Barons clinch third Section crown in four years

By on May 8, 2019
 Hunter Hess pitched six strong innings against Norlebco last Friday in the Barons’ 12-1 win, helping them clinch the Section Three title. Lititz Record file photo

Hunter Hess pitched six strong innings against Norlebco last Friday in the Barons’ 12-1 win, helping them clinch the Section Three title. Lititz Record file photo

Goal number one for Manheim Central is in the books.

In what has been a magical season for the Barons, their magic number finally reached zero last Friday when they clinched the Section Three championship with a 12-1 drubbing of Northern Lebanon at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg.

With just one more game left in the regular season, yesterday (Wednesday) against Octorara, Manheim Central’s win improved their record to 16-1 Section (17-2 overall). As of deadline, they were three games ahead of Donegal and Octorara, who are tied in second place with 13-4 marks.

The next goal is the L-L League playoffs. The Barons will get underway on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they play Section Two runner-up Solanco at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

“It was nice not to end up in a tie situation and have to play off,” Baron coach Jason Thompson said. “It was nice to clinch it and we can focus on what we have coming up. I’m happy for the guys. They’ve earned it and worked hard all year.”

It was the third title in four years for Manheim Central, but the first one for Thompson in the skipper’s role. He coached the Barons from 2001-13 before returning to the dugout again this spring.

“It is (special) and I was certainly handed a good group of guys,” Thompson said. “They make me look pretty good.”

This one was over early as Colton Book ripped a first-inning two-run homer and the Barons jumped to a big 9-0 lead after two.

That was plenty for starting pitcher Hunter Hess, who went six innings for the win. Pounding the strike zone, the senior right-hander struck out three and walked two.

Hess and reliever Cole Lastinger combined on a five-hitter.

“(Hunter) pitched really well,” Thompson said. “Monday against Garden Spot, he pitched well, but that was not a typical Hunter outing that I have seen out of him the majority of the year. So it was nice to see him bounce back and have a good solid outing on Friday.”

As a staff, the Barons have had solid outings consistently this season. In fact, their pitchers have combined for eight shutouts.

“The pitching and defense have been consistent for most of the year. For teams to score against us right now, they’ve got to string together a few hits in a row,” Thompson said, “because our (pitchers) aren’t walking many, and if they do get some guys on base, the two guys in the middle (shortstop Drew Mummau and second baseman Cody Gibble) can turn double plays with the best of them. And we have a pretty good catcher (Garrett Bruckhart) back there. I think we have one attempted stolen base against us all season and he threw him out.”

Hess and Lastinger had plenty of support on Friday, as Mummau went 3-for-5 with four RBI, Lastinger finished 3-for-4, Book had two hits including his two-run blast, and Cam Eberly was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

“I would say (the offense started clicking) probably when we started the second time through our own Section,” Thompson said. “Drew is starting to really swing it well and some of the guys in the bottom third of the lineup are starting to get more comfortable and swing the bat well. It’s just helping to turn that lineup over quicker.”

Facing the Vikings’ Tyler Hess, Manheim Central took a lead it never lost in the first inning when Book homered to left and then Mummau singled and scored, making it 3-0.

“(Colton) is one of those bats who has been consistent, but now he’s starting to add the deep ball to his batting average and stuff,” Thompson said. “It’s nice to see him drive the ball. He’s been moved up to the three-slot probably the last two weeks and he’s proven to be a solid three-hitter for us.”

Then they broke it open with six runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter. Hess helped his cause with a sacrifice fly, and then four consecutive doubles by Mummau, Eberly, Lastinger and Gibble plated five more runs to stretch the lead to 9-0.

“That (three-hit game) was huge for Cole because he was in a slump, which does happen at the high school level, so it was nice to see him come out and get that off his back before we head into the end of the season and the playoffs,” Thompson said.

Norlebco got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third on Brandon Breidegan’s RBI ground out, cutting the Barons’ lead to 9-1.

But Bruckhart’s RBI double in the fourth inning drove in Eberly to put Manheim Central ahead 10-1, and then the Barons scored their final two runs in the seventh on Mummau’s two-run double to center field, plating Nolan Weaver and Hess.

“It’s nice to know that (Drew)’s feeling good at the plate,” Thompson said, “and we’ve got the guys behind them that if they decide to put him on base, they’ve been able to get him in there as well.”

Hunter Hess threw 87 pitches through six before handing the ball to Lastinger, who yielded just one hit while nailing it down in the seventh.

“It was nice to not have a (potential playoff for the Section) not hanging over our heads,” Thompson said, “and we took care of goal number one when we set team goals at the beginning of the season.”

***

Last Wednesday, May 1, Mummau went 2-for-4 with two RBI and allowed just two hits in five innings, as the Barons shut out Cocalico 11-0 in a Section Three game in Denver.

Gibble had a two-run double in Manheim Central’s four-run first inning rally and Book chipped in with three-run single to left in the fifth.

Gage McCabe added an RBI double in the third when the Barons took a commanding 8-0 lead.

Mummau struck out four and walked four while earning the victory.

***

The Barons were also in action last Tuesday, April 30, when Book pitched a two-hit shutout to lead Manheim Central in a 10-0 five-inning win over ELCO in a Section Three game in Myerstown.

Leadoff batter Curt Kroesen went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, and Weaver and Gibble each chipped in with two RBI.

Book whiffed four and walked two in the decision.

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