Team effort leads WLL All-Stars to District 23 championship
The Warwick Little League 11/12 All-Star team recently completed a remarkable, if not unexpected run to the District 23 championship.
Although it might be an overused cliché, Warwick capitalized on a total team effort to go a perfect 4-0 through the 10-team field.
They opened the tournament on Sunday, July 1 vs. Manheim Central with a hard-fought 9-2 victory. In a tremendous pitchers’ duel, Manheim’s Isaac Eldeen battled against the Warwick quartet of Clayton Dimitris, Tyler Hess, Patrick Quinn and Bryce Zimmerman. Warwick’s manager Spencer Todd, with the support of coaches Grody Cowher and Eric Ensinger, had a stable full of pitchers at his disposal, and the plan was to use each of them for about 35 pitches. Todd’s plan was to rely on solid pitching and great catching in the likes of Michael Plack and Matthew Ensinger, combined with exceptional defense and timely hitting.
The pitching/catching and defense showed up as expected in their first game, but it took some time for the hitting to come into play. The turning point came in the bottom of the fifth inning with the score tied 2-2. Manheim’s first three batters reached safely, giving Manheim a chance to break the tie. But with the bases loaded and no outs, Quinn struck out Manheim’s fourth batter of the inning. Zimmerman then came into coax Manheim’s next batter to ground to the first baseman, Simon Gerofsky, who threw home to Warwick’s catcher, Ensinger to force the runner from third at home. Zimmerman then struck out the final hitter to end the threat.
With the swing of momentum clearly in Warwick’s favor, Warwick’s bats came to life. Ensinger, who earlier had singled twice, led off the top of the sixth with a double. Ryan Brown then singled him to third. After a pop out, Connor Cowher singled home Ensinger to give Warwick a 3-2 lead and Gerofsky followed with another single to plate Ensinger. Next, Anthony Quagliata worked a walk to load the bases, and after Cowher was forced at home, Hess and Quinn each worked a walk to score two more runs. Ensinger then delivered again, clearing the bases with a deep single that scored Zimmerman, Hess and Quinn. From there, Zimmerman finished up the victory by retiring the side in the bottom of the sixth with two strikeouts and a groundout.
Warwick’s second game was against the previous year’s champions, Conestoga Valley, and they built on their momentum with a 5-4 victory. Dimitris again started on the mound for Warwick and held CV scoreless through 2 1/3 innings. Hess came in, and although he pitched effectively, a couple of errors in the field allowed CV to take a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Meanwhile, CV’s starting pitcher, Nathan Schell kept Warwick off balance for the first three-plus innings with the only run coming when Ryan Esbeshade scored on an RBI single by Hess in the second inning.
But Warwick responded in the bottom of the fourth when Quinn led off with a triple. Following a strikeout, Brown singled to left to score Quinn. Bryan Heckman then followed with another single, sending Brown to third. CV called on its closer Langston Wells to shut things down, but Cowher greeted him with a single to plate Brown and send Heckman to third. Although Wells struck out the next two batters, a wild pitch allowed Heckman to come home to tie the score at 4-4.
Zimmerman, who relieved Hess late in the fourth inning, pitched a very effective fifth inning, allowing a walk while striking out two and ending the inning catching a pop-up.
Warwick then went to work in the bottom of the fifth inning. Zimmerman worked a walk and Hess laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt allowing Zimmerman to reach third. Then During Quinn’s at-bat, Zimmerman scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Zimmerman returned to the mound for the sixth inning and got great defense with Hess, Cowher and Gerofsky fielding the last three outs of the game.
Last Friday, Warwick moved on to faced last year’s runner-up Solanco. The formula for this game was much different than the first two games — aggressive base running — which Warwick used to earn a 6-5 win.
Warwick gave up two early runs in the top of the first inning, but responded with four of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Hess led off with a walk and Zimmerman followed with a single. A couple of passed balls allowed Hess to score and Zimmerman to reach third base. One out later, Ensinger drew a walk and stole second base. Solanco tried to throw out Ensinger at second, but missed the tag and Zimmerman scored from third base. Following another strikeout, Esbenshade, who went in for the injured Plack, delivered a single, and after a series of throwing errors, both Ensinger and Esbenshade scored.
Warwick scored twice more in the second inning as Hess had a single, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Zimmerman’s single. Zimmerman scored on two more wild pitches.
Solanco clawed back into the game with two runs in the third inning and a run in the fourth to get to 6-5. However, Zimmerman again closed the door on Solanco, giving up only one base hit in the fifth and sixth innings.
The final game on Sunday, July 8th featured a rematch of Friday’s game versus Solanco, and Warwick prevailed by a 12-3 score. The battery duo of Dimitris and Plack again got Warwick off to a good start, but some early inning nerves allowed Solanco to get on the board with one run in the first and another run in the second inning.
Things could have been much worse, but Dimitris worked out of a jam in the first inning and then Quinn pitched in relief in the second to shut the door on Solanco.
Warwick’s bats, quiet in the first inning, came alive in the second. Gerofsky was on first base with a fielder’s choice with two outs when Esbenshade drew a walk, and then Hess, Zimmerman and Quinn followed with singles to even the score at 2-2.
After Solanco’s clean-up hitter hit a home run to lead off the top of the third, Quinn settled in and retired Solanco with three K’s. Warwick then went ahead with two runs in the bottom of the third, as Cowher plated both Ensinger and Brown with a one-out single to right field. After another scoreless inning for Solanco, Warwick broke the game open with a seven-run fourth inning, with all runs being scored with two outs.
Quinn led off with a walk, and after two quick pop-ups, it looked like it was going to be another nail-biter. However, Quagliata legged out an infield hit and Cowher followed with an RBI single. Gerofsky, Esbenshade and Hess all followed with singles, scoring Cowher and Gerofsky. Zimmerman then came through with a two-run triple to drive in Esbenshade and Hess. Zimmerman later scored on a Solanco error to make it 11-3.
Brown scored another insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, giving Quinn plenty of breathing room. Quinn allowed a total of three base runners and no runs over the last two innings while throwing 49 strikes out of 70 pitches.
There were no single standout performers though the four-game tournament, as everyone contributed up and down the lineup toward Warwick winning this tournament for just the second time in their history. Warwick got great pitching from Dimitris, Hess, Zimmerman and Quinn. Catchers Plack and Ensinger called great games and provided a solid backstop for the pitching staff. Quagliata and Esbenshade both made incredible catches while playing in right and left field. The hitters in the 7-8-9 positions went a combined 13-for-33, scoring 11 runs and driving in eight runs. Ben Kreider, who was injured and did not play during this tournament, contributed with great moral support in the dugout as part of the team effort. More ALL-STARS, page B-6