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Warwick Phillies fall to Mountville in NET finals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Six games into the season, many might have figured that the Warwick Phillies were headed for a down year.
Starting out with a 1-5 record will do that.
Few would have expected the Phillies still to be playing in mid-July.
Yet, thanks to a second-half surge, they were indeed battling the Mountville Indians in the finals of the New Era Tournament’s Midget-Midget championship last Friday.
Unfortunately, for the Phils, they weren’t able to pull off the Cinderella finish, as Mountville jumped to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning and rode the arm of Logan Givler to a 7-3 victory at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field, repeating as the New Era M-M champs with a 32-9 record. The Phillies finished the season with an 18-16 record.
"I don’t think anybody going into this tournament would have picked Warwick to finish two," Phillies’ skipper Dana Clark said. "I told those guys, ‘Hey, there’s 12 other teams that wish they were you’ … We had a tremendous winning percentage the second half of the season."
They were looking to keep that going on Friday as Givler and Warwick’s Nate Hess locked up in a pitchers duel through three and a half innings. But then the Indians broke the ice with four runs in the first inning. One run scored on a throwing error and Nick Buchwalder added a two-run double.
Trailing 4-0, that might have seemed like a steep hill to climb for the Phillies against Givler who pitched five shutout innings in an 8-0 win over Warwick last Tuesday and was again frustrating them with his off-speed pitches. But the Phillies got themselves back into the game with a two-run rally. After Justin Byler led off with a walk, Reed Martin singled him to third and moved into scoring position on an error. Nick Breznak followed with an RBI ground out and then Hess delivered an RBI base hit.
"We had a better showing against (Givler) than we did the first time around, but he still pitched well again," Clark said.
The Indians, however, tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth on Givler’s two-run base hit and Ryan Glenn’s RBI infield single off of relievers Martin and Ryan Aukamp. Hess, who gave up three earned runs on just three hits in 3 2/3 innings, suffered the loss. He struck out four and walked two.
But Warwick wasn’t done and they made things interesting in their final at-bats. With one out, Carter Forney reached on an error, and then Byler had a two-out single and Martin walked to load the bases. Forney scored on Breznak’s (1-for-2, 2 RBI’s) run-scoring single, but then Mountville reliever Jeremy Brubaker got out of it with a game-ending strikeout.
"If one more batter gets on, we would have Hess and Brubaker squaring off with the bases loaded, which would have been an interesting match-up," Clark said. "But it never came to be."
Givler pitched 5 1/3 innings for the win, combining with Brubaker to allow only six hits.
"As soon as they brought in Brubaker, who was throwing heat, we got on him right away," Clark said. "Apparently, (Givler’s off-speed pitches) exposed a weak spot in what we’re doing. We had the right spot in the order. We just couldn’t quite get the order turned over in that last inning."
Still, Clark was very pleased in his players for what they accomplished this season.
"It hurts losing, but by the same token, if it didn’t hurt a little bit, you wouldn’t have worked so hard to get there," Clark said. "I was very proud of those guys. I think once they have a little time to sit back and reflect … the accomplishment was significant from my perspective and I hope they realize that too."
Last Wednesday, July 11, the Phillies advanced to the finals with a heart-pounding 10-9 victory over Manheim VFW in an elimination game at Kunkle Field.
Nate Hess was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and a key home run, while Gabe Cicala finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored, as the Phils took a 10-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning.
What looked like a comfortable lead, though, slowly melted away as Manheim mounted a valiant rally. With one out, Evan Hosler doubled, Jake Novak walked and Drew Mummau slammed a two-run double to left-center to cut the deficit to 10-6. After Tyler Simon walked, Warwick pitcher Nick Breznak retired the second out on one of five K’s, but then Dawson Good, who finished 4-for-4 with four RBI’s, laced a deep two-run single to the wall in left center to make it 10-8.
From there, Manheim was down to its final strike on the next four batters, but Bryce Eberly reached on an error, Todd Heisey flared an RBI single to center to get the VFW to 10-9 and then Garrett Bruckhart walked to load the bases. The next batter, Hosler, then ripped a 1-0 pitch from Breznak that looked like trouble. But second baseman Brandon Perezous snagged the drive for the final out, as the Phillies and their fans breathed a sigh of relief. Breznak, who threw an eye-popping 53 of his 82 pitches in the sixth inning, picked up the win with three innings of relief.
"I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to check my pacemaker after that," Phillies’ skipper Evan Clark laughed. "You can’t do anything. You’ve just got to watch it. It was a barn-burner, no doubt about it."
Earlier, the Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on two hits and a Manheim error. But the VFW came back with two in the bottom of the inning on Good’s two-run single, and then they took a 4-3 lead on Mummau’s two-run base hit in the second inning off of Phillies starter Ryan Aukamp.
Mummau also closed the door on the Phils’ offense after entering the game in relief of Evan Hosler in the second inning, allowing just two hits in his first three innings of work.
But then Hess led off the top of the fifth with a game-tying solo blast to left-center on the first pitch he saw from Mummau, igniting a five-run rally for the Phillies.
"We came out, we were on fire early and then we went flat and the home run from Nate was just what we needed," Clark said. "We came to life after that. And we needed every bit of it."
After Aukamp (2-for-4) doubled and Cicala singled, Carter Forney (2-for-4, 2 RBI’s) served a two-run double to left and then Reed Martin followed with an RBI hit through shortstop to stretch the Phillies’ lead to 7-4. Martin later scored the final run of the inning on Bryan Rottkamp’s RBI ground out to short, putting Warwick up 8-4.
They added two more runs in the top of the sixth on Cicala’s RBI double to left and Forney’s RBI infield single, making it 10-4.
And as Clark noted, they needed every bit of it.
"I felt pretty comfortable, I did," Clark laughed. "And I had Nick out on the mound and he’s been closing for us all year and he’s been doing a really good job. It was a longer outing for him this time. But hats off to (Manheim). They didn’t quit at all, they were scrapping the whole way through. Either team losing in that situation is a heck of a way to end the season." More PHILLIES, page B4