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Third time’s a charm for LEFC Festivities get underway with annual softball tourney
JOHN CRAWFORD Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
The 196th annual Lititz Springs Park Fourth of July celebration reunited with the Lititz Lilacs’ softball tournament to open this year’s festivities on Sunday.
The threat of bad weather loomed over the event, but the skies cleared by the 4 p.m. start to the championship game. Coincidentally, a threat of a different kind united baseball with the Fourth of July celebration 150 years ago.
"The Civil War was going on and Lititz was going to have a celebration," explained Bill Dussinger, Fourth of July Committee co-chairman. "The townspeople decided at the last minute that there was a chance that the war could come over this way. They decided not to have a big celebration. Some of the people got together and said, ‘Let’s at least have a baseball game.’ It was the first baseball game on Lititz (Springs) property.
"We decided that since Gettysburg was having their big Civil War thing we wouldn’t tramp on their toes, and decided to go with a baseball theme," Dussinger said with a smile.
"Baseball saved the Fourth of July Celebration in 1863," explained town historian Ron Reedy. "There was baseball played as part of the celebration from 1863 to 1937 and then it stopped. We don’t know the reason why it stopped."
The Lilac Tournament, named in honor of an 1800s hometown semi-pro team, started in 1992 to revive ball games in the park as part of the 175th anniversary but the games were not held as part of the celebration.
"We’re trying to make this more of an event," said Dussinger. "Usually, (the crowd) it’s just the families of the people playing. We’re trying to get more people out to see it. The weather might play a factor."
Tournament organizer and Lititz United Methodist player Doug Barge hoped his team and their challenger for the title, Lancaster Evangelical Free Church (LEFC), would provide a good game for the fans. As is the tradition since ’92, the Lilacs tournament is played by local church teams.
"The games are normally 20 fans," said Barge. "If we got over 50 or 100, that would be great."
By the middle of the game, the crowd appeared to easily surpass the norm.
United Methodist went into the game as the reigning champion, but already had a lost in the double elimination tournament. LEFC was undefeated, so Methodist needed to win the first game and force a winner-take-all second game to successfully defend their title. LEFC had lost the previous two years to Methodist.
LEFC’s captain Rod Huber had his eye on the prize.
"It has been two years we’ve come in second to them, so we’re looking to get on top early and take it home," he said.
After Sebastian Janoski sang the National Anthem and Tim Reedy introduced the line-ups, United Methodist took a quick lead when Dave Smith opened with a double, and advanced to third on Brandon Bair’s ground out. He came in with the game’s first run when Barge lifted a sacrifice fly to left field.
LEFC answered in the bottom of the first. Tyler Ranck reached on a fielder’s choice, and advanced to third on Jeramy Horning’s single to right. He then scored on Logan Swertz’s single to right.
UM regained the lead in the second when Chad Moline doubled to right. Two batters later, Troy Deimler sent him home with on a fielder’s choice RBI. LEFC ended the threat with a double play.
They quickly tied the game at two in the bottom of the second when Kevin Ream doubled home Mike Dongia.
The third and fourth innings passed uneventfully.
Dave Smith began the top half of the fifth by beating out a ground ball and advancing to third on Barge’s double. He scored on Mike Smith’s RBI ground and Methodist held a 3-2 lead.
LEFC took their first lead in the bottom of the sixth. Hans Brubaker, who reached base on all three of his at-bats, opened the inning with a single through the infield to right. Two batters later, Horning, who also reached base safely in three plate appearances, singled to right and Brubaker went to third. Brubaker tied the game at three on Swertz’s second RBI.
Huber came to the plate with Horning on second and Swertz on first and hit a hard shot that shortstop Eric Fisher knocked down. He recovered to get Swertz out at second but the throw to complete the double play was high.
"Rod hit it hard, so I knew I had to go," recalled Horning. "When I rounded third, I saw the throw got away so I went home."
Methodist tried to rally in the seventh, and final regulation inning, but the rally was cut short by a heads-up play by LEFC. Kyle Work reached first on a base hit but was erased at second on a fielder’s choice. With Mark Honingman now at first, Paul Dohner singled to right. Honingman took the turn at second, stopped and went back but was cut down by Adam Troyer’s throw for the final out.
"I just heard the footsteps that he had rounded second and I knew I was getting a good throw from my right fielder Adam Troyer," said second baseman Swertz. "He put a throw right on the money. I heard him round second so I turned around and put a tag on him. Heads-up play by Adam."
LEFC won, 4-3.
"At the beginning of the game, I thought we would have needed more," said Huber. "We’re happy to finally win it."
The free concert by the Air National Guard Band of the Mid-Atlantic, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the park bandshell, was moved to the high school’s performing arts center because of the threatening weather forecast.
As the Record Express went to press early this week, due to the holiday, Lititz was preparing for the rest of its Fourth festivities – Lititz Night at the Barnstormers on Tuesday, the Lions Club Patriotic Parade Wednesday, and the 196th Fourth of July on Thursday. Look for coverage of those events in next week’s Record Express.
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