Oddfellows’ run ends in LNP finals

By on August 8, 2018
Lititz catcher Zach Shertzer, who delivered a walk-off RBI double in the Oddfellows’ win over Manheim in the LNP Midget Tournament semi-finals last week, prepares to tag out SWS base runner Doug Schneider on a strong throw from outfielder Josh Farina in the finals. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Lititz catcher Zach Shertzer, who delivered a walk-off RBI double in the Oddfellows’ win over Manheim in the LNP Midget Tournament semi-finals last week, prepares to tag out SWS base runner Doug Schneider on a strong throw from outfielder Josh Farina in the finals. Photo by Missi Mortimer

When the Lititz Oddfellows couldn’t capitalize on a leadoff triple by Josh Farina in the first inning last Friday, there was no sense of panic.

It was still early, and surely they would get other chances.

On this night, however, SWS pitcher Braedon Karpathios limited the Oddfellows’ opportunities.

In fact, the sophomore-to-be tossed a three-hit shutout and the 3rd-seeded Pioneers went on to defeat top-seeded Lititz 5-0 in the LNP Midget Tournament championship game at Millersville University’s Cooper Stadium.

“That start at the time, you didn’t know that’s how the game was going to go,” Oddfellows’ skipper Bill Weismandel said, “but looking back at it, it was sort of an omen of what was to come.”

Eventually, the game was halted in the top of the seventh inning due to rain. The two teams had earlier waited out a 19-minute rain delay.

For the Oddfellows (25-1-1), who were looking to repeat as LNP champs and win for the fifth time in eight years, the loss was their first loss of the year.

So it was a disappointing finish to a season in which they had high expectations.

“Our team and what we talk about as coaches, as well as the players, is about winning championships,” Weismandel said. “Rightly or wrongly, we expect to win a lot of games and we do. We’ve been lucky to have so many great players come through our organization and winning games, to us, is obviously important and certainly something we want to do. So we’re all a little bit disappointed, but it doesn’t change the fact in terms of the improvements the players have made and a lot of the positives that have transpired over the summer.”

What transpired last Friday was a scoreless duel through five innings, as Lititz’s Jackson Davies, Collin Beech and Colin Brubaker put up goose eggs with Karpathios into the sixth.

Lititz got a defensive gem in the top of the fifth to help keep SWS off the board, as Farina fired a perfect throw to catcher Zach Shertzer to nail Pioneer courtesy runner Doug Schneider, who was trying to score on Hunter Cunningham’s two-out hit.

But SWS broke through in the sixth after Nevin Book worked a one-out walk and Taso Kovak got an intentional two-out pass. Tom Shockey then delivered an RBI single to drive in Book for a 1-0 Pioneer lead. The next batter, Aaron Snyder, hit a ground ball to shortstop, but a Lititz error allowed Kovak to cross the plate.

From there, Dylan Byler added an RBI single to right and Connor Blantz stroked a two-run double to center field, stretching the Pioneers’ lead to 5-0.

“When you’re playing a tight ball game, a championship ball game,” Weismandel said, “and you get that one critical error in a close game, it’s one thing if we would’ve been down 1-0, but going into the bottom of the sixth now down 5-0, we definitely lost some momentum.”

In the end, Lititz wasn’t able to recover.

Karpathios, who retired the next three batters in order following Farina’s first inning triple, allowed just two more hits the rest of the way — Shertzer’s double and a knock by Farina (2-for-2) — in his complete-game gem. He struck out two and walked two in six innings.

Brubaker, who yielded just one earned run in 2 2/3 innings of relief, suffered the loss.

“Essentially, it just came down to, offensively, we didn’t hit the ball,” Weismandel said. “Our opportunities were limited. We had a few chances and we couldn’t get the big hit to at least try to get on the board early a couple of times. It was just one of those things, from an offensive standpoint, it was 0-0 through five innings and they had a few chances, we had a few chances — we weren’t getting anything going offensively.”

***

Last Wednesday, Aug. 1, as Lititz coach Bill Weismandel described, Zach Shertzer was probably a bit frustrated from his first two at-bats.

Batting in the No. 5 hole, Shertzer struck out and hit into a double play in those plate appearances. But he certainly made up for it in the bottom of the seventh inning.

With the score tied 4-4, Shertzer belted a walk-off RBI double to right field, driving in Colby Martin who led off with a single, and Lititz beat the Manheim VFW 5-4 in the LNP Midget Tournament semi-finals at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

That topped his previous personal highlight, dating back to last year’s LNP finals, when he doubled and scored what proved to be the winning run in the Oddfellows’ 4-2 win over SWS.

“That one felt pretty good,” smiled Shertzer, who barreled up an 0-1 pitch from Manheim’s Drew Mummau. “He came curve ball the first pitch right down the middle and I kinda expected him to come fastball, to bring the heat after that slow pitch. It came right down the middle, so I was hacking.”

Manheim skipper Jeff Mummau admitted afterward that he should have walked Shertzer.

“I screwed up,” he said. “I should have listened to my gut feeling.”

For the Oddfellows, the victory sent them to the championship game for the fourth year in a row.

“In the semi-finals, like, five or six years ago, we beat Elizabethtown on a walk-off,” Weismandel recalled. “So this is the second one, but this one was a nail-biter. We had to fight back from being behind, Drew’s a great pitcher on the hill, and our guys just found a way.”

Indeed, after Lititz took a 3-0 lead after two innings, Manheim countered and grabbed a 4-3 advantage in the top of the fourth — highlighted by Cole Lastinger’s two-run triple to right-center in the VFW’s three-run rally.

“Cole’s got some baseball talent,” Mummau said. “He can run, he can hit, he’s coachable and he’s a great kid.”

Lastinger’s clutch hit was still the difference in the game until Shertzer’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth tied it. Then of course, he sent everybody home with his walk-off double in the seventh.

“Our goal at the beginning of the season was this moment (getting to the finals), so here we are,” Shertzer said. “We’re ready for it. We’re excited.”

Colby Martin also played a big part in the win over Manheim, going 4-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored, in addition to pitching a scoreless inning in relief to get the win.

“Colby had a monster game,” Weismandel said.

In the bottom of the first, Martin’s one-out RBI triple to deep center field drove in Josh Farina, who walked, to get things rolling for the Oddfellows against Manheim VFW starter Hunter Hess.

The next batter, Collin Beech (2-for-3, BB) then served an RBI single to left-center to make it 2-0.

It was still a two-run cushion in the second when Adam Ricketts reached on a two-out error behind reliever Drew Mummau and scored on Max Bright’s RBI double to right field.

Meanwhile, Lititz lefty starter Dagen Young didn’t allow a hit through the first two innings. But then Lastinger was hit by a pitch leading off the third, Cam Eberly walked, both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Mummau’s RBI infield base hit got Manheim on the scoreboard.

That set the stage for the fourth, when the VFW pulled in front. Young, who pitched 3 2/3 innings, quickly got the first two batters, but then Curt Kroesen and Cody Gibble worked back-to-back walks. Lastinger tied it with his two-run triple and Eberly’s RBI infield single off of reliever Adam Kurtz gave Manheim a 4-3 lead.

Kurtz went on to retire seven of the next eight batters — striking out four and walking just one in 2 1/3 scoreless innings — to give his team a chance.

Eventually, Martin doubled and scored on Shertzer’s sacrifice fly to left field to tie it, 4-4.

Manheim then had a golden opportunity in the top of the seventh, as Mummau walked with one out and motored to third on an errant pick off throw by Martin. From there, the VFW tried to regain the lead on a safety squeeze, but Hess’ bunt was quickly fielded in front of the mound by Martin, who flipped to Shertzer, at catcher, for the out.

“We practice it all the time, and yes, I’d do it again,” coach Mummau said. “We had three hits (in the game) and we had the fastest guy on the team on third in Drew. We just didn’t get it done.”

Shertzer said they were on their toes anticipating Manheim to go for the squeeze.

“They had their two hitter up, we expected them to bunt all night,” he said, “and then with a guy on third, less than two outs, we knew there was a good chance of a squeeze. (Hess) happened to go right back to Colby and I was ready for it.”

Turns out, Shertzer was also ready for a 1-1 fastball from Mummau in the bottom of the inning, and the rest is history.

“Zach’s just a good hitter and he has the right mindset,” Weismandel said, “so good for him.”

 

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