The Warwick Phillies’ tenuous grip on the No. 1 seed was loosening with every curveball Mount Joy Blue’s Collin Brown threw.
And then he threw one too many.
With his team trailing 3-2 with two out in the fifth inning, and buried 0-2 on two particularly nasty hooks, the Phillies’ Justin Smith kept his hands back on yet another, driving it to the gap in right.
The ball one-hopped the fence for a double, driving in Tyler Hess, and Smith later scored on Patrick Mullen’s single to pull the Phils (29-12) from the abyss, 4-3, in the first game of the 66th New Era Midget-Midget tournament.
Donegal won the nightcap of Thursday’s quarterfinal doubleheaader at Kunkle Field on a sixth-inning rally, 9-8 over Penn Manor, to advance to Monday’s semifinals. Warwick and Donegal will meet in the first game at Kunkle, set for 6 p.m.
“It was more of a hanger,” said Smith, who was looking curve all the way. “It kind of spun up in the zone and I just went with it.”
Brown’s breaking ball was nearly unhittable as he walked one and struck out 10.
“They’re a good team,” said Phils coach Eric Martin, nodding to the Mount Joy dugout. “When Brown’s pitching like that, they’re a tough team.”
Staked to a 2-0 lead, it appeared Brown and Blue would break the bracket as the outs mounted and Warwick’s time grew short.
Tyler Martin got one back for the Phils, lining a solo home run down the left field line in the second inning.
Eric Martrin noted his son “has hitting power. He’s a light kid, but, he juiced that one.
“When he gets the bat head through he can drive one,” Eric Martin said, adding with a laugh, “every now and then.”
Warwick knotted the score in the fourth inning as starting pitcher Dalton Uibel singled, stole second and continued to third on an errant throw.
When Zach Peters struck out on a wild pitch and catcher Tyler Snyder threw to first for the out, Uibel alertly broke for home, scoring easily.
Blue (14-17) quickly regained the lead next inning.
With Smith on in relief of Uibel, Tanner Shirk walked and stole second. He advanced to third and continued home to score his second unearned run of the night as Warwick committed two errors on Brown’s grounder to first.
Needing six outs to send Warwick home, Blue couldn’t shut the door.
And the Phillies lived to play another day.
Connor Green led Donegal (27-19) all the way back from a 7-1 deficit, slugging a pair of 3-run doubles, then scoring the winning run on Connor Updegraff’s bunt that rolled all the way to right field.
The Comets (16-13) had just four hits off a trio of Donegal pitchers, but made the most of the opportunities presented as Grant Gale hit a two-run single and Corey Clare stroked a two-run double.
They broke the ice with two unearned runs on Green’s two-base pickoff error from the mound and widened the advantage with back-to-back bases-loaded walks.
The game was a walk on the wild side as each staff issued seven free passes.
Down 7-1, Donegal got back in the game as Green’s first hit capped a four-run fourth inning.
The Comets restored order the next inning as Miles Froelich singled in Austin Roberts, who had tripled.
Pitching in relief of Roberts, Jeff Taylor stranded a Donegal baserunner in the fifth, but couldn’t escape sixth-inning trouble.
Chris Nash singled to open the Donegal sixth and Dale Houser, who had made three stellar plays at third to shut down the Comets in the top of the inning, walked.
Winning pitcher Kyle Hess lived on an infield single, loading the bases and bringing Green to the plate.
Green ripped a 1-0 pitch to the fence in center, clearing the bases. Updegraff fouled off a bunt attempt, took a ball, then pushed a bunt past Taylor, whose follow through took him away from the ball, as Green jetted home from second.