Phillies take the driver’s seat in LNP 12U qualifying series

By on June 27, 2018

Daniel Artale (fourth from left) is congratulated by his Warwick Phillies’ teammates at home plate after slugging a two-run first-inning home run against Solanco Black. (Photo by Missi Mortimer)

Josh Zimmerman’s curve ball is still in the developmental stages.

“It’s not that good right now,” the 12U Warwick Phillies’ right-hander said, “but I’m working on it.”

His fastball, however?

That was plenty good as the No. 2-seeded Phils opened up their best-of-three LNP qualifying series against 7th-seeded Solanco Black Tuesday in Lititz.

Reaching back and throwing heat, all Zimmerman did was limit Solanco to just one hit, while striking out eight in five shutout innings, helping the Phillies cruise to a 7-0 game-one victory.

Afterward, Zimmerman was modest while talking about his masterpiece.

“The defense worked pretty hard today,” he said. “(Solanco) put the ball in play and our defense did all the work. Daniel (Artale) had a couple hits, our team had a lot of hits and we got some runs.”

The Phillies (21-9-2) will try to keep all phases of their game clicking next Monday, July 2 when they head to Quarryville for game two of the series. A win for Warwick will punch their ticket to the LNP Midget-Midget’s Final Four, set to get underway Monday, July 9 at Mt. Joy’s Kunkle Field. If necessary, a decisive third game against Solanco would be played Thursday, July 5 in Lititz.

In the meantime, Warwick enjoy being up 1-0, instead of trailing by a game and being forced to win two straight, as they did a year ago in the qualifier.

“It’s huge for these guys, it takes a little pressure off,” Phillies’ skipper Matt Burr said. “But our motto this year is one game at a time, one play at a time. So for us, win or lose today, we just keep taking the next game one day at a time. So it’s nice.”

The Phillies took a little pressure off themselves by putting together a three-run rally in the bottom of the first inning off of Solanco starter Austin Wenger.

Cody Lutz was hit by a pitch leading off and scored on Trevor Evans’ (2-for-3, 2 runs, 3 RBIs) double to right field. It was the first of Lutz’s two runs scored in the ball game.

One out later, Artale (2-for-2, BB, 3 RBIs) got a fastball he liked and smashed a two-run homer over the fence in left field, making it 3-0.

“I thought I made solid contact,” Artale said, “and I was really glad it went over the fence.”

Warwick Phillies’ pitcher Josh Zimmerman mows down the Solanco Black lineup while throwing five shutout innings in Tuesday’s 7-0 win. (Photo by Missi Mortimer)

The Phillies’ No. 5 batter in the lineup was confident that it was gone when the ball left his bat.

“I was glad that there were runners on base so that my team could get a lead,” Artale said.

That lead was plenty for Zimmerman.

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Solanco put a runner at third &tstr; after Dillon Dean reached on an error &tstr; but Zimmerman K’d the next two batters to end the threat.

Then in the third, Solanco leadoff batter Riley Ford got on board on a fielder’s choice and found himself on third with one out. Once again, though, Zimmerman took care of business, retiring Braden Herr and Wenger on strikes to keep them scoreless.

“He’s got some velocity and he likes to pound the zone,” Burr said. “He’s got a second pitch, but he doesn’t have to use it often. He threw well. We haven’t always used him as a starter, but in today’s role, (Josh) did well.”

Zimmerman is one of five hurlers whose innings pitched this year are nearly identical. In all, though, nine of the Phillies’ 12 players have all pitched.

“We definitely have our group of starters, but to be honest, each pitcher has his own strengths and weaknesses,” Burr said. “I think I have five number ones, essentially, is how I like to think about it. Each guys has his own strengths, but for Josh, he’s more of a power pitcher.”

The Phillies’ offense, featuring eight players batting over .300, showed some power of its own, tacking on three more runs with two outs in the bottom of the second inning off of Wenger.

Lutz singled, Sawyer Martin reached on a fielding error, then both runners advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Evans’ Texas League two-run single to right field.

After Ethan Zipko got on base on a fielding error, Artale ripped an RBI double to left field, driving in Evans for a 6-0 Phillies’ lead.

“The beauty of this team, like all 12 guys,” Burr said, “this is probably the most power I’ve had on a team. From top to bottom, every guy has potential. We’ve got plenty of guys that have power &tstr; surprising power sometimes. It’s fun to see kids succeed and do that.”

The Phillies scored their final run in the bottom of the third. Tyler Marley stroked a double to center field and then courtesy runner Caleb Johnsen scored when Carter Horst doubled just inches inside the left field line. It was one of five extra-base hits in the ball game from the Phillies’ lineup.

“It’s really nice,” Burr said, “in regards to, it’s not like, ‘Oh, this one guy has to do it for us.’ There’s a lot of guys that can (deliver offense).”

From there, Zimmerman retired six of the final seven batters he faced before handing the ball over to Zipko, who came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless sixth inning to put it in the books.

“We’re pleased,” Burr said. “Our MO this year has been to pitch to contact, play clean defense, and put some runs up. Runs obviously take the pressure off your defense and your pitching, and that’s what we did today.”

The Phillies, though, know their job isn’t done. Just as they have done all season, they will continue to take it one game and one play at a time.

“Practice Thursday and go back to work Monday,” Zimmerman said.

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