Red-hot Oddfellows claim third title Lititz finishes the season with seven wins in last eight games

By on August 10, 2011

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Rocky Balboa would have been proud of the Lititz Oddfellows team this year.

In the eyes of more than one person, they earned striking comparisons to the star in the award-winning film.

"Coach Jeff High said the other day that this team reminds him of Rocky," Oddfellows skipper Frank Camera said, "and they’re taking on that personality that they’re a bunch of scrappy dirt dogs out there. People hit us with their best shot and then we come back and swing and swing and swing."

That was a case in point last Wednesday, Aug. 3 in the New Era Midget Tournament championship game. In a battle between two of the tournament’s underdogs, 8th-seeded Strasburg/Willow Street Blue delivered a body blow by taking a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. But the 7th-seeded Oddfellows pulled themselves off the deck and responded with a six-run rally in the bottom of the inning, taking a lead they never relinquished on their way to an 11-6 win at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.

For Lititz (10-6-2), it was their third crown in the last six years. The Oddfellows also won the title in the 2006 and 2008 seasons.

"I won a Little League tournament as a 9-year-old, but it’s nothing like this," outfielder/pitcher Rob Gerofsky said. "I’m two years from college. I’ll remember this my whole life. This will be the first thing I remember the next time I win a championship, if I ever do."

Some, in fact, might have questioned whether a championship was in the cards for them this summer. Going into the final two games of the regular season, the Oddfellows still hadn’t clinched a playoff spot.

Bolstered, however, by a hard-hitting offense and a pitcher-by-committee approach, the Oddfellows went on a tear in which they won seven of their last eight games, including a 14-6 victory over SWS Blue in both teams’ regular-season finale. Last Wednesday, it all culminated with Camera getting another water cooler shower on the Clip’s infield grass last Wednesday.

"It never gets old," Camera smiled. "Once was exciting, two I got to take in more, and this one’s got its own special meaning. We’re a team that believed all year. We knew we were a few calls, a few plays away from being at this (game) and we’ve lived by (the words), ‘It ain’t who wins the first game, it’s who wins the last game.’ We played solid, clean ball and we liked to hit. We’ll answer anybody."

Indeed, the Oddfellows pounded out 12 hits off of SWS pitchers Samuel Meck and Kohner Morgan. Braidy Weiler was 2-for-4 with a triple and four RBI’s, Zach Hurt went 2-for-3 and scored three runs, and Ian Hart and Chris Wentzel chipped in with two hits apiece.

"We just gelled together and started hitting and playing defense," Weiler said. "We’ve always been a good-hitting team, but our defense just wasn’t there in the beginning."

SWS also fielded a good-hitting team and they connected for five hits off of Lititz starter Caleb Metzler in the first inning while taking a 3-0 advantage on Collin Miller’s two-run single and Regan Hershey’s Texas League RBI bloop hit into shallow left field.

But the lead didn’t last long. SWS starting pitcher Meck got himself into early trouble by giving up a four-pitch walk to Hurst and hitting Gerofsky with a pitch. One out later, Weiler smashed a two-run triple into the right-center field gap. After Hart was hit by a pitch, Kimmel stroked an RBI double and then Garret High delivered a two-run double down the left field line and scored when Travis Reapsome reached on one of SWS’ three errors.

"They came in here and I told them, ‘Hey, we had to score to win the game anyway, so let’s get it going right now,’" Camera said. "We knew we were going to see Meck tonight because (Brett) Brooksy threw five innings (in the semi-finals) and they couldn’t bring him in. So we were ready for that. To give up three walks in the first inning with the way our bats are, that’s going to kick you in the butt."

Just when the game looked like it was going to be a slugfest, though, Lititz’s Hurst and SWS’ Morgan restored order over the next couple of innings. Blue got one back in the top of the fourth on back-to-back leadoff singles by Jason Lindsley and Anthony Witteman and an RBI groundout by Hershey, but Gerofsky’s RBI double to right-center in the bottom of the inning restored Lititz’s three-run lead, 7-4.

"Finally found my swing," Gerofsky quipped.

SWS, however, found some life in the top of the fifth. Gote led off with a double to right and scored on Andrew Wright’s opposite field RBI single to right. One out later, Miller (2-for-4) had a swinging bunt single and then Wright scored when Lindsley reached on an error, cutting their deficit to one, 7-6. With Blue threatening to erase the Oddfellows’ lead, however, Lititz had an answer. Witteman hit a fly ball to right which Gerofsky caught as Miller tug up from the third base bag. Miller, though, never made it to the plate, as Lititz’s right fielder unleashed a strike to catcher Ian Hart to nail the SWS runner for the final out of the inning.

"They had drawn the throw earlier," Gerofsky said. "It wasn’t as hard a throw the first time, so I guess they thought that was the strongest I could do. I proved them wrong. That’s what you live for as an outfielder — diving catches and throws at home. It’s huge."

It was also huge for Hurst, who ended up getting the win with four solid innings of work. He scattered five hits and yielded three runs before turning it over to Weiler with Lititz protecting a one-run lead.

"(Hurst did the job) two nights in a row and it’s been huge," Camera said. "When we pulled him, he’s a competitor and he didn’t want to come out. It just set up that way. They scored a couple of runs there at the end, but he was doing his job. We had an error, but he was fisting people on little dinks. It was nothing that he did wrong when we pulled him. It was just the game plan to go by committee."

Weiler pitched a scoreless sixth and then he and his teammates tacked on four insurance runs in the bottom of the inning. Reapsome and Alec Rhoads were each hit by a pitch leading off and then Seth Earle had a bunt single to load the bases. Next, Hurst flared an RBI base hit to shallow left field.

But Morgan retired the following two batters and looked to be able to see his way out of the inning. But Weiler, the Oddfellows’ cleanup hitter, had other plans and he roped a 1-1 pitch to center field for a two-run single to stretch Lititz’s cushion 10-6.

"I knew that I had to come through and get a hit to put us ahead by more and give us a big comfortable lead," Weiler said. "It was a fastball, pretty much right down the middle."

Camera added, "Braidy’s a solid hitter and I knew the ball was going to be put in play. That was a huge hit."

After Hart singled to right, Kimmel stroked an RBI base hit to drive in Hurst with the fourth run of the inning, making it 11-6.

"That (rally) was real key, knowing that if I gave up one or two or three runs, we were still fine," Weiler said.

SWS did get its leadoff batter, Andrew Wright, on base with an infield single in the top of the seventh inning. But Weiler got Brooks on a pop out to second baseman Chris Wentzel, then retired Miller and Lindsley on back-to-back fly balls to the outfield to clinch the Oddfellows’ championship.

Weiler acknowledged that playing SWS less than two weeks earlier was a benefit when they faced again in the NET finals.

"I think they had an off game against us the first time," Weiler said. "They weren’t hitting as much. But watching them last night (in the semi-finals), they were hitting real good and hitting good tonight, so we knew we were going up against a good hitting team … We worked so hard at practices day in and day out and it felt great to win." More ODDFELLOWS, page B-4

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