New Era Correspondent
The second night of competition in the New Era Tournament Midget division was a night of superlatives.
Manheim Township Black’s Chris Thorsen tossed the best game of this young tournament, stopping Bears Blue with a three-hit shutout in the first game of a quarterfinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
And, as Tuesday lurched toward Wednesday, Robert Lehman ended the longest Midget game in recent memory, singling home Steve Remley in the bottom of the ninth inning as St. Leo outlasted Hempfield Black 9-8.
Township and St. Leo, last year’s Midget finalists, will meet Monday night in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Lititz Oddfellows and Solanco will meet in the first game at 5:15 p.m.
The Hempfield-St. Leo collision was an epic marathon, lasting almost four hours.
“It wouldn’t end because neither team would let it end,” offered St. Leo coach Mike Regan, who added, “It feels like we were in a war.”
“A lot of weird stuff happened tonight,” noted Hempfield coach Abe Bachman. “Our kids played a great game. I couldn’t ask any more of them.”
Working his fourth inning of relief for Hempfield, Doug Totaro got the first two outs of the ninth inning before Remley, taking advantage of a defensive over-shift by Black’s left fielder, tripled into the left-center-field alley.
“The whole game, anything he could turn on he (Remley) was hitting foul,” said Regan. “I tried to ask him to think about going up the middle.”
Lehman, who had earlier delivered a run with a bases-loaded walk, took two balls, then a strike before fouling off strike two.
He deposited the next pitch into left for the game-winner, leaving Black stunned and his teammates leaping in elation.
“I just wanted to get a hit and end a marathon game,” said the Catholic High rising sophomore. “We’re fighters. We’re a bunch of scrappers.”
Black (14-6) built a 6-0 lead after two innings on an RBI double by Cullen Wolf, Luke Gatti’s three-run triple and Andrew Weitzel’s run-scoring hit.
Down six runs, St. Leo (11-5) didn’t lack for opportunity, stranding six runners in the first two innings and having two more thrown out attempting to steal.
St. Leo broke into the scoring column in the third inning on two walks, two errors and Lehman’s bases-loaded walk.
Dan Long tripled home Gene Nissley and Evan Montgomery in the fourth inning and Travis Jankowski singled in Long with the fourth run.
That hit proved damaging beyond the scoreboard as the sharply hit ball struck Black starting pitcher Jordan Neff squarely on the wrist of his pitching hand.
Forced to leave the game, Neff’s injury sparked further drama as the Knights, short on the bench to begin with, had burned their only substitution when they led big.
Faced with the choice of playing with eight players, Bachman called Derek Totaro, a JM player who was also rostered on the Midgets, out of the stands where he had been watching his brother, Doug, play.
Derek would acquit himself quite well, driving in the tying run in the sixth inning on a hit-and-run single and moving a runner with a sacrifice in the eighth.
Meanwhile, back in the fourth inning, Jankowski scored on a wild pitch by reliever Cullen Wolf, and Jamie Pashuck, who got the win for St. Leo, tied the game at 6-6, singling home Kevin Cotchen.
Hempfield regained the lead briefly on Gatti’s RBI single in the fifth, but St. Leo took its first lead in the bottom of the inning on Cotchen’s RBI single and an error.
St. Leo blew an opportunity to score as Cotchen was hung out to dry on a missed suicide squeeze by Regan in the fifth.
One inning later, with two on and one out, John Roda hesitated off second on Long’s shallow fly to left and was forced at third when it fell in.
Jankowski followed with what would’ve been a bases-loaded walk. Cotchen’s flyout stranded three more baserunners, adding to the eventual total of 16.
Hempfield wasn’t without its adventures.
With runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, Doug Totaro popped a suicide squeeze to first baseman Evan Montgomery and Wolf, sacrificed to third after a leadoff double, was easily doubled up.
In the ninth, with two on and one out, Bachman grounded sharply up the middle.
But, pinching toward the bag, Lehman picked the ball, stepped on second and threw to first for another twin killing.
Then he finished off Hempfield.
In the opener, many, many hours earlier, Thorsen overcame his occasional wildness and overpowered the only team to beat him this year.
“There were some rough patches,” said the senior-to-be at Township (16-2), who allowed that the added incentive of payback factored into his effort.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “I came out here gunning for them.”
He scattered an infield hit by Nate Miller and singles from Shane Long and Andy Good, and pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the second and sixth.
“He’s lights out!” declared Bears (9-10) coach Herb Miller. “The fastball and the curveball, he mixed them well, and he was inside-outside, using both corners, up-and-down.”
Thorsen threw 109 pitches, 70 for strikes, and struck out eight while walking four.
He got all the support he needed when Andrew Kelly singled home Darren Yoder in the first inning.
Justin Sisbarro’s standup triple plated Kelly in the fifth and Yoder capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly, scoring Alex Manacher, in the sixth.