Merlins fall to Manheim in U-10 title game

By on July 8, 2015


 Ephrata’s Coy Schwanger (center) signals the “safe” sign, and the umpire agrees during last Wednes¬day’s semifinals vs. Lititz. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Ephrata’s Coy Schwanger (center) signals the “safe” sign, and the umpire agrees during last Wednesday’s semifinals vs. Lititz. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Manheim VFW remained unbeaten last Wednesday night in league tournament play at Manetas Field in Denver to capture the U-10 Section One title in a battle of the regular season’s top two teams.

Manheim (23-5) broke open a close game with the Ephrata Merlins (26-5) by scoring six times in the top of the fourth for an 8-3 lead on its way to the 12-3 title win.

The VFW players huddled at first base for one final cheer before receiving the individual trophies as Queen’s “We are the Champions” played over the loudspeaker.

“Our strategy was to start our best two pitchers and have the next two ready,” said Manheim head Coach Eric McGallicher. “Early in the tournament, we scored enough runs that we could pull them early and save them for the next game.”

That plan kept VFW in the driver’s seat throughout.

Manheim broke on top early, plating two runs in the top of the first. The first came on a double steal when VFW shortstop and leadoff hitter Kye Watson dashed home from third base on a throw to second. Catcher Landon McGallicher scored from second with two outs on a Brady Harbach single’.

The Merlins closed to 2-1 in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of three walks and a hit batter to get on the scoreboard. Ephrata took the lead one inning later on back-to-back hits by catcher Coy Schwanger and shortstop Brody Martin in front of two additional walks and an RBI single by left fielder Trent Wolf.

At that point, Harbach relieved starter Jared Murray with no outs and the bases loaded, putting out the fire with no further damage, perhaps the turning point of the game.

“The momentum can change so quickly in a U10 game,” said Ephrata Coach Brad Crills. “The difference was in the third inning, when we took the lead, but left the bases loaded.”

The 3-2 Merlin’s lead disappeared quickly in the top of the fourth as Manheim turned five hits and two walks into six runs. Left fielder Logan McGallicher led the hit parade, going four-for-four, with three RBI’s, while Watson had three hits and scored three times. Eight different VFW players collected hits and seven drove home runs in a total team effort.

“We were successful because we were able to work the pitch count to get pitches in our zone,” described McGallicher.

Murray and Harbach scattered six Ephrata hits, two each by Schwanger, Martin and Wolf.

One thing that both coaches agree on is the change in pitching limitations instituted this year. No pitcher can throw more than three innings in any one game. And 25 or more pitches in a single game mandates a rest period, depending on the number of pitches.

“I would change absolutely nothing,” declared Crills. “I like the way it is,” added McGallicher. “It doesn’t allow one dominant pitcher to control the outcome. It also keeps younger arms from getting hurt while they develop.”

The two clubs have now faced each other five times and could meet again this weekend in the “Battle for the Bear Cup” at Elizabethtown on Saturday and Sunday.

Ephrata advanced to Wednesday night’s final game with a 5-1 victory over the Warwick Cardinals earlier in the day in the semifinals at Manetas Park.

Cardinals starter Seth Adomnik had his way early, striking out the first five Ephrata batters. Then a walk, a single and a wild pitch put the Merlin’s on the board first in the bottom of the second inning.

Meanwhile, Ephrata starter Jarrett Weaver only faced 11 hitters over the first three innings as no Cardinal advanced past second base. The Merlin lead was 1-0, going into the bottom of the third.

That’s when Ephrata (25-4) stretched the lead to 5-0 on three hits and two walks, chasing Adomnik. RBI singles by Weaver and shortstop Brody Martin were the key hits in the inning.

Warwick did get on the board in the top of the fourth, as Chase Martin walked in front of back-to-back singles by Ethan Beck and Ethan Zipko, the final hits of the game for the Cardinals, who could only muster three for the contest.

Brock Crills, who split time between first base and shortstop, and Andre Weidman each had two of Ephrata’s seven hits, leading the offense. The win sent the Merlins to the championship round later the same night.

“We’ve played this team seven times,” Merlins coach Brad Crills said. “Tonight, we made the fundamental plays on defense while coming through with timely hitting.”

Warwick’s season comes to a close at 16-17 with one of the youngest rosters in the league.

“Win or lose, we want our kids to learn more than just baseball,” Cardinals coach Matt Burr said. “We’re young, but it was a great growing season. They learned all of the facets of baseball and poise. We lost tonight because of a couple of bounces that went their way, and Ephrata plays great defense.”

Playing calm is a big part of the Merlins’ success on defense.

“We try to stress poise and keeping an even keel at all times,” Crills remarked. “But sometimes we forget that they are only 10 years old.”


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