Oddfellows clinch seventh seed in New Era Tourney Lititz ends regular season with 4-1 surge
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
When the Lititz Oddfellows have played well this year, it has usually meant putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
Last Wednesday, July 20, in a must-game for their playoff hopes, the Oddfellows hung three such numbers against back-yard rival Manheim VFW and earned a key 8-2 victory in a Lancaster County Midget Baseball School League game in Manheim.
"I was happy with the game," Lititz skipper Frank Camera said. "We knew that we controlled our own fate, so we went in and took it the way we needed to."
They still controlled their own fate on Thursday night in their regular-season finale against Strasburg/Willow Street. And behind a 21-hit onslaught, the Oddfellows cruised to a 14-6 win in Lititz and jumped over SWS to claim the seventh seed in the New Era Tournament, which gets underway this Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29, at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.
Overall, Lititz (7-6-2) closed out the regular season with four wins in its last five games.
"(Last) Monday night was not the way we wanted it to go against Township (in a 14-4 loss), but we knew we were a quality team," Camera said. "We knew we had to play better ball if we were playing teams that were right there in the mix. We feel that we’re a tough out in the tournament and that we’re hitting our stride right now and things are starting to go good."
Things are also looking up for the Oddfellows in terms of getting some injured players back into their lineup. Chris Wentzel, who had shoulder surgery during the winter, has been a key force as Lititz’s extra hitter and he has recently been cleared to play in the field. Plus, pitcher Travis Reapsome, who has been battling elbow tendinitis, is now available to throw for the Oddfellows.
"A lot of the things that we were playing without are starting to come back to us," Camera said.
In their win over Manheim, three Lititz pitchers — Rob Gerofsky, Caleb Metzler and Zach Hurst — combined on a six-hitter and the Oddfellows pulled away with a three-run seventh inning.
"(Hitting) has been a strong suit," Camera remarked. "When we’re playing well, we’re hitting well. The team plays with a lot of emotion and if they control the emotion, we do well. It’s different from a lot of my teams in the past where I’ve always had strong defensive teams and average (or) above-average hitting teams. This is a really good hitting team. They like to hit."
The started the hitting in the first inning off of Manheim starting pitcher Andrew Bucher, as Hurst laced a leadoff double, advanced to third on a Manheim throwing error, and scored on Gerofsky’s RBI ground out. Next, Chris Wentzel smacked a one-out base hit, Brady Weiler walked, both runners pulled off a double steal, and Ian Hart had an RBI ground out to second, making it 2-0.
Weiler and Wentzel each finished with three hits, while Hurst and Hart both went 2-for-4 to lead the Oddfellows’ 14-hit attack.
But Manheim answered in the bottom of the second off of Gerofsky. Winters worked a one-out walk, Bernhardt singled, Sanchez sacrificed the runners into scoring position and Flanagan delivered an RBI single to center.
Those were the only two hits that Manheim had off of Gerofsky, who pitched two innings before Caleb Metzler took the ball in relief.
"(Rob) kept the pitch count very, very low and he will be starting for us again (vs. Strasburg/Willow Street)," Camera said.
Wentzel and Weiler were again in the middle of Lititz’s fourth-inning rally with back-to-back leadoff hits. Following a double steal, Hart stroked an RBI single to left, Cody Kimmel sacrificed and Garrett High added an RBI ground out to second.
Manheim used Ben Bomberger’s speed to get one back in the bottom of the inning, as he walked, stole second and third and scored on Bucher’s RBI single to left.
Then the hosts dodged a major threat in the top of the fifth when Lititz loaded the bases with no outs. Clayton Dmitris capped a 15-pitch at-bat with a single to left, Metzler was hit by a pitch and Hurst had a perfect bunt single along the third base line. But Bucher got Gerofsky on a pop out and then Manheim’s left fielder robbed Wentzel on a sinking line drive and turned a double play.
"At that point in a 4-2 game, we were worried that it was going to sting," Camera said.
As things turned out, it didn’t. Although Manheim right fielder Flanagan made a nice play throwing out Weiler at the plate on a strong throw to catcher Sanchez, Lititz added one in the sixth on Alec Rhoads’ RBI base hit to center field. Then the Oddfellows scored three more insurance runs in the seventh inning on Wentzel’s RBI single and Weiler’s two-run double.
That was enough for Hurst, who pitched the final three innings in relief. He yielded just one hit and while striking out two and hitting a batter.
Bucher pitched 6 2/3 innings for Manheim and took the loss. He struck out three, walked one and hit one batter.
On Thursday, Gerofsky earned his second win in as many nights and helped his own cause by going 3-for-4 with two RBI’s, as the Oddfellows jumped to a 6-0 lead and never turned back.
Alec Rhoads finished 4-for-4, Wentzel was 3-for-4 and both finished with four RBI’s to help lead the attack. Ian Hart, Cody Kimmel, Garrett High and Caleb Metzler also added two hits apiece.
"Getting those runs early really created a lot of excitement for the evening," Camera said.
After Gerofsky retired SWS in order in the top half of the first, Lititz came out swinging in its half of the inning. Their top six batters all reached base off of SWS starting pitcher Morgan, as Hurst worked a six-pitch walk, Gerofsky singled to right, and Wentzel laced a two-run double off the top of the fence.
"It was about two feet from going over," Camera said. "The runners were able to to be going on contact because we knew it was a no-doubter."
After Brady Weiler followed with an RBI single to left-center, Ian Hart doubled off the top of the fence in right and Cody Kimmel sliced an RBI single to left to make it 5-0. After Garrett High and Travis Reapsome hit fielder’s choice ground balls, Rhoads singled to center and Caleb Metzler greeted relief pitcher Long by stroking an RBI single to center field.
SWS got four runs back in the top of the third, but Hurst finished the inning with the Oddfellows’ advantage still intact, 6-4.
From there, Lititz tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the third to open another comfortable lead. Kimmel worked a one-out free pass, High singled to left-center, and following Reapsome’s fielder’s choice, Rhoads ripped a two-run double off the right field fence. Metzler then delivered an RBI single, Hurst crushed an RBI triple to center field, Gerofsky had a run-scoring double down the left field line, and Wentzel delivered an RBI single, stretching Lititz’s cushion to 11-4.
It stayed that way until the fifth when SWS scored two runs on Gote’s RBI ground out and a Lititz error, cutting the Oddfellows’ lead to 11-6. But they would get no closer.
Lititz added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Rhoads led off with a single to left-center, Gerofsky drove a two-out single to right field, and both runners scored on Wentzel’s two-run triple to left-center.
In the sixth inning, Lititz scored its final run, as High had a two-out single to left-center, Reapsome singled to right, and Rhoads collected his fourth RBI with base hit to center field.
Meanwhile, Weiler followed Hurst to the mound and closed the door in relief. More ODDFELLOWS, page B-6