Lititz rallies past Cocalico for LNP crown

By on July 29, 2015

 

Cocalico fans get excited after Justin Burd (33) scored the first Eagle run on a wild pitch during Sunday’s LNP Final vs. Lititz at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Burd’s teammate Brandon Eberly congratulates him on the play. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Cocalico fans get excited after Justin Burd (33) scored the first Eagle run on a wild pitch during Sunday’s LNP Final vs. Lititz at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Burd’s teammate Brandon Eberly congratulates him on the play. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Lititz’s Reed Martin knew to be prepared.

If starting pitcher Justin Byler ran into trouble against Cocalico on Sunday night, he was the guy.

“It wasn’t just out of the blue,” Martin said. “I warmed up a little bit in the bullpen, so my arm was pretty warm when I came in, which was good.”

Good for the Odd Fellows.

Not so much for Cocalico.

Martin entered the game with the Eagles leading and proceeded to throw three-plus scoreless frames. And with him holding Cocalico at bay, Lititz erupted for a six-run, sixth-inning rally to grab the lead.

It turned out to be the difference in a 7-4 win for the Odd Fellows in the 70th LNP Midget Tournament championship game at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

“I’ve had wins, I’ve had complete games where I’ve thrown all seven innings,” said Martin, who K’d one, walked one and scattered three hits for the decision, “but nothing comes (close) to this. I mean, you’re with all your teammates and all of a sudden you make that last out and it’s just a dog pile.”

For Martin, this was his first New Era/LNP title after going 0-for-4 in previous championship games.

For the Odd Fellows (16-2), however, it marked their fifth crown in 10 years &tstr; and their second in three seasons under skipper Bill Weismandel.

“They’re all special, but that one (in 2013) will always be kinda hard to (beat),” Weismandel said. “When your son (Tate) is part of one, and the kids I was coaching with that team I had coached for like six, seven years, so that’s a little bit different.”

It had been 25 years since Denver took home the Midget crown in 1990. But Cocalico (12-7) &tstr; after topping Bears Blue 6-1 and Hempfield Black 6-2 in the LNP Tournament’s first two rounds with the same squad that played community ball last year &tstr; was hoping to make some history of its own.

“We stuck together this year and we had a small team, but these guys have played great defense all year, we’ve gotten good pitching all year and we’ve usually gotten enough hitting to win ball games,” Eagles’ coach Doug Sawyer said. “So I’m proud of these guys. They did a heck of a job.”

The Eagles certainly did a heck of a job making Byler work early on. Leadoff batter Brady Martin showed a patient approach in the top of the first with a seven-pitch walk, Tyler Stricker (3-for-4) flared a one-out single to right and Justin Burd walked to load the bases. But Byler retired Austin Harven and Drew Myers on strikes to get out of it.

They stranded two more in scoring position in the second inning, and left 12 on base for the game.

“It’s been an issue we’ve talked about all season,” Sawyer said. “I keep telling our guys jokingly, we probably lead the league in men left on base. But in a tight game like this … it’s tough.”

Having escaped those scares, the Odd Fellows jumped on top in the bottom of the second. Nate Hess (2-for-3) stroked a 1-0 pitch from Harven to right field for the first of his two triples. then scored on Evan Clark’s RBI base hit.

But that was all they could muster through five innings off of Harven.

In the meantime, Cocalico got the equalizer in the third inning &tstr; Burd was hit by a pitch with two outs and later scored on a wild pitch &tstr; and then it put three on the board in the top of the fourth.

Struggling with his command, Byler, who threw 85 pitches in three and two-third innings, issued leadoff walks to Jerrell Martin and Brock Showalter. After Kyle Robb sacrificed them into scoring position, Lititz center fielder Hess tracked down Brady Martin’s shot into the gap, but Jerrell Martin tug and scored. Drew Sawyer then legged out a swinging bunt in front of the mound and Stricker delivered an RBI single to center field, chasing Byler.

The next batter, Burd, ripped a hot shot off the glove of third baseman Zach Peters for an RBI infield single, making it 4-1, but Reed got Harven on a fielder’s choice grounder to end the threat.

Relying mostly on his fastball, Martin went on to retired eight straight batters.

“I threw a curveball a couple of times, but the first couple weren’t too good,” Martin smiled. “I just had to try to keep their team off-balance and keep them from scoring any more runs.”

While Martin gave Lititz a boost on the mound, Justin Smith stepped up clutch at the plate. Pinch-hitting for Ryan Aukamp, Smith laced a 2-2 pitch to left-center off of Harven, who yielded just two hits and threw 56 pitches in five innings.

“His pitch count was way down, so we felt good getting him back out there for the sixth inning,” Sawyer remarked. “Austin was mowing through these guys. I think he had only given up (two) hits to that point and was keeping them off-balance. It turned quickly for us.”

After Zimmerman walked, Tyler Martin’s infield single loaded the bases.

“Huge,” Weismandel said of Smith’s base hit. “I preach big innings start with the leadoff guy. It’s increasingly harder to score with one out with the leadoff guy. So if you get on base, now you can start making things happen and (Justin) just got the team rolling.”

Peters then ripped a two-run single to left, and when the ball skipped past Cocalico’s Stricker, Tyler Martin scored the tying run.

It was one of three Eagle errors in the game.

“That’s unusual for us because we’ve played great defense all year,” Sawyer said.

When Hess slammed an RBI triple to right-center, it put the Odd Fellows up 5-4 and chased Harven, who scattered six hits in five-plus innings, striking out none and walking one.

“It’s a different kind of offensive approach when you’re down a few runs versus one run,” Weismandel said. “You’ve got to get a few guys on base and then someone’s got to get the big hit. Zach certainly did that and Nate followed it up an the offense sorta turned right there.”

Ryan Brown then reached on a hit by pitch from reliever Myers, Byler drove in Hess with a squeeze bunt and legged it out for an infield single, and then Reed Martin delivered an RBI single to center, pushing the Odd Fellows’ lead to 7-4.

“I knew Myers was going to try to get ahead because we had runners on first and second,” Martin recalled. “I knew first-pitch fastball was going to be a good one &tstr; it was a little high, but I kept my hands on top and hit it hard up the middle.”

The three-run lead gave Martin some cushion in the top of the seventh, when Cocalico put the tying runs on base via Stricker’s single to left-center, Burd’s walk and Myers’ two-out base hit.

“My legs were shaking pretty much,” Martin said. “I was just trying to keep them calm so I didn’t balk. I just tried to throw strikes and let my defense help me out.”

Cocalico’s Brandon Eberly then worked the count full, but went down swinging on a ball in the dirt, and Smith threw to first base to seal it for Lititz.

“By far (my best baseball moment),” Martin said of winning the championship. “I just didn’t want my third baseman to come run me over. That’s the first place I looked at.”

«««

Number one seed Hempfield Black hosted number five Cocalico in the LNP semifinals Friday evening at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster. And for the second time in three days Cocalico reversed the result of the regular season for a 6-2 win and a trip to Sunday’s finals.

All of the offense came in the top of the second inning as third baseman Austin Harven drew a walk and advanced to second on a single slapped to left field by right fielder Drew Myers. After two failed attempts to bunt, first baseman Brandon Eberly worked another walk, setting up the key moment of the game.

Left fielder Jerrell Martin stroked a line drive to left center that got past a diving Hempfield centerfielder Mark Peterson for a double. The hit plated Harven and Myers for a 2-0 lead. Shortstop Brock Showalter followed with a single up the middle that scored Eberly, but Peterson’s throw nailed Martin, who tried to leap over the catcher’s tag.

Cocalico wasn’t done yet as back-to-back singles by extra hitter Kyle Robb and catcher Brady Martin plus a throwing error by Black shortstop T.J. Biondolillo led to three insurance runs off Hempfield pitcher Logan Givler. The 6-0 lead would hold up until the bottom of the fifth.

“Other than the second, we struggled a lot with the off-speed pitches,” explained Coach Sawyer. “But everyone from the top to the bottom contributed. It became contagious.” Four of the six runs were driven in by the bottom three batters in the lineup.

Right hander Tyler Stricker went the distance on the mound for Cocalico, scattering nine hits (four to Peterson) while striking out seven and not issuing a single walk.

Stricker talked about his success after the game.

“I tried to mix up the low fastball inside and outside,” he said. “It was important to get a good start each inning. (He recorded outs for the first hitter in six of the seven innings) I also never had to worry about the defense. We have one of the best.”

“His command has been good all summer,” complimented Sawyer. “He had great control of his off speed pitches and was not afraid to use them at any time in the count.”

A point proven when Stricker struck out Black catcher Nick Boulanger on a three and two count for the second out in the seventh.

«««

Cocalico avenged a regular season loss to Bears Blue of Elizabethtown in the LNP Midget Tournament Quarterfinals Wednesday night under the lights at “The Clip.”

The visitors overcame an early Blue run to roll to a 6-1 win.

Cocalico pitcher Austin Harven went the distance, striking out seven and setting down ten of the last 11 he faced while limiting E-Town to four hits.

“I was trying to keep the ball down,” said Harven after the win. “They’re a good hitting team and my curve ball wasn’t working, so I just tried to keep it low.”

“He did an awesome job throwing strikes,” added Coach Sawyer. “Once he settles in, he gets tough. Because the defense played so well, he wasn’t afraid to pitch to contact.”

The offense wasn’t too shabby either, out-hitting Blue 10-4 and led by extra hitter and catcher Brady Martin (2 hits, 2 runs) and left fielder Tyler Stricker (2 hits, run, 2 RBI). The turning point came in the top of the fourth, with the score tied at one.

Stricker was on third with center fielder Justin Burd on second after being sacrificed by Harven. Right Fielder Drew Myers lashed a single just inside the left field line, plating the two runs and a lead Cocalico would not give up. That lead was extended in the fifth and seventh, both on RBI singles by Stricker.

“I knew I had to put it in play,” said Myers. “Luckily it dropped in.” So, was revenge on their minds in this game? “We looked forward to getting them back,” added Myers. “We didn’t play our best during the season.”

And the difference this time?

“We pushed runners across when we had opportunities,” said Sawyer. “It was very critical to get the lead. The kids played with confidence once they had it.”

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