Lititz VFW advances to New Era
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Dalton Uibel’s streak is alive and well.
On Monday night, for the third straight game, the Lititz VFW’s leadoff batter singled and scored a first-inning run, setting the tone for his team in their New Era Tournament qualifying series against Donegal.
That was just the start of a 3-for-4 game for Uibel, who also drove in two key insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to help sixth-seeded Lititz (24-13) knock off third-seeded Donegal by a 7-2 score at Marietta’s War Memorial Field.
"Dalton is a kid who hits better pitching really well," Lititz VFW skipper Jamie Weachter remarked. "You can not throw a fastball by him. He has very quick hands, great hand-eye coordination and right now, he’s locked in. He’s hitting real well."
Combine that with a solid outing from ace Zach Peters in hot, steamy conditions, along with a stingy defensive effort, and the VFW clinched the best-of-three series two games to one to advance to the New Era Tournament. They faced Penn Manor at 5:30 p.m. in a first-round game last night (Wednesday) in the double-elimination tournament at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field.
"It is so exciting," Weachter said. "It’s a great atmosphere to get up to Kunkle and see the big crowds. We’ve just got to stay relaxed and continue to play our game. I could not be any more proud of these kids. They came into tonight very loose. We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, (Donegal is) the higher seed. The pressure is still on them. We won game one. They have to win two in a row. Relax. Play our game.’"
Uibel’s first-inning run no doubt helped them relax as well. He singled, stole second and scored on Ethan Norman’s RBI single to left off of Donegal starter Dawson Magar.
Uibel actually batted cleanup at one time for the VFW this summer, but he was moved up to the leadoff spot as Lititz was dealing with a string of injuries.
"We had him in the four-hole because he’s clutch and he’ll drive in runs, but he’s a line-drive gap hitter and he can fly," Weachter said. "He’s the fastest kid on our team."
Nate Hess (2-for-2, 2 walks, 3 runs) has some wheels of his own, and he led off the second inning with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on Mitch Cook’s sacrifice and scored on Stephen Poliski’s RBI ground out to short to put Lititz in front 2-0.
But Donegal didn’t go away. Brady Steinmann was hit by a pitch leading off the second and Kobe Bistline earned a one-out walk. Connor Updegraff bounced an RBI ground out to second, and Bistline scored the tying run when Richard Velez beat out a slow grounder to second, making it a new game.
From there, however, Peters settled in, allowing just three base runners over the next four innings. He finished with a three-hitter in 6!-E innings, striking out four while scattering five walks on 99 pitches.
"You don’t like to get help from Mother Nature, but Friday’s rainout helped because Zach was going to go on Friday, but he wouldn’t have been able to throw more than four innings," Weachter said. "With another two days rest, now he’s pitching on a week’s rest and Zach Peters is tough to beat when he has a fresh arm."
In the top of the fourth, Lititz gave Peters a lead he never lost. With one out, Hess singled to right, then advanced to third on a pair of stolen bases, and scored when Poliski smacked an RBI double over the right fielder’s head. For the game, the VFW scored four of its seven runs with two outs.
They added another run in the fifth, as Norman reached on a fielder’s choice, Cole Barolo walked, and Eric Garner (2-for-4) singled to load the bases. Hess then flared an RBI single to right field to make it 4-2.
Donegal had hoped to cut into its deficit in the bottom of the sixth, but Peters needed just seven pitches to retire the middle of their order. Earlier, he set down the first three Donegal hitters on eight pitches in the third.
"That’s huge because that was right in the middle of their lineup," Weachter said. "That’s huge for Zach to get through that and just keep battling."
Lititz continued to battle on offense, even after stranding eight runners on base through the first five innings. In the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter Jared Evans coaxed a one-out walk and scored on Garner’s RBI double to left. After Hess and Poliski walked, chasing Donegal’s Kyle Hess from the mound, Uibel stroked a two-run single to right-center to put the VFW up by a 7-2 score.
"Donegal was in the middle of their lineup going into the seventh," Weachter said, "and it would have been a little dicey with a two-run lead. I knew Zach was starting to run out of gas. Norman was ready, but a two-run lead (compared to a) five-run lead is a night-and-day difference."
Those insurance runs, in fact, looked big as Donegal put two runners on base with back-to-back one-out walks. That meant the end of the day for Peters.
"(Zach) was not happy with me, he did not want to come out," Weachter said, "and you know what? I’m happy to see that because he wanted to finish it out. But Ethan Norman’s been throwing great for the last month and a half, so he’s fresh."
Donegal managed a two-out infield single by Dale Houser off of Norman, but that was it, as Norman ended it with a strikeout.
For Weachter, this will also be his first-ever trip to the New Era Tournament.
"I played a lot of baseball coming through this organization when I was a kid and twice, we missed out on the New Era by one game," he said. "So this is my first go-around at the New Era and I’m as excited as the kids."
Last Wednesday, July 10, Donegal rallied from a 4-0 deficit and pulled out a 7-4 win over the VFW in Lititz to send the series to a third and deciding game.
Lititz opened the scoring in the first inning as Uibel singled and scored on Peters’ RBI ground out.
In the second, Barolo singled, Garner doubled and Hess reached on an error. Cook followed with a two-run single and another run scored when Poliski reached on an error.
But Donegal answered with one in the third and three in the fourth to send the game to extra innings. Donegal’s left fielder robbed Peters of a potential game-winning home run, That looked especially big when Donegal took the lead for good with three runs in the top of the ninth inning and held on for the victory.
More LITITZ VFW, page B-3