The win earns Township a spot in Monday night’s semifinals where it will face the Warwick Phillies, a 14-1 winner over the Penn Manor Comets in Friday’s first game.
That semifinal follows the opening game at Kunkle Field pitting Donegal against Manheim VFW.
Game time for that contest is 6 p.m. with Township-Warwick set for 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Down 0-2 to Rheems’ reliever Sam Epps with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wirth took a ball, then ripped a high fastball into right. Dornes, coming all the way, scored without a throw
“Ben is a trouper,” declared Township coach Ross Sachs. “He works at it and he comes through when he has to.”
“I was down,” Wirth shared, “and thinking, ‘The next strike, man I’m hitting this.’ I heard the bat connect with the ball and, Boom!, it was just like a new world.”
A world that took a major turn for the better, for Township.
Down 5-4 and down to their last outs, Black (14-10) sent the game into extra innings when leadoff man Mason Nadu, on base for the third time in the game, walked, stole second, then third, beating catcher Brady Lefever’s throw. The throw trickled into left field as Nadu chugged home ahead of left fielder Josh Kinderwater’s errant throw.
“He’s been a spark for us all year,” said Sachs. “Last inning, last outs, he gets on and we just forced the game. It would’ve taken perfect plays to get him.”
Township scored a run in the first inning on Kevin Bushong’s RBI groundout and plated another when an error on Wirth’s grounder to short delivered Tyler Russell.
Rheems (12-7) tied the game in the fourth on Lefever’s sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout by Hunter Thomas. But Township forged back ahead with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the inning.
Wirth singled to start the inning and Nadu lived on a fielder’s choice and error. With a pair of strikeouts, Rheems could see its way out of danger, but a pair of errors on Bushong’s grounder to first scored Wirth and Nadu.
The advantage lasted all of a half inning when Rheems took its first lead of the night with a 3-run fifth. Austin Hilsher (2-for-4, 2 runs scored) dropped a 2-run double into left field and scored on Thomas’ single to left.
“I was devastated,” said Wirth, watching from his position at second base. “But I knew we could come back. When Mason scored that run, I was going nuts. The whole bench was going nuts.”
“We gave them three runs tonight,” offered Rheems coach John Lefever. “The game should’ve been 6-4, 6-3 us, but it happens. A couple times we hit the ball hard, but it was right at people.”
In the opening game, Warwick (31-6) batted around in two different innings, scoring seven runs in the third and four in the fifth, to defeat Penn Manor in a game shortened by the ten-run rule.
Leadoff hitter Grant Zimmerman had three of the Phillies’ 11 hits, scored three runs and drove in two to lead the onslaught. Cole Adams (2-for-3, 3 RBIs) and winning pitcher Colin Gibble (2-for-3, RBI) also had multi-hit games for the top seed out of the Susquehanna League, who got a 1-for-3, 2 RBI night from Chase Martin.
“Once we get the bats going, we make it pretty tough on the other team,” said coach Bill Weismandel. “We don’t want to let up. We’ve had a couple teams come back on us this year.”
Gibble went the first three innings, allowing one hit, Eric Snyder’s two-out single in the third. “He’s an extremely effective 11-year old. He’s pretty tough if he’s in the strike zone,” said Weismandel
Gibble walked one and struck out six, four looking, as he mixed a slurve and changeup-curve in with his fastball.
“It’s effective because it gives him a little different look than his regular curveball,” Weismandel said of the change-curve. “That’s what got him going (tonight). He started throwing that for strikes almost before he started throwing his fastball for strikes. Once he got that going, he seemed to settle in.”
Collin Groff (2-for-2 with a walk) reached base in all three of his plate appearances for the Comets (9-10), greeting reliever Trevor Fitzpatrick with a leadoff triple in the fourth and scoring on Austin Leschke’s ground out for the Comet’s lone run.