Willow Street, Lancaster Twp. outlast foes to reach semifinals

Rob Duvall welcomes Willie Rivera, who celebrates after scoring a run for the Willow Street Yankees.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

Justice delayed is justice denied.

But victory delayed is not necessarily victory denied, as the Willow Street Yankees and the Lancaster Township White Sox proved Friday night.

Those two teams shook off the effects of weather-related stoppages to win their respective New Era Tournament Junior-Midget quarterfinal games Friday night.

As a result, they will now meet Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the second game of a J-M semifinal doubleheader. Mount Joy Blue and the Willow Street White Sox, winners Thursday night, will face off at 6:15 p.m. in the other semifinal.

The Yankees (26-7-1) slipped by the Akron A’s 5-4 after waiting out a one-hour thunderstorm in the opening game at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.

The White Sox (22-2) hit their way past Adamstown VFW 12-5 in the nightcap in a game that began almost two hours after its scheduled start and featured a weather-related 15-minute reset of its own.

Akron (15-12) proved its own worst enemy, committing five errors behind Rodney Hawk – four in one inning – but hung on to a 4-3 lead as the storm clouds rolled in to greet the Willow Street sixth inning.

With one out and Steve Williams on third, courtesy of a two-base error, pesky Mark Wagner (2-for-4, and reached on an error) stepped to the plate.

He ripped Hawk’s first pitch to right field, scoring Williams to tie the game. He then took second on a delayed steal. Dan Hanecak’s ground out advanced him to third as lightning sightings sent both teams scurrying to their dugouts.

The skies opened, the rains came and an hour later Wagner returned to occupy third while having a word with his coach, Steve Ewing.

“I told him, this kid (Hawk) coming back is probably going to throw one in the dirt,” Ewing said. “Look for the angle of the ball into the dirt. It’s not going to bounce very far, but it will bounce away so look for a to score. Look for it early.”

Wagner, who later admitted to some nervousness, tested the footing in the basepath during warmups, found it sufficient, and was ready.

As expected, Hawk’s first pitch bounced in the dirt away from catcher Dave Lawson. Wagner broke for home and slid across with what turned out to be the game-winner, just beating Lawson’s throw to Hawk covering.

“I had to do it,” Wagner said. “I just took off. It was just instincts.”

And how close was it?

“For a second I thought I was out,” he said. “But then, when I saw him say “Safe!’ I just rejoiced.”

As did his reception committee, bursting out of the dugout.

The A’s had built a 3-0 lead on Yankees’ starter Ryan Ewing through 3 1/2 innings paced by Hawk’s impressive solo homer to right and Justin Shenk’s RBI single, both in the fourth inning.

They promptly gave back two-thirds of that lead in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Willie Rivera (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) stroked a harmless single that quickly became malignant as Akron made errors on four of the next five batters, allowing two runs to score.

“Rod didn’t pitch a bad game,” observed A’s coach Daryl Burkholder. “It’s a matter of them putting the ball in play and us not making the plays out there. With this infield being so hard, your going to get some bad hops.”

The A’s came right back with their best threat of the night, loading the bases for Hawk with one out on a double and a pair of walks.

Ryan Ewing, who struck out 10 to go with six walks, battled Hawk and caught him looking at a low slider that swept across the plate at the knees for the second out.

“We didn’t help Rod out defensively,” Burkholder said, “and all the opportunities we wasted. We really thought we could break it open at that point.”

“That was a big inning,” coach Ewing said. “I don’t know what to say about these guys except they’ve got the heart of champions. They keep fighting back every time.”

In celebration of that small victory, Ewing then walked Lawson to force in a run and give Akron a 4-2 lead. It would be the last mistake Ewing would make, (although some seventh-inning wildness raised the anxiety level on his bench).

Jason Mongeau showed grit on the mound in the second game, allowing six hits and three earned runs while walking four and striking out 12.

Of the nine outs recorded by his fielders, eight came in the infield. Only seven balls left the infield all night, including solo homers by Adamstown’s Jorge Roman and Patrick Thompson.

Adamstown (14-3) went up 3-0 on an RBI groundout by Roman, Dennis High’s RBI double and a safety squeeze bunt by Chad Leck that plated pitcher Bryan Irwin.

Roman’s homer answered the first of four 3-run innings for LT and gave Adamstown a brief 4-3 lead, but the Sox were reaching Irwin.

Eric Neely (2-for-4, 1 RBI, 4 runs scored) and Shaun Quigley (2-for-3, 2 RBI) led the assault, aided by Charley Jones (2 runs scored), Chris Herr and Keith Bletz, each with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored, and Justin Kauffman, who came off the bench for a 2-run single.

“We’ve been a hitting team all year long,” said long-time Sox coach Pat Rogers, basking in the glow of his first-ever two-game New Era winning streak. “I’m real proud of these kids. They’re doing a great job.”

Their job was made a little easier by four Adamstown errors that led to six unearned runs. Call it a lesson in the school of hard knocks for Adamstown.

“I think our guys learned a little bit tonight,” said head coach Mike Zaun. “I thought they played hard and played honorably. We lost. What more can you say?”