Manheim, Lititz ready for LNP Tourney openers

By on July 22, 2015
Kevin Starner is a key player in the middle of the Manheim VFW’s batting order, hitting for a .310 average this season.

Kevin Starner is a key player in the middle of the Manheim VFW’s batting order, hitting for a .310 average this season.

If there’s a good time to be hitting your stride in Lancaster County Midget Baseball action, it’s now.
With the LNP Tournament getting underway last night (Wednesday) at Clipper Magazine Stadium &tstr; culminating on Sunday with the crowning of a champ &tstr; Manheim VFW skipper Todd Lyons believes that his team falls into that category.
“Basically we’re probably playing the best baseball we have all season at this point, that’s what I would say with all three of those phases &tstr; pitching, hitting and defense,” Manheim’s skipper said.
With their first-round game in the LNP Midget Tournament slated for tonight (Thursday) against No. 2-seeded Garden Spot at 5:15 p.m. at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium, that’s good news for 7th-seeded Manheim (8-6-1).
But only time will tell if it’s good enough for them to get past GS (13-2).
“We’re facing a really good Garden Spot team,” Lyons said. “They have 13 wins, they have some really nice players &tstr; Brock Kauffman is a really nice player, Anthony Torreulla is a really nice player. We’re just hoping that on any given day, we can put a good seven innings together with all three phases and pull one out.”
Ditto for the No. 3-seeded Lititz Odd Fellows (13-2), who play their first-round game against 6th-seeded Donegal (9-5-1) in the nightcap of Thursday’s twinbill.
Unlike Manheim, however, Lititz finds itself trying to get back on track following a start to the season in which they scored double-digit runs in five of their first eight games.
“I think we were probably playing our best at the beginning of the year,” Odd Fellows skipper Bill Weismandel said. “Certainly offensively, the last few games we had were not our strongest. I wouldn’t say we’re peaking at the right time. But also, it’s going to be over a week since our last game (a 7-0 win over St. Leo’s on July 18), so who knows with that much time off if we’ll be back to where we want to be or not.”
For Manheim, the season has been a tale of two halves. Through eight games, while battling a rash of injuries, the VFW was just 3-5 and in danger of missing the playoffs. But then after dropping a 5-3 decision to SWS on June 24, they put together a six-game unbeaten streak, going 5-0-1 in that stretch.
“Most importantly, the kids have been relaxed lately, they’re having fun and we’re playing free baseball,” Lyons said. “We’ve gotten three extra weeks of practice which will help for those guys that are playing in the fall and hopefully that will carry on to the next school season.”
Tyler Lyons, whose at-bats have been limited due to missing eight of his team’s 15 games with a broken thumb, is batting .364. Kevin Starner has a .310 average, while Caleb Weaver (.308), Tyler Simon (.300) and Bryce Eberly (.300) round out the top five. Simon and BJ Fisher share the team lead with nine runs scored, and Eberly has eight.
While Lyons and Simon were both shelved at times this season due to injuries, catcher Tyler Lutz has been a big loss from the start due to health. In Junior-Midgets, Lutz and Tyler Lyons shared the Richard ‘Dick’ Weidman Award for highest batting average.
“Tyler probably would have batted fourth and he’s a big presence behind the plate,” Lyons said. “We had to fill BJ in at catcher, he’s normally an outfielder. So not having Tyler Lutz in the lineup all year has been huge. We would be a lot better team with him in the lineup.”
On the hill, left-hander Taylor Rohrer (4-1, 1.04 ERA) has recorded half of Manheim’s eight wins. In 27 innings, he has yielded just four earned runs, while striking out 37.
“More than likely, (Taylor) will start Thursday against Garden Spot,” Lyons said.
Caleb Weaver, who combined with Rohrer on a five-inning no-hitter in an 11-0 drubbing of Solanco, has also logged key innings for Manheim this summer. In fact, it was Weaver who got the decision when the VFW shut out Penn Manor 6-0 on July 8 to clinch a playoff spot.
“(Caleb)’s really come a long way since the spring season,” Lyons said. “If I had to give out a most improved player (award) from the school season to summer, it would be Caleb Weaver. He’s just a great kid more than anything. He’s very coachable. Every time I talk to him, he’s so bright-eyed, he wants to soak in everything like a sponge &tstr; he’s just a very intelligent kid.”
Bryce Eberly and Chad Neely are also among Manheim’s top four pitchers. Eberly got decision win in a 6-1 win over Lancaster, shutting the door after relieving in a no-out, bases-loaded situation. Neely and Starner are two of three returning seniors &tstr; the other is Hunter Grissinger &tstr; for the Manheim Central baseball team in 2016.
“Bryce did a really great job, more in relief than anything,” Lyons said. “He pitched in big spots.”
Throughout the season, Lyons has used as many as seven different pitchers.
“Not a lot of them have the experience that you want at this level, but they were throwing strikes and pretty effective,” Lyons said. “It was nice to have that many pitchers to use throughout the season.”
The Odd Fellows’ pitching staff is led by Zach Peters, who has a record of 5-0, 0.85 ERA with 47 K’s in 33 innings pitched. Ethan Norman and Reed Martin have two wins apiece.
“We’re probably a little top heavy (as a staff),” Weismandel said. “I’d say Zach Peters is one of, if not the best arm in the league, so we do have that. And we have some other quality arms. But the gap is kinda pretty big from the back end of the pitching staff to the front end.”
Offensively, Lititz’s leading batters include Bryce Zimmerman (.500), Justin Byler (.438), Evan Clark (.419), Reed Martin (.412), Peters (.385), Tyler Martin (.355), Josh Weachter (.333), Nate Hess (.303) and Bryan Rottkamp (.308).
Hess has a team-high 16 RBI’s, while Zimmerman leads the way 13 runs.
But the Odd Fellows’ bats have cooled off down the stretch, scoring just one run in a loss to Hempfield and two in a win over Cocalico.
“Generally speaking, we’ve got pretty good pitching, our defense has played well,” Weismandel said. “The offense started off the first half of the year scoring a lot of runs, getting a lot of hits. The last three, four games of the season, that wasn’t so much … I think we’ll go as far as our offense takes us, which is probably what most teams would say as well. If we score a bunch of runs, it’s going to make everything easier. It will take a little pressure off the defense, it will take a little pressure off the pitchers. If we can score runs, I like our chances.”
First, though, Lititz will need to get past a Donegal team which consists of players who contributed to the Indians’ run to the District Three Triple-A title and then to the PIAA State semi-finals in the spring.
“Anybody whose there (in the LNP Tournament) can beat anybody on any given night,” Weismandel said. “Donegal is a very good team. They’re quality and I expect every game at this point to be a tough match-up. The seeds, basically what they really decide for me is whose the home team. Anybody on any given night can beat anybody in the tournament.”


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