Oddfellows advance to New Era Tourney finals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
After taking the collar in three at-bats in the Lititz Oddfellows’ 8-3 loss to St. Leo a couple of weeks ago, Caleb Metzler was hungry to redeem himself.
With the stakes much higher on Tuesday night, he got his chance and delivered.
Metzler’s double to the right-field corner in the top of the sixth inning started a three-run rally by the Oddfellows, as they overcame a 2-0 deficit and went on to defeat St. Leo 4-2 in the New Era Midget Tournament semi-finals at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.
"Metz came up huge there," Lititz skipper Frank Camera said. "He struck out all three times (in the earlier loss), so he was pumped to play tonight."
The Oddfellows (9-6-2) were pumped to play again last night (Wednesday) against Strasburg/Willow Street (a 17-7 winner over Solanco) in a game played after deadline. Lititz missed the playoffs the past two seasons, but they were back in the championship game for the first time since 2008. That year, they won the crown for the second time in three years.
Remarkably, Lititz didn’t have a playoff spot locked up this year either going into the final two games of the regular season. But they caught fire at the right time, as Tuesday’s win was their fourth straight and sixth in their last seven games.
"We’ve seen a lot of tough things, (but) we never thought for a minute that we didn’t belong and we knew if we could just get in that it was going to make a world of difference," Camera said. "We’re sitting right where we thought we would have been. We’ve said the whole year, it’s not who wins game one. It’s who wins the last game of the season."
St. Leo also had high hopes of advancing to that last game of the season and they took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second with a two-out rally. After starting pitcher Bryan Haberstroh was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple and Joe Yourgal was retired on a comebacker, Lititz starter Rob Gerofsky appeared to be headed for a quick inning. But control problems got him into a jam, as Andrew St. Clair walked, Steve Long was hit by a pitch and Patrick Kenney fisted an infield single to load the bases. St. Clair then scored on a wild pitch and Patrick McBrearty walked before reliever Zach Hurst ended the inning.
"We went in knowing we were pitching by committee and all the pitfalls came with two outs in the second inning," Camera said. "The luxury of having four guys that could go and pitching to try to keep it intact for (Wednesday) night allowed us to make the moves that we needed."
Meanwhile, Haberstroh settled down after allowing two base runners in the first inning and then a leadoff walk to Cody Kimmel in the second. The right-hander set down seven in a row prior to Brady Weiler slicing a one-out double to left field in the top of the fourth. But the Oddfellows remained scoreless when Haberstroh stranded him there.
Then in the bottom of the fourth, St. Leo tacked on an unearned run, as leadoff batter Yourgal reached on a fielding error, St. Clair singled to left, Long sacrificed both runners into scoring position and Yourgal scored on Kenney’s RBI ground out to shortstop Weiler, making the score 2-0.
Finally, though, Lititz broke through in the top of the sixth inning. Metzler, the 10th-hole hitter, got it started by stroking a fastball from Haberstroh on a 1-1 pitch into the right field corner.
"(Haberstroh) was trying to jam me from the start, but he laid one out and I got ahold of it," Metzler said.
Metzler then advanced to third when Hurst doubled off the right field wall, and one out later, Chris Wentzel was by a pitch to load the bases. The next batter, Weiler, lofted a fly ball to shallow left, but St. Leo’s Kenney dropped it, allowing Caleb Metzler to score Lititz’s first run. Then Ian Hart followed with an RBI single to center to pull the Oddfellows even and chase Haberstroh from the game. Haberstroh scattered six hits while striking out five, walking two and giving up two runs (one earned) in 5 1/3 innings.
"We just kept fighting," Camera said. "(Haberstroh’s pitches) had a cut action to it, but after we saw it one time, we knew what to do with the ball. But he was throwing strikes, so it allowed us to be aggressive and we knew we were eventually going to get to him."
Ben Gingrich entered the game in relief and got a ground ball from Cody Kimmel. St. Leo got a force out at second, but Kimmel beat the throw to first for an RBI fielder’s choice, allowing Wentzel to score the go-ahead run.
Wentzel’s run also helped his own cause. As the third of Lititz’s four pitchers, he put himself in line for the win, and Weiler took the ball in the sixth to try to protect the lead.
In the sixth, although Weiler struck out the side, St. Leo put runners at first and third with two outs. But Weiler got Kenney swinging to preserve Lititz’s one-run lead.
The Oddfellows then added a key insurance run in the top of the seventh, as Travis Reapsome stroked a leadoff base hit and scored on Wentzel’s bases-loaded walk.
In the bottom of the inning, St. Leo brought the potential tying run to the plate after Ian Bentley stroked a two-out double to left. But Weiler closed the door, with help from shortstop Garrett High, who threw out Tom Mattaini on a slow roller to end the game.
Weiler got the save in relief of Wentzel, who retired all three batters he faced in the fifth — his only inning on the mound. Weiler finished with five K’s and two walks to complete a four-hitter for Lititz’s pitchers.
"Brady just hit his spots and kept everything under control," Camera said.
Hurst was 2-for-3 with a walk out of the leadoff spot to help lead Lititz’s offense.
The Oddfellows advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals following a 9-7 upset victory over second-seeded Ephrata Pride in Friday night’s opening round at the Clip.
Travis Reapsome’s bases-loaded single in the top of the fifth broke a 7-7 tie and gave the Oddfellows (8-6-2) the lead for good. Alec Rhoads added an insurance run with an RBI fielder’s choice.
Brady Weiler, who was the second reliever of the night for seventh-seeded Lititz, hurled the final 3 2/3 innings to hold off Ephrata (12-4) and earn the win on the mound.
Lititz, which pounded out 10 hits in the game, did most of its damage in the early innings. The Oddfellows pounded out six hits and took advantage of four defensive miscues by Ephrata to jump out to a 7-0 lead after 1 1/2 frames.
The Oddfellows scored four runs in the top of the first, getting a two-run single by Chris Wentzel, while Weiler and Cody Kimmel also delivered RBI hits.
They then tacked on two more runs in the second when starting pitcher Robert Gerofsky reached on a one-out error. Wentzel followed with a walk before Weiler and catcher Ian Hart both came through with RBI singles.
Ephrata got two runs back in the bottom of the inning as Colin Albright, Bobby Nye and Morgan Stauffer strung together successive hits before a bases-loaded walk and a throwing error plated the two runs.
Zach Hurst relieved Gerofsky to start the third, and retired Ephrata in order. However, the Pride sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, scoring five runs to tie the game at 7-7 while chasing Hurst.
Trevor Seibel, Tim Murray, and Ryan Schwark all drew bases-loaded walks for the Pride while another run was forced in on a hit batsman. The final run of the inning came off Weiler as Brandon Miller lofted a one-out RBI fly out to right to tie the game.
Lititz then struck for the winning runs in the top of the fifth. Weiler led off the inning with a walk before a hit by Hart chased Ephrata starting pitcher Seth Griffith. With Miller in from the bullpen, Reapsome then Rhoads delivered the key RBI’s to put the Oddfellows ahead to stay.
Offensively, Hurst, Weiler and Hart each had two hits to pace Lititz. Albright led Ephrata’s six-hit attack, going 2-for-4 on the evening. More ODDFELLOWS, page B-6