One for the thumb

By on July 29, 2015
Lititz’s Reed Martin, who earned the win in the LNP Midget Tournament championship game last Sunday with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, gets mobbed by his teammates, including Evan Clark (6), Stephen Poliski (35), and Justin Byler (19). (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Lititz’s Reed Martin, who earned the win in the LNP Midget Tournament championship game last Sunday with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, gets mobbed by his teammates, including Evan Clark (6), Stephen Poliski (35), and Justin Byler (19). (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Lititz’s Reed Martin knew to be prepared.

If starting pitcher Justin Byler ran into trouble against Cocalico on Sunday night, he was the guy.

“It wasn’t just out of the blue,” Martin said. “I warmed up a little bit in the bullpen, so my arm was pretty warm when I came in, which was good.”

Good for the Odd Fellows.

Not so much for Cocalico.

Martin entered the game with the Eagles leading and proceeded to throw 3 1/3 scoreless frames. And with him holding Cocalico at bay, Lititz erupted for a six-run sixth-inning rally to grab the lead.

It turned out to be the difference in a 7-4 win for the Odd Fellows in the 70th LNP Midget Tournament championship game at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

“I’ve had wins, I’ve had complete games where I’ve thrown all seven innings,” said Martin, who K’d one, walked one and scattered three hits for the decision, “but nothing comes (close) to this. I mean, you’re with all your teammates and all of a sudden you make that last out and it’s just a dog pile.”

For Martin, this was his first New Era/LNP title after going 0-for-4 in previous championship games.

For the Odd Fellows (16-2), however, it marked their fifth crown in 10 years &tstr; and their second in three seasons under skipper Bill Weismandel.

“They’re all special, but that one (in 2013) will always be kinda hard to (beat),” Weismandel said. “When your son (Tate) is part of one, and the kids I was coaching with that team I had coached for like six, seven years, so that’s a little bit different.”

It had been 25 years since Denver took home the Midget crown in 1990. But Cocalico (12-7) &tstr; after topping Bears Blue 6-1 and Hempfield Black 6-2 in the LNP Tournament’s first two rounds with the same squad that played community ball last year &tstr; was hoping to make some history of its own.

After slamming a key sixth-inning RBI triple last Sunday, Lititz Odd Fellows’ cleanup hitter Nate Hess gets congratulated by head coach Bill Weismandel. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

After slamming a key sixth-inning RBI triple last Sunday, Lititz Odd Fellows’ cleanup hitter Nate Hess gets congratulated by head coach Bill Weismandel. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

“We stuck together this year and we had a small team, but these guys have played great defense all year, we’ve gotten good pitching all year and we’ve usually gotten enough hitting to win ball games,” Eagles’ coach Doug Sawyer said. “So I’m proud of these guys. They did a heck of a job.”

The Eagles certainly did a heck of a job making Byler work early on. Leadoff batter Brady Martin showed a patient approach in the top of the first with a seven-pitch walk, Tyler Stricker (3-for-4) flared a one-out single to right and Justin Burd walked to load the bases. But Byler retired Austin Harven and Drew Myers on strikes to get out of it.

They stranded two more in scoring position in the second inning, and left 12 on base for the game.

“It’s been an issue we’ve talked about all season,” Sawyer said. “I keep telling our guys jokingly, we probably lead the league in men left on base. But in a tight game like this … it’s tough.”

Having escaped those scares, the Odd Fellows jumped on top in the bottom of the second. Nate Hess (2-for-3) stroked a 1-0 pitch from Harven to right field for the first of his two triples. then scored on Evan Clark’s RBI base hit.

But that was all they could muster through five innings off of Harven.

In the meantime, Cocalico got the equalizer in the third inning &tstr; Burd was hit by a pitch with two outs and later scored on a wild pitch &tstr; and then it put three on the board in the top of the fourth.

Struggling with his command, Byler, who threw 85 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, issued leadoff walks to Jerrell Martin and Brock Showalter. After Kyle Robb sacrificed them into scoring position, Lititz center fielder Hess tracked down Brady Martin’s shot into the gap, but Jerrell Martin tug and scored. Drew Sawyer then legged out a swinging bunt in front of the mound and Stricker delivered an RBI single to center field, chasing Byler.

The next batter, Burd, ripped a hot shot off the glove of third baseman Zach Peters for an RBI infield single, making it 4-1, but Reed got Harven on a fielder’s choice grounder to end the threat.

Relying mostly on his fastball, Martin went on to retire eight straight batters.

“I threw a curveball a couple of times, but the first couple weren’t too good,” Martin smiled. “I just had to try to keep their team off-balance and keep them from scoring any more runs.”

While Martin gave Lititz a boost on the mound, Justin Smith stepped up clutch at the plate. Pinch-hitting for Ryan Aukamp, Smith laced a 2-2 pitch to left-center off of Harven, who yielded just two hits and threw 56 pitches in five innings.

“His pitch count was way down, so we felt good getting him back out there for the sixth inning,” Sawyer remarked. “Austin was mowing through these guys. I think he had only given up (two) hits to that point and was keeping them off-balance. It turned quickly for us.”

After Zimmerman walked, Tyler Martin, making his sixth LNP Tournament appearance, beat out an infield single to load the bases.

“Huge,” Weismandel said of Smith’s base hit. “I preach big innings start with the leadoff guy. It’s increasingly harder to score with one out with the leadoff guy. So if you get on base, now you can start making things happen and (Justin) just got the team rolling.”

Peters then ripped a two-run single to left, and when the ball skipped past Cocalico’s Stricker, Tyler Martin scored the tying run.

It was one of three Eagle errors in the game.

“That’s unusual for us because we’ve played great defense all year,” Sawyer said.

When Hess slammed an RBI triple to right-center, it put the Odd Fellows up 5-4 and chased Harven, who scattered six hits in five-plus innings, striking out none and walking one.

“It’s a different kind of offensive approach when you’re down a few runs versus one run,” Weismandel said. “You’ve got to get a few guys on base and then someone’s got to get the big hit. Zach certainly did that and Nate followed it up an the offense sorta turned right there.”

Ryan Brown then reached on a hit by pitch from reliever Myers, Byler drove in Hess with a squeeze bunt and legged it out for an infield single, and then Reed Martin delivered an RBI single to center, pushing the Odd Fellows’ lead to 7-4.

“I knew Myers was going to try to get ahead because we had runners on first and second,” Martin recalled. “I knew first-pitch fastball was going to be a good one &tstr; it was a little high, but I kept my hands on top and hit it hard up the middle.”

The three-run lead gave Martin some cushion in the top of the seventh, when Cocalico put the tying runs on base via Stricker’s single to left-center, Burd’s walk and Myers’ two-out base hit.

“My legs were shaking pretty much,” Martin said. “I was just trying to keep them calm so I didn’t balk. I just tried to throw strikes and let my defense help me out.”

Cocalico’s Brandon Eberly then worked the count full, but went down swinging on a ball in the dirt, and Smith threw to first base to seal it for Lititz.

“By far (my best baseball moment),” Martin said of winning the championship. “I just didn’t want my third baseman to come run me over. That’s the first place I looked at.”

*****

Last Friday in the semi-finals, Lititz managed just three hits off of Donegal, but it was enough for Ethan Norman, who pitched six innings to get the decision in the Odd Fellows’ 3-1 win over Garden Spot.

Norman struck out three, walked two and yielded just one run on six hits. He also got a key pickoff of GS star Brock Kauffman on third base in the bottom of the first.

“It was (Ethan’s) game and obviously he kept us in it and defensively we played well behind him,” Weismandel said. “So even when you’re not hitting, like they always say, good pitching and good defense will keep you in any game.”

Nate Hess opened the scoring, working a leadoff walk from Donegal starter Josh Leid in the top of the second, stealing second and third and then scoring an errant pickoff throw.

In the third, Bryce Zimmerman walked with two outs and crossed the plate on a GS error on Tyler Martin’s single to right field, making it 2-0.

“We took advantage of a couple of their mistakes and our guys ran the bases well and we scored just enough runs to get a lead and then hold onto it at the end,” Weismandel said.

They added an insurance run in the fourth, as Evan Clark singled to center and courtesy runner Jake Weachter scored on Reed Martin’s double to left.

Spot got one back in the sixth on Anthony Torreulla’s double and Kyle Martin’s sac fly, but Lititz reliever Hess closed the door in the seventh.

*****

In the LNP quarter-finals last Thursday, Lititz’s Zach Peters threw 108 pitches in a complete-game gem, leading the Odd Fellows in a 6-2 victory over Donegal at Clipper Stadium.

Throwing first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 29 batters he faced, the ace righty struck out five, walked five and surrendered only two runs on three hits.

“Outstanding,” Weismandel said of Peters. “Like I said before, he’s one of the best arms, if not the best arm in the league. He goes out there and throws strikes, he’s really tough on another team and guys played really solid defense behind him.”

Scoreless through two, Josh Weachter got Lititz’s first base hit off of Connor Green in the bottom of the third and scored on Tyler Martin’s RBI single. Peters then helped his own cause with a run-scoring fielder’s choice to make it 2-0.

After Donegal got one back in the top of the fourth, Lititz answered in the bottom half on Ethan Norman’s RBI single to left.

They added two more insurance runs in the fifth, as Nate Hess had an RBI triple and Evan Clark hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 5-1.

Donegal’s Green doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth, but once again, Lititz responded in the home half. Tyler Hess walked with one out and crossed the plate on a wild pitch to complete the scoring.

“The two times that Donegal scored runs, we came back in the bottom half and scored again, and that right there is huge because you take the momentum right away from them again,” Weismandel said.

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