Indians overcome Phillies to win LNP Qualifying Series

By on July 3, 2019
Warwick Phillies’ base runner Jordan Barge slides into second as a Mountville infielder gets the force out during fifth-inning action last Friday in an LNP Qualifying Series game in Lititz. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Warwick Phillies’ base runner Jordan Barge slides into second as a Mountville infielder gets the force out during fifth-inning action last Friday in an LNP Qualifying Series game in Lititz. Photo by Matthew Libhart

The Warwick 12U Phillies had nothing to lose.

They got into the LNP Qualifying Series by taking a play-in game from Lampeter-Strasburg.

Once there, the Phils found themselves head-to-head against the top-seeded Mountville Indians.

“I told the kids coming in, ‘Look, no one is expecting anything out of us. We’re the last seed, we’re playing the No. 1 undefeated team. We’re coming out with our hair on fire and letting it all hang out and going out and playing,’” coach Jamie Weachter said. “And that’s what they did, man.”

No doubt about it.

Looking to play the role of a Cinderella team in the best-of-three series, Warwick gave Mountville a scare last Wednesday night, getting a complete-game gem from Caleb Johnson and climbing to within 3-2 in their final at-bats with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position before suffering a one-run loss.

Then on Friday, the Phillies overcame an early 2-0 deficit by tying it 2-all in the bottom of the second.

Unfortunately for Warwick, however, the clock struck midnight and the Indians pulled out an 8-2 victory in Lititz, clinching the series two games to none and advancing to the LNP Tournament, which gets underway next Monday, July 8.

“We like to talk about dirt-bag baseball,” Weachter said. “Down and dirty, doing the right things and we did that for two games.”

To their credit, the Phillies did that with a roster including only one player — Johnson — with any previous Section One experience. They did it with zero seventh-graders, going up against teams which were more veteran and a little bit bigger.

It didn’t phase pitcher Cole Gerhart, who got the starting assignment Friday night.

Used mostly as a reliever this season, the crafty right-hander kept L-S off-balance with a solid change-up in his complete-game play-in win, then carried confidence into his start against Mountville.

The Indians came out swinging, as leadoff batter Ben Troyer (2-for-4) stroked a ground-rule double to center and and Josh Toole (2-for-2, 2 walks) blooped a base hit to left. Dylan Jackson then delivered an RBI single and courtesy runner Logan Dougherty scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0, but Gerhart limited the damage, getting an infield pop-out and a ground out to end the inning.

“Cole did a great job,” Weachter said. “He came on toward the end of the season.”

Gerhart needed only eight pitches to retire Mountville in order in the top of the second inning, and then his one-out single to center in the bottom half started a Phillies’ rally off of Indians’ pitcher Liam Ahern. With two outs, Nate Weachter worked a six-pitch walk, Connor Meck lined an RBI single to left and Weachter scored when Parker Horst reached on a fielding error.

“We had real good at-bats,” coach Weachter said. “Both games with these guys, we battled.”

Mountville regained a 4-2 lead in the top of the third on Jevin Seifert’s RBI single and a wild pitch, allowing Brandon King to cross the plate.

Again, though, the Phillies answered with a threat. Jordan Barge, who had two of Warwick’s five hits, led off in the bottom of that inning with a single to right-center and went to second on Ty Musser’s ground out. Only a stellar running catch by Mountville’s right fielder — robbing Jason Smith of an extra-base hit — kept Warwick off the scoreboard.

“That was a great catch,” Weachter said.

It seemed to give the Indians some momentum when they batted in the fourth off of Phils’ reliever CJ Easler. Back-to-back hits by Dylan Banzhof and Troyer, followed by Ty George’s walk, loaded the bases.

“You’ve got to give them all the credit,” Weachter said. “They’re the number one seed for a reason. They’re undefeated for a reason. Sooner or later, they were going to start hitting the ball a little bit.”

Banzhof scored on a balk, and two more runs scored on Jackson’s fly out to left, but the damage could have been worse if not for Barge’s catch against the left field fence.

“Jordan basically robbed a grand slam,” Weachter said. “It was close to being over.”

King’s RBI ground out stretched Mountville’s lead to 8-2, but Easler ended the inning by getting Seifert on a ground out to shortstop.

“(CJ) throws hard,” Weachter said, “and he did a great job of battling and not letting his emotions get the best of him, and we got out of innings.”

Easler got out of a two-on, two out jam in the fifth and then lefty Horst relieved to shut the door on a first-and-third, one-out Indians’ rally in the top of the sixth, keeping the score 8-2 going to the Phillies’ final at-bats.

There, Jason Smith — who slugged a home run off of Mountville’s flame-throwing ace in game one — led off for Warwick and was hit by a pitch. One out later, Derek Mumma singled to right, and both runners moved up on Nate Weachter’s ground out to second base. But Ahern, who struck out three and walked two in a complete-game effort, ended it with a ground out to shortstop.

“Tonight, they came back with a kid who throws a lot of off-speed pitches,” Weachter said, “and occasionally, we were out in front, but we did a nice job of sitting back and making good contact and they made plays. They’re a good team.”

 

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