VFW falls short in LNP finals

By on July 27, 2016
Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Township wins title with 7-0 victory

The Lititz VFW 14-and-under baseball team was seeking revenge against Manheim Township Monday night at Kunkle Field in Mount Joy in the 71st LNP (former New Era) Tournament. The Blue Streaks had narrowly beaten Lititz last week 3-2 in the opening game on the same diamond.

The wind, the lightning and the rain sent both teams home. When the two clubs returned Tuesday, Township’s pitching put a clamp on the VFW bats, while one bat in particular unleashed the lumber in a 7-0 Blue Streaks championship.

Township catcher Bryce Behmer blasted a solo home run over the left field scoreboard for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Streaks’ lefty Conner Vucovich posted zeros for the first three innings, using up 49 pitches. Then, in the decisive bottom of the third, Behmer again faced Lititz starter Collin Beech, this time with the bases loaded.

In an almost Deja vu moment, the ball sailed over the left field fence for a grand slam and a 5-0 lead, all five RBI’s off the bat of Behmer. The Streaks tacked on two more runs in the inning for the final scoring of the game.

“Certainly Behmer had a great night and solidified their offense for them,” said Lititz Coach Todd Shertzer. “We faced Vucovich four times this year. We beat him twice, and lost to him twice (both in the LNP).”

VFW was the number one seed coming into the tournament with a 17-1 league mark and wound up with an overall 36-5 record, including tournament play.

“You can’t let a loss at the end diminish what the team has done,” added Shertzer. “We had a lot of new kids in the fold, and a lot of personalities to jell.”

“We came in as a hot team,” described Shertzer. “Tonight, we just couldn’t close the deal.”

Lititz advanced to the LNP championship series with a narrow 6-5 win over number two seed and defending champion Mountville last Friday night at Kunkle Field.

The Angels took an initial lead in the top of the first when catcher Cole Houser cracked the first of his two home runs in the game for a 1-0 lead. VFW answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. That lead would never be eclipsed, but it would certainly be challenged.

Lititz expanded the advantage to 4-1 in the bottom of the third but felt the pressure again in the bottom of the fifth when Houser’s two-run blast narrowed the lead to 4-3.

If responding to your opponent’s success is a critical trait, then VFW captured the game on that element, plating two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. There was one additional nervous moment in the top of the sixth as Mountville scored twice to finish the game’s scoring.

Lititz reliever Colin Brubaker pitched a 1-2-3 shutout in the seventh to close out the victory. Eight VFW players collected hits in a true team effort offensively, two of which were home runs by Colin Beech and Zach Shertzer.

Last Thursday, Jackson Davies yielded just three over 6 1/3 innings and John Seibert went 3-for-3 with an RBI, as the Lititz VFW shut out the Manheim Lions 3-0 at Kunkle Field.

Mixing a nasty curve with a fastball and change-up, the left-handed throwing Davies kept Manheim’s batters off-balance while striking out seven and walking three on 97 pitches.

“I said to JD before the game, ‘All joking aside, give me 95 tonight.’ And what did he do? He gave me 95 tonight. He couldn’t have pitched a better game,” Lititz skipper Todd Shertzer said, “just keeping it around the strike zone, (keeping Manheim) off-balance with a really good curve ball, and he gave us a chance by keeping some of the big hitters off the bases when the big guys came up so we didn’t have to worry about the two or three-run homer that this field can certainly give up.”

Behind Davies, the Lititz VFW (37-6) shined on defense. Shortstop Evan Rohrbach, second baseman Zach Shertzer, catcher John Seibert and center fielder Josh Farina all made standout plays, and Farina’s diving grab in the top of the seventh inning helped to close the door on Manheim.

“(Josh) has been solid all year for us,” Shertzer said. “We still have interchangeable parts, as any team does, but the guys really defined themselves early in the season as center fielders, right fielders, shortstops and things of that nature. So it’s been a great team to coach. I’ve been very fortunate.”

Lititz put its leadoff batter on base in the first three innings, and it took a 1-0 lead off of Manheim pitcher Nolan Weaver in the bottom of the second. Rohrbach doubled to center and later scored when Cameron Hess bounced into a double play.

Weaver went the distance for the Lions (17-7), yielding three runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out one. He finished with 78 pitches.

Farina (2-for-3), who had a bunt single in the first, led off the third with a base hit to right and scored on Seibert’s RBI single to left-center.

“We wanted to get Farina off to a good start,” Shertzer said. “He had a tough night (Wednesday) and he had a real nice drag bunt to start off. We wanted to create some positive energy for him, which was great. Then Evan led off the next inning with a double, so anytime you get that leadoff batter on and making something happen … we didn’t get the big hit, but we got some timely hitting, so it was a better start.”

Manheim put two batters on base in just one inning, as Weaver reached on an error and Colton Book singled to left in the top of the second. But Davies retired the next two batters on a strikeout and ground out to end the threat.

Lititz completed the scoring in the bottom of the sixth. Rohrbach reached on a fielder’s choice, Colin Brubaker singled to left with two outs and Rohrbach circled the bases on a fielding error.

“We just told them as coaches, ‘Hey, our defense is playing spectacular, and oh by the way, you got two incredible starts from two young men (Collin Beech and Davies) that went out there and gave it all. Now we’re ready to go. Let’s get the offense going.”

Last Wednesday, July 20, fourth-seeded Manheim Township took a 3-0 first-inning lead and held on to defeat Lititz 3-2 at Kunkle Field.

At the scoring occurred in the first inning, as Kyle Donton smacked a three-run homer in the top of the first, and then Beech answered with a two-run shot to center field in the home half of the frame.

Township pitcher Connor Vucovich yielded two free passes in the second, and the VFW had four men on base in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize, managing just one of their three hits after the first inning. Vucovich went 5 2/3 innings for the win, striking out 11 and walking three.

Beech suffered the loss, surrendering eight hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings, while walking three and striking out seven. Davies and Rohrbach finished the game out of the bullpen.

In other action on Wednesday, the Manheim Lions suffered a 12-2 mercy-rule loss to the defending champion Mountville Angels.

Jake Harbach collected the Lions’ only hit off of Angels’ winning pitcher Jayden Ruby, a second-inning solo blast. Ruby K’d seven and walked two.

Hunt helped his own cause with a home run and four RBI’s, while Cole Houser slugged two of Mountville’s four homers in the game.

Hunter Hess started and took the loss for Manheim, yielding five runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks, while striking out three.

 

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