Manheim is golden

By on August 10, 2016

Team chemistry helps Lions top Lititz for LNP crown

After recording the final out in last Wednesday’s victory over Lititz in the LNP Midget Tournament finals, Manheim VFW winning pitcher Drew Mummau and catcher Garrett Bruckwart are swarmed by their teammates. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

After recording the final out in last Wednesday’s victory over Lititz in the LNP Midget Tournament finals, Manheim VFW winning pitcher Drew Mummau and catcher Garrett Bruckwart are swarmed by their teammates. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Jake Novak’s impact on Manheim Central athletics can’t be overstated.

The Barons’ rising junior is a three-sport star in football (wide receiver), basketball (point guard) and baseball (center field), playing key roles in the success of three highly-respected programs.

So it should come as no surprise that Novak was right in the middle of things in a big game last Wednesday night, Aug. 3.

With his Manheim VFW Lions trailing 5-3 with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and seemingly stuck in neutral against Lititz pitcher Brock Fassnacht in the LNP Midget Tournament finals, Novak was plunked high by a pitch.

“They wanted to pull for their hurt buddy,” Manheim skipper Jeff Mummau remarked. “And credit them for picking him up.”

They sure did.

Garrett Bruckhart and Nate Loser followed with RBI triples highlighting a three-run rally, giving Manheim a lead it never relinquished, and the Lions went on to earn their first LNP championship since 2012, defeating the Odd Fellows 8-5 at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.

Drew Mummau got the win in relief, striking out three, walking two and yielding three earned runs on six hits. He threw 106 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.

“These kids are awesome,” said coach Mummau, who watched the final three-plus innings in the Clip’s left-field seats after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes. “We didn’t lose a game all year. What is it, 16-0-1? It’s a special group &tstr; a lot of warriors, a lot of competitive kids, a couple football players, basketball players … They really wanted it.”

The Odd Fellows (16-8), who won last year’s LNP title, had the inside track toward repeating, scoring three in the top of the fourth to go up 5-3. But the turning point for the Manheim VFW came just one inning later.

“Brock was cruising there a little bit and then they got those two big hits and boy, everything changed,” Lititz coach Bill Weismandel remarked. “Momentum’s big in big games, and once they got it, they didn’t really give it up. They completed earned their championship.”

Afterward, while standing near home plate as his players celebrated around him, Mummau didn’t hesitate when getting to the root of their success.

“I know when I don’t have team chemistry and when you do have it … this team has chemistry and I’d coach these kids every day of the week,” he said. “It’s going to be hard for me to walk away tomorrow because tomorrow I’m not going to see them. We practiced hard. I know it’s summer ball, but if you really care about what you do, you’re going to get after it. These kids want to get after it.”

It was the Odd Follows who struck first, with Bryce Zimmerman and Patrick Quinn working leadoff walks off of Manheim starter Tyler Simon in the opening frame. Sacrifice flies by Justin Byler and Max Bright put Lititz up 2-0, and then Brendan Martin (3-for-4) was caught trying to steal home.

It was the first of three Odd Fellows base runners who were cut down at the plate.

“That’s the way we play, we’re aggressive,” Weismandel said. “You’re going to get some guys thrown out at home and on the base paths once in awhile, but that’s the way we play. I think the gambles are worth it more often than not, especially at this level of baseball.”

The lead didn’t last long. In the bottom of the first, Simon (3-for-4) stroked a one-out single to right-center, Taylor Rohrer had an RBI double, and Bryce Eberly’s RBI single to center tied it 2-all.

Lititz threatened in the top of the second, putting two runners in scoring position with two outs, as Reed Martin walked and Jeffrey Kline doubled. But Drew Mummau got Manheim out of the jam, retiring Ryan Aukamp on a flyout.

“Drew’s a quality pitcher, a quality baseball player,” Weismandel said. “I mean, when he comes into the game, you’re going to have to raise your level of focus. He’s a competitor and he’s very, very good and we have a lot of respect for him.”

The Lions pulled ahead in the second, as Loser (2-for-4) doubled to left, Drew Mummau sacrificed, and Simon delivered an RBI single to left.

Though leading 3-2, Manheim still stranded seven runners on base through the first three innings. For the game, they out-hit Lititz 11-8.

“We had our chances,” Mummau said. “I think we almost doubled the hit column against Lititz. But yeah, I was a little nervous.”

That anxiety wasn’t helped when Lititz regained the lead in the top of the fourth. Leading off, Bright reached on a throwing error, stole second and went to third on Colby Martin’s sacrifice. Evan Clark was then hit by a pitch and Reed Martin walked, loading the bases. Next, Jeffrey Kline had an RBI infield single up the middle, and after Ryan Aukamp was plunked, Zimmerman’s nine-pitch at-bat ended with a bases-loaded walk, forcing home courtesy runner Dagen Young and getting coach Mummau tossed.

“I’m a passionate guy,” Manheim’s skipper said. “This is hard to win. Really hard to win. As you get older, you appreciate things more.”

The Odd Fellows’ third run of the inning scored on Quinn’s RBI single to center, making it 5-3. Courtesy runner Adam Ricketts also tried to score on the play, but was thrown out by Manheim VFW center fielder Novak.

“I’ll take 10 Jake Novaks,” Mummau said. “He is a stud. I keep telling my guys, we throw athlete after athlete after athlete at you. This might be cocky to say, (but) we’re pretty hard to handle because we just keep throwing athletes at you.”

From there, Fassnacht, who K’d four and walked four, retired six of seven while protecting the lead. But Manheim’s two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth inning turned the tide.

Courtesy runner Bryson Morton, filling in for Novak, scored on Bruckhart’s triple to right-center, and then Loser drove in the tying run on a three-bagger and scored on Colby Martin’s errant relay throw to put the Lions up 6-5.

Brendan Martin then came out of the ‘pen and got the final out of the inning. Fassnacht, who yielded five earned runs on eight hits, suffered the loss.

“They put some nice swings on those pitches and drove it in the gaps,” Weismandel said, “and it’s a big field, so it’s a long way for our guys to go get it. All the credit to them. They got a couple big hits when they needed it and we missed a few opportunities to get a big hit.”

Manheim got another clutch base knock in the sixth, this one courtesy of a two-run double by Cody Gibble, driving in Simon, who singled and BJ Fisher, who walked, to stretch the lead to 8-5.

“I was up there being a cheerleader, throwing my arms in the air and saying, ‘C’mon ball, get down in the corner,’” Mummau smiled. “… I love that kid (Cody). He didn’t even hit .300 last year in 14U and hit close to .400 this year. That’s tough. He works hard. It’s a bigger field, tougher pitching, so not hitting .300 last year and coming up almost hitting .400 here. Are you kidding me? He’s got to be the most improved player in the league.”

In its final at-bats, Lititz brought the potential tying run to the plate with two outs after Brendan Martin reached on an infield hit and Byler singled to right. But Drew Mummau sealed it with a game-ending ground out to second baseman Ryan Phillips.

“Playing second and making two outs in the seventh inning on two ground balls, wow, that was pretty special for (Ryan) and his family,” Mummau said. “… Those are tremendous kids. We had to work for this one. We’re not maybe the most talented, but we have chemistry out the rear end. These kids love each other.”

*****

In the semi-finals earlier in the day, Byler, Zimmerman, and Colby Martin had two hits apiece, and Byler tossed a complete-game seven-hitter to help lead Lititz to a 8-2 win over Bears Blue.

Byler struck out four and walked four.

“Justin Byler pitched an outstanding game,” Weismandel said. “He was excellent. You never know in these types of games, semi-final, final when it’s single elimination. You kinda go into it with a little bit of a plan, but you’ve got to be ready to make some changes. And Justin did an excellent job, which let us save Brock for the second game.”

Manheim, meanwhile, advanced with a 4-3 victory over SWS Blue.

The Lions scored all they needed in the bottom of the first. Fisher and Eberly stepped up with RBI singles and Gibble added an RBI ground out.

That was enough for Rohrer, who K’d four, walked one and surrendered just one earned run on four hits in the complete-game effort.

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