Big fifth-inning rally lifts Lititz to sixth LNP Midget title

By on August 2, 2017
Lititz players Colin Brubaker (11), Jackson Davies (4), Max Bright (26), Kaden Hunt (3), Adam Ricketts (13) and others celebrate on the Clipper Magazine Stadium infield after defeating SWS 4-2 in the LNP Midget Tournament finals last Friday. The Oddfellows’ victory clinched their fourth title in seven years, all in odd years — 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Lititz players Colin Brubaker (11), Jackson Davies (4), Max Bright (26), Kaden Hunt (3), Adam Ricketts (13) and others celebrate on the Clipper Magazine Stadium infield after defeating SWS 4-2 in the LNP Midget Tournament finals last Friday. The Oddfellows’ victory clinched their fourth title in seven years, all in odd years — 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Photo by Missi Mortimer

When the sixth inning was in the books, Lititz Oddfellows’ pitcher Colin Brubaker went looking for skipper Bill Weismandel in the dugout.

The right-hander had a request.

“I was like, ‘Bill, you’ve got to give me the ball. I feel good,’” Brubaker recalled.

Weismandel obliged and Brubaker didn’t disappoint in the LNP Midget Tournament finals.

In fact, the Warwick junior-to-be pitched a perfect seventh, striking out SWS’ Joseph Meck to end it, as the Oddfellows captured the championship with a 4-2 victory over the Pioneers at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium. With the win, Lititz improved to 14-3 league, 23-5 overall.

“I was anticipating this moment for a long time and it was just a dream come true that it happened,” said Brubaker, who pitched three innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win.

It’s the Oddfellows’ fourth crown in seven years, and their sixth in the past 12.

An interesting twist is that Lititz has dominated in odd-numbered years, having won in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, not unlike the San Francisco Giants taking the World Series during the even years of 2010, ‘12 and ‘14.

“We’re the Oddfellows, so I think that’s appropriate, right?,” Weismandel laughed. “That’s just one of those quirky things that if you dig deep enough, you can find statistics for everything.”

True, but you couldn’t find a happier bunch of players celebrating on the Clipper Magazine Stadium turf. For many of them, it was their first LNP title after falling just short in previous years.

“The last couple of times, I’ve gotten runner-up and I was like, ‘It feels so amazing to win one,’” said second baseman Zach Shertzer, who stroked a key double in Lititz’s go-ahead three-run rally in the fifth when they erased a 2-1 deficit. “There’s nothing like it, especially in this stadium. It feels great.”

“It’s amazing,” added Oddfellows’ starting pitcher Colin Beech, “just to be able to have the feeling of winning an LNP championship.”

Beech, who K’d one and walked two in four-plus innings, had the task of shutting down an SWS (10-7 league) squad which had won three straight entering the finals. All he did was toss four innings of no-hit ball. He benefited from a Brendan Martin-to-Shertzer-to-Max Bright double play in the second inning after SWS’ Josh Howells reached on an error, and a nice line drive snare by Brubaker at the hot corner to end the third inning.

“I noticed it,” Beech said of the no-no through four, “(but) I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it … I had good command and the defense behind me was working real good.”

In the bottom of the second, Beech helped his own cause with a leadoff single to left off of SWS pitcher Aaron Snyder. With one out, John Seibert flared a singled to left, and both he and courtesy runner Kaden Hunt advanced into scoring position on an SWS error. Hunt then scored on Jeffrey Kline’s sacrifice fly to put Lititz up 1-0.

It stayed that way until the top of the fifth, when Snyder led off with a six-pitch walk, and then Derek Eckman and Hunter Cunningham singled to load the bases for SWS. That brought in Brubaker, who promptly fielded a squeeze bunt from Nevin Book and flipped to catcher Seibert for a force out.

“I’ve worked the whole year (coming out of the ‘pen), so I’m used to that,” Brubaker said, “but in this environment pressure builds, (but) it was a good pressure. It was fun.”

Kris Pirozzi’s RBI single drove in Eckman with the tying run, then Cunningham scored to give SWS a 2-1 lead when Lititz botched a force play at second.

But that was all the Pioneers could muster, as Brubaker retired clean-up batter Connor Blantz on a fly to center to end the inning.

“(Colin) came in and threw strikes,” Weismandel said. “He just kinda jumped into the frying pan there, so to speak, and he did his job and helped minimize what could have been potentially a big inning for them. For (SWS) just to get two runs and only take a one-run lead … our offense is our strength and I thought we’d be able to scratch a few more across.”

The Oddfellows rewarded their coach for his faith in their next at-bats.

With one out, Bright laced a 3-1 pitch from Snyder for a base hit.

“I knew we could start something there,” Shertzer said, “and that was the opportunity.”

Shertzer certainly did his part, jumping on a Snyder fastball and cracking a double to the right-center field gap, putting runners at second and third.

“Whenever I go up to the plate, I love to swing first pitch,” he said. “It happened to be a first pitch right down the middle and I ripped it.”

“That’s the bottom of the order, so to speak, but we don’t really have a bottom of the order,” Weismandel said. “We have guys on the bench who are more than capable of hitting … Obviously, it’s a huge benefit to have, but Zach and Max getting things going, it’s a beautiful thing to have that kind of offense that no matter where you are in the lineup, you’ve got a quality hitter up to bat.”

Bright scored when Brubaker reached on a fielding error with the SWS infield up, and then when Pioneer third baseman Patrick Holmes threw wildly to first on Martin’s bunt, Shertzer crossed the plate to give Lititz a lead it never relinquished. Courtesy runner Blake Hoover scored an insurance run on a wild pitch, making it 4-2.

Snyder took the complete-game loss, striking out three and yielding four runs — two earned — on six hits and two walks.

“(Thursday) night, it was sort of a laser show,” Weismandel said of his team’s big 11-0 five-inning win over top-seeded Hempfield. “Our bats were locked in and we were hitting the ball all over the park. But we instruct and coach our team to be able to score multiple ways and have all the tools in the toolbox, and when you’ve got to play small ball and you’ve got to execute and get those things done, we can do that too.”

Meanwhile, Brubaker was busy executing as well. Following a leadoff six-pitch walk to SWS’ Josh Howells in the sixth, he retired the final six batters he faced, throwing strikes on 24 of his 37 pitches in all.

The dangerous Pirozzi represented a big hurdle for Brubaker to overcome in the seventh, but the Lititz righty was equal to the task by getting a pop-up to the mound.

From there, only Meck stood in the way, and Brubaker needed just three pitches — the final one looking — to clinch the championship.

“I smelled (the title) right when I started walking out,” Brubaker said. “Once we got Pirozzi out, I felt it was coming.”

For the Oddfellows, the sweet smell of success was one they’ve tasted more than once recently at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

Asked to explain their run of four titles in seven years, Weismandel said, “Just excellent baseball players in our community and there’s a lot of passion and these kids come up through the years one grade after another that just love the game and they eat, sleep, and drink it year-round. We work with them for a couple of months, but these kids have such a passion for it and are extremely coachable and I’m just very fortunate to have that luxury to work with so many kids who love baseball.”

*****

Last Thursday, Jackson Davies pitched five shutout innings, while Josh Farina and Jeffrey Kline each had two hits in the Oddfellows’ 11-0 whitewashing of previously unbeaten Hempfield Black. The game was halted after five due to the 10-run rule.

Farina and Dagen Young each scored three runs, and Adam Ricketts and Kline drove in two apiece to spark an offense which had nine total hits off of three Hempfield pitchers. Brendan Martin also chipped in with a pair of runs scored.

Davies struck out four, walked two and yielded just two hits while picking up the win. Justin Lichtenwalner surrendered seven earned runs in three innings to suffer the loss for Hempfield.

Lititz scored three in the first on Farina’s RBI triple, Ricketts’ sac fly and Seibert’s RBI double to grab a lead it never lost. The Oddfellows ended up scoring in every inning but the second to win going away.

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