Manheim ends season with 6-3 loss in New Era
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Having ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, the Manheim VFW was looking to bring that momentum into the New Era Midget Tournament playoffs this week.
Early on against Strasburg-Willow Street in Monday’s quarterfinals it looked promising for Manheim, as they took leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
But SWS took a lead it never relinquished in the bottom of the third and went on to earn a 6-3 victory at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium in a rematch of the 2012 championship game. SWS was also the last team to defeat Manheim back on July 8 by a 4-3 decision. While SWS advanced to face Hempfield, a 4-1 winner over Donegal, in Wednesday’s semi-finals, reigning New Era Tournament champ Manheim finished out its season with a 9-6-1 record.
"It’s a good bunch of kids. They play well, they play hard," Manheim skipper Brent Neely said of his players. "They’ll do alright in high school next year … At the end of the season, they started playing well. The beginning of the season was a little tough, we lost a few we shouldn’t have. But they came back and started playing well. I’d hoped they’d carry it over to this game, but SWS is a tough team. I’ve got a feeling they’re going to win it all, to tell you the truth."
SWS righty Cameron Enck was certainly a tough pitcher, holding Manheim to just one hit after taking the ball in relief of starter Dan Eshleman in the top of the fifth inning. He struck out five and walked just one.
"I think we struggled a little bit (offensively) and they brought their ace pitcher back out there at the end," Neely said. "(Enck) is a heck of a pitcher, so he’s tough to hit. He’s pretty much a shutdown pitcher, the way I understand it. We came back and had a few hits, but … luck of the draw sometimes, right?"
Manheim collected two of its five hits in the opening frame to go on top 1-0 off of Eshleman, who pitched four innings for the win. Frank Bowman stroked a one-out single to right, Blake Reiff walked and Josh Flanagan had an RBI single to right-center.
Devon Weiant’s RBI ground out in the bottom half of the inning tied it for SWS. But Manheim looked to be in business in the top of the second, loading the bases with one out on walks to Brenden Good and Chad Neely, followed by Mitchell Shenk’s single just out of the reach of SWS center fielder Garrett Groshong. Dan Wiederrecht drove in Good with an RBI ground out to second, but Eshleman limited the damage with an inning-ending grounder, keeping Manheim’s lead at 2-1.
"In the beginning of the game, we left some runners out there," Neely said. "We had the bases loaded with one out, we should have scored more than one run. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t."
That looked big as SWS rallied to go in front with two runs off of Manheim starter Neely. Back-to-back doubles by number two and three hitters Austin Pletcher (2-for-4, 2 runs) and Enck (3-for-3) tied it, and then Eshleman’s ground out to shortstop Reiff drove in Enck with the go-ahead run.
"They’re a really good hitting team, so we knew they were going to hit the ball," Neely said. "But we were just hoping our defense would hold up and they wouldn’t hit them in the gaps. But, of course, they did a few times."
Bear Shank had a two-out RBI single to left in the fourth to put SWS up 4-2 and then they added two insurance runs in the fifth. With one out, Enck singled to center, and then shortstop Reiff made a web gem to get a force out at second. But then things got weird. Weiant came around to score on a Manheim throwing error on Jake Howells infield hit, and then Eshleman scored SWS’ final run as Howell’s got caught in a rundown.
"That was a smart play," Neely said of SWS scoring on the rundown. "It was definitely a planned play and it worked for them."
Chad Neely threw 74 pitches in five innings and suffered the loss, giving up five earned runs on 11 hits with no walks and two K’s.
Manheim scored its final run in the top of the seventh, as Kevin Starner worked a five-pitch leadoff walk and scored on Wiederrecht’s two-out double to left-center. But Enck was able to close the door from there.
"It’s a good bunch of kids and I just liked being around them this year," Neely said. "They’ll do well. Come high school season this year, they’ll be playing really well."
More MANHEIM VFW, page B-3