The sleepy village of Willow Street must have been a ghost town Wednesday evening.
It seemed as if every citizen of that south suburban hamlet was in Mount Joy to witness the cream of its junior midget youth battle for the LNP Tournament championship.
Whether their allegiance was to the White Sox, a team composed of second-year players, or the Yankees, the first-year “A” team, no fan could have gone home unhappy.
In a well-played and tightly-contested game, the White Sox (32-4) capped a storied season with a 3-1 victory over the Yankees to capture the LNP Junior-Midget championship.
The Sox rolled through the Red Rose League this year, going unbeaten in the regular season and capturing the League championship tournament .
The Yankees (27-8-1) won their league, too, cutting a path through the Penn Manor League’s Section 1.
Both teams showed a familiarity with the base hit as they moved to the J-M championship game, so it was a little surprising to see a pitcher’s duel break out.
“I didn’t expect that,” said Sox coach Dean Hostetter. “I thought it would be a hitter’s night, balls would be flying out. Ryan Ewing came out throwing the ball real well, had us off stride with his No. 2 pitch.”
Ewing carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, but the Sox ultimately reached him for three runs on three hits.
“If you had told me before the game we hold them to three runs, I’d tell you we win the game,” said Yanks’ coach Steve Ewing.
But three runs was more than enough because Jeremy Reinhart used the LNP canvas to paint a masterpiece.
Reinhart, who finished the season 15-0, gave up just two hits – a solo home run by Rob Duvall and Ryan Ewing’s bunt. His performance erased the nightmare of his last outing, a three-inning no-decision when Mount Joy Blue knocked him out on eight runs and eight hits in three innings.
“Jeremy was on tonight,” said Hostetter. “I think he learned a huge lesson from the Mount Joy game. I think he prepared a lot harder this week. He had it rocking tonight.”
Yet as he led off the fourth inning, he trailed 1-0 on Rob Duvall’s second-inning solo rocket to left center.
Duvall, coming off a 9-RBI game in the semis, jumped on a Reinhart mistake and turned it around in a hurry.
“He’s a low fastball hitter and I got it too low,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart got things started with an infield roller to short for the Sox’ first hit. Ray Stefanik followed with a walk and both runners advanced on a double steal as Brad Lingenfelter struck out.
Ewing gassed Alex Torres for the second out, which brought Mike Pickel to the plate. The right guy at the right time.
In the semis, with the bases loaded and Willow Street trailing Mount Joy in extra innings, Hostetter put shackles on Pickel, a dead first-ball hitter, telling him to take a strike.
It took three pitches before he got a green light and Pickel then ripped a two-run double to tie the game. The White Sox won 13-12, two batters later.
Last night, the light was green and so was the first-ball double he put between the bag and third baseman Jonathon Lopez, scoring Reinhart and Stefanik.
“I like to hit the first ball. It’s usually the best pitch you’re going to get,” Pickel said.
For the tournament , Pickel was 4-for-8 with seven RBI.
“Mike really picked us up and he’s done that the last couple of games,” Hostetter said. “He’s just been our savior.”
Jeremy Hess’ sacrifice fly in the fifth gave Reinhart some insurance, but Reinhart saved himself in the third inning when the Yanks had a chance to make it a 3-0 game or worse.
With Dan Hanecak and Ewing on third and second, respectively, courtesy of a pair of two-out walks and a wild pitch, Reinhart worked Adam Devlin carefully, eventually walking him to load the bases.
Up came Duvall.
“I knew Robbie hit the mistake,” Hostetter said. “He’s a good hitter and he didn’t miss it. But I did feel more comfortable pitching to Robbie than Adam at the time.”
Duvall looked at curves for a strike and a ball, then Reinhart snapped a nasty curve on the inside corner to set up the next pitch.
Fastball away. Flyball to left. End of inning, end of threat.
“When he hit it I thought, “Oh, no!’ But I saw he got under it and it would stay in,” Reinhart said.
He was never troubled again and finished with six ground outs, four infield pops and Duvall’s fly, complimented by 10 strikeouts.
That gave the L-S freshman-to-be 25 K’s in 17 LNP innings.
Ewing did almost as well, with nine groundouts and two fly balls, but couldn’t escape the only pickle he got into.
The White Sox’ successful run to the LNP J-M title – the first for Willow Street in that division since the ’89-’90 Rob Burger-led teams – and their strong play in all phases of the game prompted some to call this the best Willow Street J-M team ever.
Association president Don Frank, however wasn’t one of them.
“I gotta admit that the Rob Burger era was more awesome because of he completely dominated the games,” he said.
“He overpowered everybody,” Frank said. “That was also the group that won the state championship (high school) for Lampeter-Strasburg.”
But this is certainly the best group coached by Hostetter and his assistant, Harry Hartman, in their four years together.
They made it to the semis in ’94 with the Yankees, then a “B” team, before being shown the gate by Manheim.
This team was 12-3 in the Red Rose last year, but was denied a LNP bid after finishing behind Manheim.
“We took two years away, but we came back with a vengeance,” Hostetter said. “I owe a lot to my assistants. We’d never be here without Ray Stefanik and Harry Hartman. Hard work paid off.”
And the Yankees’ hard work paid off, too. The ’96 M-M champions, as the Willow Street Cardinals, were usually at a disadvantage age-wise in most of their games, yet played with the poise of two-year veterans.
Credit Steve Ewing’s coaching staff, including Mark Wagner and Bill Geesey, for that preparation. And, Ewing noted, credit the parents who made the commitment.
The Yanks should be in position to reap the rewards next season, with 11 out of 13 players coming back.
“It’s going to make for a dynamite team next year,” Hostetter said. “I don’t see them losing a game next year.”
Reinhart fires a two-hit gem in Junior Midget title game
By Keith Schweigert
LNP Sports Writer
Wednesday night’s LNP Tournament Junior-Midget title game was everything a championship game should be – a tightly-contested battle featuring enthusiastic fans, dominant pitching and clutch hitting.
Jeremy Reinhart and Ryan Ewing squared off in a great pitcher’s duel, but in the end it was Reinhart and the Willow Street White Sox that were left standing to celebrate their 3-1 victory over the Willow Street Yankees and the resultant Junior-Midget crown.
Reinhart was the key for the Sox, limiting the Yankees to just two hits – one a solo home run by Rob Duvall in the second inning that accounted for the Yanks’ only run – while fanning 10 and walking four.
The victory gave Reinhart an unblemished 15-0 record for the season and his 10 strikeouts raised his LNP total to 25 in 17 innings of work.
“This was as strong a game as he’s had all year,” said White Sox coach Dean Hostetter of his star pitcher, who will be a freshman at Lampeter-Strasburg in the fall. “He really worked hard all week long to get ready for this one. He threw real well.”
For Reinhart, the victory not only earned him the Junior-Midget title, but also redeemed a shaky start in the LNP Tournament opener and a sub-par performance in the semifinals.
Reinhart pitched a one-hitter in Willow Street’s 6-0 victory over the Gap Indians in the first round, but it was a tenuous one-hitter. The right-hander walked seven batters and had to pitch his way out of two bases-loaded jams.
In the semifinals, the White Sox (32-4) held off Mount Joy Blue 13-12 in eight innings, but Reinhart was not a factor. He started the game, but lasted just three innings while giving up eight runs on eight hits.
While his team came back to win that one, Reinhart seemed determined not to let history repeat itself on Wednesday. He pitched his way into trouble only once, and never let the Yankees (27-8-1) get that clutch hit they needed to get back into the game.
“He wasn’t on top of his game against Gap, but we still won,” said Hostetter. “Then he wasn’t mentally prepared in the semifinals. I think he thought all he had to do was show up and he’d get a win, but Mount Joy was ready for him.
“I think this was the first sharp game he’s had in the LNP Tournament ,” Hostetter added.
Reinhart agreed with his coach.
“It was a matter of attitude,” Reinhart said. “I think I might’ve been, I don’t know, a little cocky in the Mount Joy game. We were lucky to win that one, and tonight I didn’t want to let my team down.”
He certainly didn’t.
The game was a scoreless tie in the top of the second inning when Reinhart made his only mistake of the game – grooving a heater to Duvall, who smoked the 1-2 offering far over the left-center field fence.
“Jeremy made a mistake on that one,” Hostetter said. “He got one heater by (Duvall), but on the second one he just put it right down the middle and Duvall didn’t miss it.”
Reinhart pitched his way into trouble one inning later, issuing three consecutive walks to load the bases with two outs for Duvall.
But this time, Reinhart got the Yankees’ catcher to fly out harmlessly to center, and the inning was over.
“I didn’t want to let my teammates down,” said Reinhart. “We’d come so far this year. After I got Duvall to fly out I settled down. I felt really confident the rest of the way.”
It was the last time the Yankees would threaten, as Reinhart allowed just one more hit – a bunt single by Ewing in the bottom of the sixth.
By that time, Reinhart’s teammates had given him the only runs he’d need on a two-run double by Mike Pickel and a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Hess. Reinhart had seven of his 10 strikeouts in the last three innings as the White Sox cruised to victory.
“This means a lot to me,” said Reinhart, who was returning to the LNP Tournament after a two-year absence. “In 1994 we were supposed to go far in the tournament but we lost the first game. This makes up for that.”