The Odds are good

By on August 7, 2019

Lititz wins LNP Midget championship for fifth straight odd year

Zach Shertzer holds the LNP Tournament championship trophy aloft and starts the celebration with his teammates after the Lititz Oddfellows defeated Manheim Township 9-7 in the finals last Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Zach Shertzer holds the LNP Tournament championship trophy aloft and starts the celebration with his teammates after the Lititz Oddfellows defeated Manheim Township 9-7 in the finals last Friday. Photo by Missi Mortimer

 

Warwick rising junior Evan Rohrbach had been waiting for a moment like this.

In his career with the Warwick Travel Baseball Association, he had never hoisted an LNG Tournament championship trophy.

That changed last Friday night.

And Rohrbach happened to be on the mound for the final out, pitching the final two innings for the save as the Lititz Oddfellows knocked off Manheim Township 9-7 in the LNP Midget Tournament finals at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.

“I was mentally prepared all day getting ready for this because this meant everything to me,” Rohrbach said. “I’ve always wanted to win the LNP and it just feels really nice knowing that I have it now.”

In all, it was the Oddfellows’ seventh LNP championship in team history, and the fifth straight odd year that Lititz has won gold — including 2017, 2015, 2013 and 2011.

For Collin Beech, Ethan Christi, Jackson Davies, Kaden Hunt, John Seibert, and Zach Shertzer, this was their second LNP Midget title in three years.

And it was just as sweet as the first time.

“It feels amazing,” Shertzer said. “The Oddfellows have treated me so well. This is the best way to end (my U17 career).”

Shertzer was one of eight players in Lititz’s lineup who had a hit in the championship game, and his game-tying RBI double off of Township starting pitcher Colin Fitzgerald in the fourth inning erased a 5-3 Oddfellows’ deficit.

Later, Lititz also had to rally from a 7-5 hole.

“This team is incredible,” Shertzer said. “(The coaches) said it 100 times, we’ll face adversity in every game pretty much. This is a younger team than we’ve had before, but we all work together as a team and it’s one unit. It’s no ‘me,’ it’s all one unit and we’ll battle back from anything.”

Early, Manheim Township found itself having to battle back after Lititz took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Matthew Williams’ two-run single and Christi’s RBI ground out.

Oddfellows’ starter Matt Seibert struck out two in a scoreless first, but then Township got on the board behind Drew Sassaman’s (2-for-4) double and Jacob Schaefer’s (2-for-4) RBI single to center in the second inning.

They added four in the third to claim their first lead on Dylan King’s (2-for-3) RBI base hit, Fitzgerald’s two-run double to right-center, and Schaefer’s RBI single to center, putting them up 5-3.

Quickly, however, Lititz answered. In the Oddfellows’ next at-bats, Christi was hit by a pitch, Reagan Kline — who went 2-for-4 in in the team’s nine-hit attack — flared a single to right, and Hunt’s RBI knock to right-center, making it 5-4.

“We start from day one,” Lititz coach Bill Weismandel said, “talking about trust — trusting your teammates, trusting your coaches, composure, overcoming adversity. The older guys set those examples for the younger guys. It’s like a breeding kind of thing. It’s just a confidence and belief and learning that, ‘We’re good, we’ll get through it.’”

That brought up Shertzer. His approach, with less than two outs, was to get Kline hom from third with a sacrifice fly to the outfield.

He got a bonus when his drive to center field got over the head of MT center fielder Kyle Musser for a game-tying RBI double.

Initially, Shertzer didn’t know whether his hit had enough to get over Musser.

“Then I saw him turn his back, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll get two on this,’” he said.

Township reliever Evan Clark limited the damage, then helped his cause with a two-run single to left off Lititz lefty Beech in the bottom fourth, as MT regained a 7-5 advantage.

The back-and-forth seesaw didn’t stop there.

In the sixth, Hunt led off for Lititz and worked a five-pitch, and then one out later, John Seibert greeted Township reliever Nate Jones with a walk and Rohrbach reached when his comebacker became lodged in the webbing of Jones’ glove.

Eventually, with two outs, Williams bounced a grounder to third, and three runs scored when an errant throw went down the first base line, giving Lititz the lead for good, 8-7.

“We even talked about it today, ‘Teams don’t win games, they lose ‘em,’ and 90 percent of the time, that’s what happens,” Weismandel said. “I felt like we beat Hempfield (in the semi-finals, 13-8), but 90 percent of the time, teams end up hurting themselves and making mistakes. What you have to do is try to make less mistakes and do less things that hurt you.”

Beech pitched two innings out of the ‘pen to get the W before handing to the ball to Rohrbach, who pitched out of a two-on, none-out jam in the bottom of the sixth inning to preserve Lititz’s one-run lead.

“The number one thing is just staying calm,” Rohrbach said. “When I’m warming up, I’ve just got to get the right mindset.”

The Oddfellows added an insurance run in the seventh on Christi’s leadoff triple and Kline’s RBI single, and then Rohrbach — pounding the strike zone while throwing mostly fastballs — closed the door, getting King on a game-ending ground out to first baseman Beech.

“(The championships) never get old,” said Weismandel, who claimed his fourth Midget title to go with one while coaching the 12U Phillies. “The kids put in so much effort and commitment, and it’s such a big deal for our kids currently and our alumni, so to speak. We have so many kids who come out that (previously) played. So no, it never gets old. Never.”

 

***

In the semi-finals last Thursday, Collin Beech’s titanic two-run homer to right-center field in the top of the third inning highlighted a 16-hit attack by the Oddfellows, leading them to a 13-8 victory over Hempfield Black at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

In all, Beech went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four RBI. But it was his blast off Hempfield reliever Jayden Ruby which dropped jaws.

“It may still be sitting out there, it may be halfway to Lititz,” Oddfellows’ coach Bill Weismandel laughed. “I don’t know where it is. But that thing was a rocket. That ball’s probably a little lopsided.”

The score became lopsided when Lititz sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the second inning, putting seven runs on the board and going up 9-2 behind lefty starter Jackson Davies.

Reagan Kline also finished 3-for-4, while John Seibert (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Evan Rohrbach (2-for-4), Matthew Williams (2-for-2, HBP), Kaden Hunt (2-for-3, 2 runs) and Zach Shertzer (1-for-3, HBP, 3 runs) contributed in the offensive onslaught.

“We just pound the ball,” Weismandel said. “I’d be more surprised if we have four hits in a game than 20, truthfully. I know what they’re capable of and they come out and execute the things we work on and it’s great to see.”

Davies went 5 2/3 innings for the win, striking out four, walking five, and scattering six hits before Daulton Steiner got the final four outs in relief.

Lititz’s left-hander got 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Beech’s RBI double and Williams’ RBI single off of Hempfield starter Christian LaBarbera.

Hempfield answered, however, as Wyatt Hershey had an RBI single to deep shortstop and Luke Fiore (2-for-3, HBP, 2 runs) sliced an opposite-field double to right and scored on a wild pitch.

Then that set up Lititz’s big inning in the second. Seibert stroked a two-run double to right-center, Beech had an RBI single, Ethan Christi greeted reliever Ruby with a two-run single to left and Kline added an RBI single to center field.

Seibert’s RBI ground out and Beech’s two-run shot in the third stretched the lead to 12-2.

“Hempfield is so well-coached and their kids have such high character that we knew they wouldn’t give up,” Weismandel said. “We were trying not to get too complacent because we knew Hempfield would fight. They’re just too good to not.”

Sure enough, Hempfield got four back in the third, thanks to Ruby’s two-run double, Cameron Berger’s sacrifice fly and Kyle Jackson’s (2-for-4) RBI infield single.

Davies went on to retire seven straight batters, but Hempfield scored two more in the bottom of the sixth inning on Fiore’s bases-loaded two-run single to left, bringing them to within 13-8.

But they would get no closer.

***

Last Wednesday, the Oddfellows defeated Solanco Gray 7-6 in eight innings in a game which ended with controversy.

With the score tied 6-6, Seibert stroked a two-out single and then Rohrbach followed by doubling down the left field line. As Seibert rounded second, he got tangled up with a Solanco infielder, and after the umpires huddled, they awarded the Oddfellows’ catcher home plate due to obstruction, giving Lititz the walk-off victory.

“It was obvious obstruction and (the umpires) made the right call,” Weismandel said. “Controversy comes in because it’s a judgment call whether or not they award home, and they happened to judge that they thought he might have scored. It’s a little unfortunate for such a good game to end on a controversial call, but it is a judgment call.”

John Seibert went 4-for-5 and scored three runs, Shertzer was 2-for-5 with a leadoff home run, and Rohrbach (2-for-4, HBP), Beech (2-for-2, BB, HBP), and Matt Seibert (2 walks) also chipped in.

But it was Solanco — led by Seth Harnish (2-for-3) and Mitchell Moyer (2-for-3) — who capitalized on a five-run third-inning rally to go up 5-2.

Beech’s RBI and Williams’ RBI ground out in the bottom of the third brought the Oddfellows’ back to 5-4. But Solanco reliever Mike May, who retired seven of eight through the middle innings, preserved the one-run lead through the fifth. May yielded just one earned run on five hits and three walks, while striking out three in five innings.

“(May) threw well and kept us off-balance,” Weismandel said. “It was a great game.”

Finally, the Oddfellows got a shot in the arm from Blair Shaffer, who crushed a pinch-hit two-out double to right field in the sixth inning, and Kline later scored the tying run on a Solanco error.

“I texted Blair (Wednesday) and said, ‘When you get called upon, you’re not in there to hit singles,’” Weismandel said. “Sometimes, Blair’s biggest hurdle is he overthinks himself, and he just got in there and ripped. That’s the kind of confidence we want to give him because the kid can smoke the ball.”

May’s RBI double inside the third-base line put Solanco back in front 6-5 in the top of the seventh, but Lititz responded in the home half with Williams’ sacrifice fly driving in John Seibert with the tying run. The Oddfellows threatened to end it, but May worked out of a bases-loaded one-out jam to extend the game into extra innings.

There, John Seibert’s run on the obstruction call sent the Oddfellows to the semi-finals.

Davies came out of the bullpen behind Williams and Steiner to pitch a perfect inning of scoreless relief — with one strikeout — to get the W.

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