Phillies flex their playoff muscles
Move on to New Era’s final four with series win over Ephrata
The Warwick Phillies are seeking to do something that has never been done in their history.
Win back-to-back New Era Tournament titles.
Last week, they took a big step toward that goal, knocking off the Ephrata Dragons two games to none in a best-of-three first-round NET Midget-Midget (12U Section One) series.
Last Friday at Ephrata Township park, the Phils jumped to an 11-2 lead, then weathered a sixth-inning rally from the Dragons with darkness setting in, holding on for a clinching 11-7 victory.
“The Phillies of last year obviously paved a path for us to try to follow and it would be pretty special for our program to (win back-to-back),” Phillies coach Todd Shertzer said. “We certainly recognize we have a target on our back, but that’s all good.”
From the underdog Dragons’ standpoint, it would have been special to take a game from the Phillies with a roster consisting of no 12U Section One experience. They gave Warwick a scare in their final at-bats, but came up a little bit short.
“We came out flat. We really weren’t in the game the first three innings,” said Ephrata coach Sean Molchany, whose squad finished 10-7-2. “And then the kids settled down, battled back and started hitting the ball in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and made it, I would say, a game at 11-7.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies (17-1 league, 38-6 overall) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in their first three at-bats. John Seibert’s RBI single and Brody Price’s (3-for-4) two-run base hit put three on the board in the first inning, and then Logan Hann’s nicely-placed bunt scored Cam Hess (2-for-2) from second, who doubled, and Zach Shertzer’s (2-for-2, 2 runs) two-run blast to right field, driving in Trey Glass (2-for-3, 3 runs) who doubled, pushed the Phils’ lead to 6-0 after two.
“Top to bottom, I would say we’re probably about as complete of an offensive team in the league as you’re going to find,” Shertzer said. “I’ve got just a lot of confidence in guys one through 10.”
Warwick starting pitcher Collin Beech walked five in the first two innings, with four K’s, but escaped trouble. In the third, though, the Dragons broke through for two runs. Blake White (1-for-2, 2 walks) singled to left-center and scored on Anthony Andrews’ RBI ground out. With two outs, Jackson Conover (2-for-3) singled to center and scored on a throwing error, cutting the Phillies’ lead to 7-2.
Kaden Hunt, whose squeeze bunt plated the Phils’ seventh run, got the final out in the third in relief and retired seven of the eight batters he faced.
Dragons’ reliever Gavin Grove also pitched well in relief. He gave up a two-run homer to Beech in the fourth and an RBI single by Hess in the fifth, but scattered five hits over 3@-E innings, with two K’s.
“Our first pitcher (Isaiah Hornberger) threw well,” Molchany said. “He had no defensive help in the first two innings. Gavin came in, the defense stepped it up, and he got ahead of the batters.”
Trailing 11-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Dragons refused to go quietly. Conover singled and scored on Hornberger’s homer to left-center. Drew Myers followed with a double to right, and then with two outs, Bradan Ritter walked and Logan Usner belted a three-run homer, chasing Hunt. Colin Brubaker relieved and walked White, but then ended it with a strikeout.
“Kaden had an injury last week and I stretched him out a little bit more than what he was probably ready for,” Shertzer said. “But Kaden did a fantastic job coming in and really diffusing the situation and allowing the offense to come back and answer.”
The victory moves the Phillies to the New Era’s final four, which gets underway next Monday, July 7 at Mount Joy’s Kunkle Field. Warwick will likely be the two seed behind Manheim Township in the double-elimination format.
“We’re very excited,” Shertzer said. “At the beginning of the season, we had a goal as a team to get in the New Era championship, to honestly win it. We put this team together with a good group of kids. The team does a nice job.”
In game one of the series last Wednesday, June 25, John Seibert was a one-man wrecking crew, striking out 11 Dragon batters in 4!-E innings and clubbing a two-run homer, as the Phillies grabbed the inside track with an 11-1 five-inning win in Lititz.
Seibert allowed just one run —none earned —and one hit, a fourth-inning one-out single by Garman off the glove of Phillies’ diving third baseman Kaden Hunt. Although he issued three walks, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out the side in the first three frames, mixing in a curve and occasional change-up with a dominant heater.
Not bad for a player making his first-ever appearance in a New Era Tournament game.
“(John) did a great job,” Shertzer said. “He had some butterflies and nerves (in his first playoff game), but he controlled himself and settled himself down as the game went on. He got into a good groove. He did a splendid job.”
Ephrata starting pitcher Garman didn’t give up a hit in the first two innings, but still found himself trailing 2-0 when leadoff walks proved costly. Trey Glass (2 walks, 2 runs) scored on Seibert’s sac fly, while Ethan Minnich (2 walks, 2 runs) crossed the plate on a sac fly by Colin Brubaker to right field.
In the third, Zach Shertzer worked a five-pitch free pass and scored ahead of Seibert, who launched a 1-2 pitch from Garman over the fence in left-center for a 4-0 Phillies’ lead.
“Our philosophy is, even if you’re down in the count, still attack because the next guy behind you is going to step in and take care of business as well,” Shertzer said. “So go after the ball you can drive.”
Ephrata spoiled the shutout in the top of the fifth, as Grove walked and then courtesy runner White scored on a Phillies throwing error. But Warwick invoked the 10-run mercy rule with a five-run rally in the bottom half. Brody Price delivered a two-run double, Brubaker added an RBI single, Hunt laced an RBI double to right center and Logan Hann had a run-scoring single to right.
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at email@example.com or at 721-4451