Philllies advance to NET’s final four
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
After going 1-5 in their first six games this summer, the 12U Warwick Phillies just might be peaking at the perfect time.
If last week’s games against Salsa were any indication, then they must be looking forward to the month of July.
After knocking off Salsa in 5-4 in extra innings on Monday, June 25, the Phillies swept their best-of-three New Era Tournament qualifying series by jumping to a 6-1 lead in the first inning last Wednesday and cruising to a 12-4 victory in Lititz.
The win boosts the Phillies (10-8) into the NET’s double-elimination final four, where they will face Lancaster County Youth Baseball League’s Atlantic Division winner Donegal on Monday, July 9 at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field.
"I told the kids I was very proud of them. They started off really slow this year," Phillies coach Dana Clark, "and for those kids to continue to mature and grow as a team … all along, I’ve been stressing how important it is to play as a team and to finally see them coming together, this is the perfect time of year. So I like our chances going forward because they are playing very well right now."
Last Wednesday, they hit the ball very well off of Salsa starting pitcher JoJo Metzler, who yielded six first-inning runs on a walk, four base hits and an error. Nate Hess worked a leadoff free pass, Ryan Aukamp singled, Gabe Cicala stroked a two-run knock, and Justin Minnich added a base hit. One out later, Bryan Rottkamp delivered an RBI single, Nick Breznak hit a sac fly and two more runs scored when Salsa’s center fielder dropped Reed Martin’s fly ball to make it 6-1.
"That was huge," Clark said of the Phillies’ six-run first-inning rally. "It deflated (Salsa) and they’re a team, I think, that really rides that emotion. So having those guys deflated early was really huge."
Hess finished 2-for-2 with a walk, while Aukamp and Minnich chipped in with two hits apiece to lead the Phillies’ offense.
In the third inning, Minnich led off with a single and scored on a Salsa error, and then the Phillies added two more in the fourth to break it wide open, 9-1. Max Bright reached on an error and then Hess smashed a two-run dinger.
"I told these guys, ‘Look, we can’t stop, we can’t be satisfied, we’ve got to play all six,’ because we’ve been in games where we’ve played five and a third and then let it get away," Clark said.
Nine runs was enough for winning pitcher Aukamp, who scattered seven hits over five innings. He K’d three and walked none.
Metzler, Kevin Arroyo and Chris Rosario did some damage in the top of the fifth to help Salsa cut the Phillies’ lead to 9-4. But Warwick tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, as Evan Clark ripped a two-run double to drive in Jon Byler and Rottkamp to push their lead back to 12-4.
At that point, Breznak entered the game in the sixth inning in relief to nail it down, yielding one hit and striking out one.
"About halfway through the season, I switched (Nick’s) role from starter to closer," Clark said. "He said, ‘Coach, I really like being the closer,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re doing a heck of a job and we’re going to keep you there.’ So it was kind of a role that he matured into as the season went on." More PHILLIES, page B-6