Wolf’s slam sends Mountville into semis

Cullen Wolf throws for Mountville.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

While Rheems was making a pitching change in the bottom of the sixth inning, Mountville first base coach Scott Ream called batter Cullen Wolf over for a quick word.

“Close your eyes, swing at the first pitch as hard as you can and hit it outta here,” he said.

Wolf stepped into the batter’s box swung as hard as he could at reliever Tyler Schmalhofer’s first pitch – a fastball down the middle – and lined it high over the left field fence at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field for a grand slam home run.

“No,” said Wolf.

Wolf’s blast was the final salvo of an eight-run rally that carried the Angels to a 15-9 victory over Rheems Gray, ending a game that went back and forth more than a metronome.

“That was one of the most see-saw games that I’ve ever been involved in,” said Angels’ coach Run Brubaker. “They just wouldn’t quit.”

The comeback victory lifts Mountville into the semifinals, where the Angels will face E-town Blue, a 9-8 winner over Hempfield Black in Thursday’s other quarterfinal.

The two teams will meet Monday at 6 p.m. in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Kunkle Field.

It was not a night for pitchers. Rheems (13-11) lashed out 11 hits, marking Wolf for eight runs – six earned – in five innings.

“It was hard to get those guys out,” he said. “You hit your spots, and they hit the ball.”

Despite not really hitting the ball that well, Mountville (15-6) hung in the game against Gray starter Matt Frederick, who had a hinky motion, a nasty curve and a fastball that had excellent movement.

Patrick Welsh, the beneficiary of the Angels’ sixth-inning largesse, picked up the win in relief.

Mountville squandered the lead three times before it finally took control. Rheems was up 9-7 before the roof caved in.

You knew right away it was going to be one of those nights when Mountville’s Brandon Hickey lined a solo homer to center in the first inning, and Rheems answered with solo shots from Frederick (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 3 runs) and Kirby Turner (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs) in the second.

Mountville tied the game at 5-5 in the third as Aaron Law scored on an error on Alex Manacher’s ground ball. Then, Steve Remley (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 run scored) doubled home a pair in the fourth.

In the fifth, an RBI single by Turner and Schmalhofer’s two-run single gave Rheems the lead once more and they extended it the next inning on Brett Vuxta’s single.

Turner stood to get the win if he could hold on, but when he allowed Wolf’s leadoff single and a walk to Hickey, Rheems coach Herb Miller went back to Frederick, who got two outs on strikeouts.

He would not record another out.

Michael Garner singled in a run, Law walked and Manacher walked to force in a run on a real close 3-2 pitch. Then Mitch Bachman walked on four pitches to put Mountville ahead. Again.

“They were very patient at the plate,” Brubaker said. “Both those boys are first-year players (at this level). It’s tough being at the plate, two outs, two runs down.” 

The inning continued as Law scored on a wild pitch and when Frederick hit Andrew Weitzel, his day was done.

Miller went to bring Turner back, but couldn’t: having been taken out of the game, Turner could not return to the mound until the next inning.

Enter Schmalhofer. Exit baseball.

Rheems Gray’s Zach Shippling is tagged out at home by Mountville catcher Steve Remley.