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Lititz VFW’s offense cools off in back-to-back New Era losses
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the second inning, the Lititz VFW had a chance to cut into Garden Spot’s lead last Thursday.
Nate Hess beat out a swinging bunt up the third base line and Cole Barolo walked on five pitches, putting the VFW in business with no outs against GS pitcher Ryan Smith.
But at inning’s end, Lititz was unable to capitalize, and when Garden Spot tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the third, the VFW had a big mountain to climb.
"Even if we score one, I think it pumps us up a little bit," Lititz skipper Jamie Weachter said.
It was that kind of a night for the Lititz VFW, whose season ended with a 10-1 loss to Garden Spot in the double-elimination New Era Junior-Midget Tournament at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field. Brock Kauffman (2-for-3, 3 RBI’s, 2 runs) and Seth Thomas (3-for-4, 2 RBI’s, 3 runs) each went yard to help lead Spot’s 16-hit attack. In opening-round action last Wednesday, Penn Manor took advantage of seven Lititz errors and won 7-4.
With Thursday’s loss, the Lititz VFW ended its season with a 24-15 record.
"I told the kids, ‘Do not walk out of here hanging your heads,’" Weachter said. "We had 24 wins, which is pretty darn good."
Their offense was pretty darn good as they knocked off Donegal two-games-to-one in the New Era Tournament qualifying series, scoring 20 runs in three games. But their average dipped to just .184 (9-for-49) in their losses to Penn Manor and Garden Spot.
In fact, Smith held the Lititz batters to just one hit in the first three innings on Thursday. By the time they came to bat in the top of the fourth, they were down 7-0. For the game, Lititz managed just four hits off of Smith.
"After last week, when we were smoking the ball, we got back to where we were at the beginning of the season and just came out this week and we went cold," Weachter said. "Part of that is we saw some pretty good pitching the last two nights. But like I said, some guys that were hot last week cooled off. That’s baseball."
RBI singles by Thomas and Zach Skinner (3-for-4, 2 RBI’s) off starting pitcher Dalton Uibel gave GS a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Still trailing by that same score in the second, Hess (2-for-3) and Barolo got on base to put the VFW in business. But Smith recorded one of his seven K’s, then catcher Skinner threw out a runner trying to steal before GS escaped the jam with an inning-ending ground out.
"It was a big momentum shift," Weachter said. "(Smith) did a great job. He didn’t have a lot of walks, he was around the plate. He wasn’t overpowering, he didn’t have a great curve ball, but he pitched to contact. They’ve got kids that can really play. Kauffman, the shortstop, is a great defensive shortstop. The kid at third base (Eric Muttik) had some nice plays. So I think he pitched to contact and we didn’t put very good swings in a lot of our at-bats and we were popping up and hitting ground balls right to people. We just weren’t hitting line drives."
Having survived that threat, the Spartans broke it open in the bottom of the third, putting their first batters on board while being aggressive early in the count. Skinner delivered an RBI single, Freddie Urena beat out an infield single off reliever Ethan Price, Austin Wanner followed with a two-run single to right-center, and Kauffman plated the final run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk.
The Lititz VFW finally got on the board in the top of the fourth, as Zach Peters smashed a 2-1 pitch from Smith over the fence in left field to cut the Spartans’ lead to 7-1. Nate Hess followed with a one-out single to center field, then moved into scoring position on a stolen base, but Smith ended the inning with back-to-back K’s. Hess was Lititz’s final base runner to get as far as second base, as Smith allowed just one more hit over the final three frames.
Meanwhile, the Spartans completed the scoring in the bottom of the sixth courtesy of the long ball. Muttik (2-for-3, 2 runs) led off with a single, Conner Finkey sacrificed him to second and Kauffman launched a two-run shot to left field. Thomas followed a solo blast on a 2-2 count to left-center, making it 10-1.
"They’re a very good team," Weachter said of Garden Spot. "They’re certainly here for a reason. They have two studs in the middle of their lineup in Kauffman and Thomas. They’re tough outs. And they’ve got tough outs up and down the lineup. That’s the key – they didn’t have a hole in their lineup. So we’ve got to be on top of our game and they hit the ball tonight. They beat us. We didn’t do anything to give them the game."
Still, with only two returning players from last year’s squad, the Lititz VFW had plenty of reasons to be pleased with their season. Asked if it was a success, Weachter said, "Absolutely. Section Two from Section One is a huge difference. It’s a big jump. So for us to come out, knock off Donegal and make it to the New Era and the final four, after not having the experience of playing Section One, it’s pretty impressive. They’re a great bunch of kids and we battled. All year we battled through some adversity, which happens – that’s sports, that’s baseball. All in all, it was a fun year. It was a fun bunch of kids. They played hard, practiced hard. It was great."
On Wednesday night, Penn Manor scored all of seven of its runs in the bottom of the second inning – six of those unearned – and held on to defeat the Lititz VFW 7-4 at Kunkle Field. Dalton Landis’ home run highlighted the Comets’ seven-run rally.
Lititz got two back in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Ethan Norman (2-for-4) and Hess’ sacrifice fly, cutting its deficit to 7-2. After scoring another run in the fifth, Peters’ RBI ground out made the score 7-4, but that’s as close as the VFW would get.
Uibel started and allowed just one earned run in two innings, but suffered the loss.
More LITITZ VFW, page B-6