New Era Correspondent
The last time he pitched against Mount Joy Blue, Sheldon Witmer pitched himself into a corner.
This time, painting the corners, Witmer pitched the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals into the finals of the New Era Tournament Midget-Midget division.
With Witmer bedeviling Mount Joy on the hill, and getting into the swing of a 13-hit attack, the Cardinals (20-11) bludgeoned Blue 11-3 in the first game of a M-M twinbill at Kunkle Field.
In the second game, the Manheim Twp. White Sox defeated Reamstown 11-1 to decide the last NET finals berth.
The two Penn Manor League opponents will face each other next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Four weeks ago, Witmer got the ball against Blue (19-10) in the Optimist Tournament and threw it all over the plate. Mount Joy took advantage of that wildness to post a 9-2 victory.
“He didn’t have it then,” Cards’ coach Dan Herr said. “He struggled with his control, I think he walked seven in that game. You know, 80 percent of walks score.”
Still, there was no doubt in Herr’s mind who would get the ball last night.
“(Sheldon’s) pitched the cream games,” Herr said. “He’s the main horse.”
The Cards saddled him and rode him to the finals as Witmer allowed one earned run on three hits. He struck out 15, including the last six outs of the game. He did walk three – only one scored.
“I’ve always come through in big games,” said Witmer, claiming his confidence was “on’ Tuesday night.
“I was going to try to paint the corners with fastballs, and I did tonight,” he said. “On 0-2 and 3-2 counts, I tried to get my curve ball over. It was really breaking tonight.”
“He was on today,” said Mount Joy coach Jerry Storm. “We weren’t hitting the ball and everything they hit found a hole somewhere.”
Mount Joy put two on the board in the first inning on Josh Chandler’s RBI single and a sacrifice bunt by Nick Ebersole.
They threatened in the fourth, loading the bases on an error, a walk and an infield single.
Witmer walked David Garner to force in a run, but Witmer struck out a pair and buried Zach Behney 0-and-2.
Behney fouled a ball off catcher Joey Kachnoskie’s knee, and after Kachnoskie walked off the pain, but before umpire Jim Cunningham had signaled play to begin, Ebersole rumbled home from third on a steal attempt.
Cunningham directed all runners to return to their bases, pointed to Witmer to play ball and watched as Ebersole dashed home again.
With no element of surprise, Ebersole was a dead duck. And Blue’s last life was snuffed out.
The Cards answered Mount Joy’s two first-inning runs with a five-spot in the bottom of the inning and it looked like a 19-18 classic was in the works.
SWS did its part. Hitting ’em where Blue wasn’t, and where they’d been, the Cards smacked the ball all over Kunkle Field.
“It’s not that we weren’t making the plays,” said Storm. “They were putting the ball where we weren’t. We’d be in position and they were just hitting it in the hole.”
“A lot of seeing-eye singles up the middle,” Herr said, ignoring the fact that, with the drought-baked condition of Kunkle turning the field into a marbles-in-the-bathtub adventure, those singles quickly became doubles and triples.
Witmer went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Eric Herr was a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, scoring three runs from the leadoff spot.
Cleanup hitter Jason Ebersole singled twice, driving in a pair before leaving the game after two innings and Chris Pratt singled twice in three at bats, knocking in two.
“In the middle of the season we were so hot,” Herr said. “Then we cooled off a little in the (league) playoffs. It’s nice to know you can explode like we did tonight.”
With the Midget-Midget division getting off to a late start, it had been two weeks since the Cardinals played a game, three for Blue.
“It’s hard to keep them focused,” Storm said. “There’s nothing you can work on that you haven’t already gone over the whole season.”
“You want to be serious,” Herr said of practices, “but you don’t want to be too hard on them, especially with it being so hot.”
Judging from results, Herr’s approach was the right one.
Township runs wild in romp over Reamstown
By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent
Eleven steals. Eleven runs. Five innings.
Excuse the Manheim Township White Sox while they catch their breath.
The Sox socked it to Reamstown last night in the semifinals of the New Era Tournament ‘s Midget-Midget division at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field. When the dust cleared, Township had an 11-1 victory in a game that was called after the top of the fifth in accordance with the 10-run mercy rule.
Until then, Township (22-7) showed little mercy against the Cocalico League champs and their starting pitcher, righty Dustin Razor. The Sox scored three runs in the first inning and stole five bases in the second en route to a four-run frame and a 7-0 lead.
Razor needed 19 pitches to get out of the first inning and 27 to wiggle out of the second.
His counterpart, lefty Dane Yoder, checked Reamstown on two hits in his four innings of work. Yoder got plenty of support from an offense led by Andy Dochterman, who had three singles, swiped three bases and scored three runs, and Alex Sota, who went 3-for-3 with three singles, three steals and three RBIs.
Township tacked on four more runs in the third to ice the win and advance to the Midget-Midget championship game next Tuesday night at Kunkle Field against the Strasburg/Willow Street Cardinals. The Cards eliminated Mount Joy Blue last night at Kunkle.
“We knew absolutely nothing about Reamstown coming in,” Township coach Tom Sota said following last night’s game. “We just told them to be prepared and to come out swinging and to not stop running until we told them to. They did that, and they did a great job.”
Dochterman was the catalyst. He opened the bottom of the first with a single, stole second and scored on Jonathan Stutzman’s sacrifice fly to give the Sox a quick 1-0 lead. George Eager followed with a single and a steal and he scored when Yoder slammed a triple to center to make it 2-0.
Township made it 3-0 when Sota singled home Yoder. By that point, the rout was definitely on.
In the second inning, John Dettinger hit a one-out single and stole second. Dochterman followed with his second single of the night, and both runners came around to score on Stutzman’s two-run single to center.
That made it 5-0 Township.
After Stutzman stole second, he came around to score when Sota blooped a single to right to make it 6-0.
Eager, who lived on an error by first baseman Chad Miller, stole second and scored to make it 7-0 when Reamstown second baseman Ryan Horst overthrew Miller after pinch-hitter Casey Huxta lined out. They were trying to complete a 4-3 double play.
“Hey, what can you do?” Reamstown coach Chet Behney said. “I wish we could have done better, but …”
But Reamstown, which drew a first-round bye and was playing in its first New Era Tournament game, couldn’t overcome some cobwebs. Turns out Behney’s troops haven’t played in a month, after going 15-0 in the regular season before winning the Cocalico M-M League with a fine 19-1 overall record.
“Heck, we haven’t played in four weeks,” said Behney, who wasn’t looking to make any excuses. “We gave the kids two weeks off over the Fourth of July, and with vacations and other things, we couldn’t have full practices, so it was tough.”
Yoder and his high-rising fastball made things even tougher for Reamstown.
In his four innings of mound work, Yoder fanned nine and walked three. He threw 74 pitches on a humid evening, so Sota called on his son to mop up in the fifth.
Young Sota yielded a one-out walk to Richie Gordon, who eventually reached third via a steal and a passed ball. But Sota fanned Daniel Witmer and got Ricky Uberoth to bounce to second to end it.
The only run Yoder allowed came in the third, when Reamstown cut Township’s lead to 7-1 when Andy Rutt walked and stole second – turnabout is fair play, after all – and scored on Uberoth’s two-out single to center.
It was Reamstown’s first hit of the night off Township’s hard-throwing lefty. Reamstown’s second and final hit of the evening came in the fourth, when Miller opened the frame with a single to center.
That would be all Reamstown would muster in the hit column.
“He was the first lefty we faced this season, but that’s neither here nor there,” Behney said of Yoder. “He was a good pitcher. He threw strikes, and that’s what you need. Our guys were looking at strike one, strike two, strike three. We weren’t aggressive like we were all season.”
Meanwhile, Township poured it on in the third, putting the game away for good with four more runs – and four more stolen bases for good measure. In the inning, Mike Beatty tattooed a leadoff triple off Razor and scored on Eric Whitworth’s single to make it 8-1.
Whitworth swiped third and Dochterman, who singled, stole second, and both came around to score – Whitworth to make it 9-1 when Reamstown shortstop Casey Marion booted Stutzman’s chopper and Dochterman to make it 10-1 on Sota’s third consecutive RBI single.
“We have a very fast team, and we were certainly going to take advantage of that,” Tom Sota said. “We thought with Dane pitching – and he’s our No. 1 guy – that if we could give him a couple of extra runs, he’d take care of business.”
And now it’s off to the finals for the Sox, who are making their first appearance in the NET M-M Tournament.
“It’s great to get to the final,” Tom Sota said. “It was a goal we set at the beginning of the season: to make the New Era Tournament . We haven’t been here before so we didn’t know what to expect.
“We did know that the stakes were a little higher, and once we got by Hempfield (in last week’s quarterfinals), we knew we had a great chance to do this, so we set our sights a little higher.”
NOTES: Razor threw 63 pitches before being relieved by Witmer in the fourth. He allowed 13 hits and nine earned runs while walking three and striking out one. … The NET M-M championship will be an all-Penn Manor League affair. So far, the Cardinals have dominated the series, winning both games this summer. “We’re looking forward to getting another shot at them,” Tom Sota said.
Behney, whose team lost in the first round here last year, said Reamstown is simply snakebit: “There’s just something about the New Era Tournament . They get petrified when they get here, and I don’t know why. Seriously. It’s not the lights or the crowd. We play under the lights all summer. It’s just something about the New Era Tournament.” … Reamstown scored 216 runs (14.4 per game) during its regular season.