Dragons hoist 12U LNP trophy

By on July 19, 2017
Ephrata's Ryan Bromirski (right) looks back after crossing the plate in the first inning of Friday’s final. Penn Manor catcher Hunter Sipel is at left. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Ryan Bromirski (right) looks back after crossing the plate in the first inning of Friday’s final. Penn Manor catcher Hunter Sipel is at left. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Edge Penn Manor 3-2 in finals to win County title

The Chinese Zodiac Calendar doesn’t call for the year of the Dragon until 2024. But the Ephrata 12U baseball players were a little impatient for that traditional time table last week at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy.

These Dragons held on to beat Penn Manor 3-2 on Friday, capping three straight wins to capture the title of the 72nd LNP (formerly New Era) Midget-Midget Tournament.

Ephrata came into the tourney as the number two seed. The Dragons knocked off the number three Warwick Phillies 7-1 and the number one Manheim VFW 5-2 before besting the number four Comets to complete the sweep of the final four.

The Dragons avenged early season losses to both Penn Manor and Manheim to finish the 2017 season on top of the County heap with an overall record of 25-8.

Ephrata right-hander Ryan Bromirski scattered six hits and only surrendered two unearned runs in picking up the complete game championship victory.

“It’s amazing,” gushed the grinning Bromirski after the game. “The plan was to keep the ball down. That helped, because they hit a lot of ground balls. Everything went the way we hoped it would.”

Bromirski set down the first six Comets he faced, highlighted defensively with diving catches by Dragon center fielder Tanner McCracken and left fielder Evan Boley.

In the bottom of the first, it was the offense’s turn to shine. Bromirski (7-for-11 in the tournament) set the table by lining a single to left field. Shortstop Drew Hurst dropped a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate. When Manor catcher Hunter Sipel tried to force Bromirski at second, his throw sailed into center field, allowing the two runners to advance.

Catcher Coy Schwanger then doubled to right center, driving in Bromirski. Two outs later, first baseman Brock Crills lined a single to center field, scoring Schwanger for a 2-0 lead. Right-fielder Andre Weidman’s double to right center chased home Schwanger with the Dragon’s third-and-final run in the bottom of the third.

Scoring early was the Ephrata recipe for success throughout the tournament, as they scored all 15 runs in the three games by the third inning. And none after that frame.

“It relaxes the kids a little bit,” explained Dragon head coach Brad Crills, when asked about the advantages of scoring early. “But then when you don’t score from the third inning on, everybody gets tight a little bit. It’s always nice to get a lead and build on it from there.”

“Tight” was the perfect way to describe this contest in the fifth inning. Bromirski retired leadoff hitter Jordan Frymyer on a pop to Dragon third baseman Brody Martin. An infield single was legged out by extra-hitter Peter Skiados. Q.J. Hanna followed with a single to center and an infield error loaded the bases. With one out, the tying run was on first base.

Comet shortstop Jamison Ford flied to right field, scoring Skiados on the sacrifice fly, despite causing out number two. A single by Sipel re-loaded the bases. Facing cleanup hitter Spencer Stuart, Bromirski coaxed a soft liner back to the mound for the third out.

The final inning was much easier.

A strikeout, a ground ball to Hurst and a line drive that hit Bromirski on the shin put the game within reach. When he picked up the ball and threw to Crills, it was over.

The Dragons were champs.

“I’ve had these kids since they were eight years old,” added Coach Crills. “They’re like 12 or 13 of my own kids. I’ve seen them every day since February. They listen. They’re respectful.”

That feeling of family was cemented after the trophies were handed out to the players. They were all standing along the third base line. Coach Crills approached each one, planting a kiss on top of their heads, the last to his wife, also on top of her head.

Crills even picked up Weidman’s two-year-old brother Bryce, as the parents snapped pictures of the team with their trophy.

“He’s been our bat-boy. He lives and breathes baseball. He’s our 14th player.”

This was the first Midget-Midget championship by a strictly Ephrata Area School District roster team since Akron won the title in 1987, a 30-year span, one thing Bromirski knew in advance.

“Actually yes, I looked in the newspaper and saw the teams that were listed,” he said. “I knew it was a long time.”

What he didn’t know before the game was that he was destined to pitch the whole championship game.

“No, he (Coach Crills) didn’t say that,” Bromirski said. “I didn’t even know I was pitching before I got here.”

As to what the victory means to the Ephrata program, Crills focused on the big picture.

“Winning is nice, but playing in meaningful games at this age sets the stage for Coach Shelley,” he said. “That’s what our program is about. The experience of close games and competitiveness.”

Much of the Ephrata production offensively throughout the final phase of the tournament came from the top half of the lineup. In addition to Bromirski, the Dragons were led by Hurst (3 hits, 4 runs, RBI), Schwanger (4 hits, 4 runs, 4 RBI), Weidman (2 hits, 4 RBI), Martin (3 hits, run, RBI) and Brock Crills (2 hits, 3 RBI).

In addition to Bromirski’s win in the championship game Ephrata got a complete game, five-hit victory from Martin against Warwick and a four-plus innings outing by Jarrett Weaver, who earned a four-hit win over Manheim VFW.

“These kids deserve it,” recapped Coach Crills. “They’ve been runners-up for three years now, and they finally got one.”

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