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Cards win one-run thriller in 10U playoffs
Victory over Hempfield sends the Redbirds forward in winner’s bracket
The Warwick Cardinals avenged two regular-season losses to Hempfield Black Monday night, holding on for a 7-6 win to advance to the winner’s bracket final in the Lancaster County Youth Baseball 10U Section One playoffs.
This one had the fans on their feet from the top of the first, when Hempfield pitcher Dylan Bard slammed a hit over the head of Warwick center fielder Kyle Zimmerman. The Cardinals executed a perfect four-player relay when the ball was thrown from Zimmerman to shortstop Tate Landis to first baseman Matt Williams to catcher Chance Montgomery, who applied a bang-bang tag to a sliding Bard, who was called out trying to stretch a triple into a home run. That was the first of several heart-stopping plays for the Warwick faithful.
Black built a 2-0 lead, scoring single runs in both the second and third innings while Bard worked out of jams in the first two innings, stranding five Cardinal runners. Warwick did break through, tying the score in the third inning as Zimmerman singled, collecting one of his two RBI’s for the evening. He moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Hempfield miscue.
“The Hempfield pitcher did a nice job of changing speeds early, which kept us off balance,” Cardinals manager Chris Cossette said. “But, we’ve been patient all year and the second time through the lineup, our confidence grew.”
The Cardinals took the lead for the first time in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by second baseman Chase Martin &tstr; his second hit &tstr; and Zimmerman’s second RBI on a bases-loaded ground out.
In the top of the fifth, Hempfield evened the tally sheet when pitcher Reagen Kline hit the league rule’s 75-pitch limit and was relieved by Martin. Black’s third baseman Steven Katch chased home two runs with his second double and third RBI of the game.
At 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth, Warwick created some breathing room on singles by Montgomery and right fielder Seth Adominik, sandwiched around a perfect sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Brady Cossette. A Hempfield error allowed Landis on base. He scored two batters later when Kline doubled.
The 7-4 lead appeared safe going into the last inning. Not so. Two singles and an error later, the bases were loaded with no outs, the tying run on first and the 2-3-4 coming up. These three had three triples, three singles and six RBI’s between them on the night. A recipe for disaster.
But the number two hitter struck out, the number three batter grounded to second baseman Kline, who stepped on second base for out number two as Black scored to make it 7-5. The vice tightened a little bit more on an RBI single by Hempfield’s clean-up hitter, cutting Warwick’s lead to 7-6.
At this point, manager Cossette made a pitching change, going with shortstop Landis, who has a strong arm, but came to the mound cold from his defensive position. His challenge is to face Hempfield’s Katch (2 doubles), whom they had not retired all night.
But Landis promptly blew two fastballs past Katch. The Warwick supporters, whose numbers were inflated by the 14U players (who also earned a one-run win Monday night) and their parents, rose to their feet, anticipating the end. The celebration was put on hold as the next pitch sailed high. There would be no comeback for Hempfield, as Landis regrouped, firing the next pitch into the catcher’s mitt. Strike three. End of game.
The Cardinals next challenge comes Friday night at 6 p.m. against number one seed Manheim Township (18-1) at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy. The Blue Streaks blanked the Ephrata Merlins 3-0 in Monday night’s opener also played at Maneta Park (Old Zinn’s) in Denver. The winner of Friday’s game moves to the championship game on July 2, also at Kunkle.
Before the game, while his mates were taking infield practice, starting pitcher Kline was asked about the coach’s pre-game instructions.
“He told us to focus and to play hard, regardless whether we win or not,” he said.
Play hard he did, contributing two walks and a hit-by-pitch in addition to the decisive double in the fifth inning. Kline also pitched the first-four plus innings and batted third in the Cardinal lineup.
Kline picked a defensive play when asked what the most exciting play of the year was for him.
“I was catching and the bases were loaded,” he said. “The batter hit one back to the pitcher, who threw to me for a force at the plate and I threw the ball to first base to complete the double play and the end of the inning.”
Cossette said that type of teamwork was the biggest development for his team this season. “Some of the players were with us last year and several came to us from Little League,” the Cardinals’ manager said. “Young players are often more concerned about personal offensive statistics and they were told that we are all going to make mistakes. They supported each other and really came together.”
When asked the difference between the regular season and the playoffs, Cossette added, “We consider the regular season a development period. Everyone on the roster hits in turn (allowed by league rule) and everyone plays several positions. In the playoffs, we are managing more to win. We beat a really good Hempfield team tonight, with good players and good coaching.”
Warwick came into the game with a regular season mark of 9-7, fifth in the strong Eastern Division. Hempfield finished at 7-10, second in the West. The Cardinals won their playoff opener 12-4 Friday over Cocalico, while Hempfield Black defeated Mountville 10-7. Hempfield out-hit Warwick 12-7 and stranded fewer runners (7-9), but the Cardinal pitchers allowed three fewer walks than Black and fewer wild pitches (2-6) to wrap up the victory.