Different outcome Manheim Twp. finds new direction, tops McCaskey
BY ED GRUVER, Sports Writer
It was the kind of game Manheim Township's baseball team would have lost a year ago.
And the Blue Streaks did drop a similar encounter last season to L-L Section One neighbor McCaskey -- on April 28, to be exact -- when the Red Tornado rallied from a 12-7 deficit to win, 13-12.
Monday's league opener seemed to offer the same script. Amid sunny but cold, wind-swept conditions at Township, McCaskey overturned an early 4-1 Blue Streak advantage and led 6-5 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
"Dan (Vucovich) and I looked at each other and we said, 'We're not going to do that again this year,' " starting pitcher Jordan Draude said of the mid-inning meeting with his batterymate.
The Streaks (4-0 overall) batted around, sending 15 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and rallying for 11 runs to invoke the 10-run rule in a 16-6 final.
"I just think we have a team that is very strong offensively," Township coach Bill Sassaman said. "We're never out of a game."
The victory was particularly meaningful for Draude (3-0). He took the loss in relief against McCaskey in that April 28 game, and remembered striking out in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded to end the game.
"I've been thinking about that for a year," Draude admitted. "This was a big one for me.
"Redemption," he added, "is nice."
Two more elements add layers to Draude's story. First, he's a catcher by trade -- Arcadia University has recruited him as such -- and only switched to pitching a year ago to help bolster a thin mound staff.
Second, he pulled a hamstring Monday running out a double play in the second inning, and amid football playoff-like conditions that kept muscles stiff rather than loose, pitched and played through it.
Despite a noticeable stiffness on the mound in the latter innings, Draude went the distance. He made the necessary adjustments to deal with 30-mph gusts that made the 43-degrees temperature at game time seem much colder and turned every fly ball into an adventure.
The senior right-hander said he wasn't bothered so much by Monday's cold because he's pitched in worse -- "It was 28 degrees in Exeter in our first game this year," he noted -- and he kept his pitches down to induce ground balls.
He helped himself by going 2 for 3 at the plate with a walk, a double, single and two RBIs.
Leadoff hitter Ian Eriksson proved a most able table-setter, going 3 for 4 with a walk, two hits, two RBIs and a game-high three runs scored. Gavin O'Donnell and Sean Hennessy tied for the team lead with three RBIs each and Jason Clifford drove in two.
Lazaro Duvergel led McCaskey (2-1) with two hits, two RBIs and a run scored. Duvergel and Miguel Torres bombed first-inning triples. Rodney Rodriguez and Steve Wilson each added an RBI.
Jonathon Diaz took the loss in relief of southpaw starter James Hartman.
The Tornado committed six errors, four in the decisive fifth inning.
"We beat ourselves mentally," McCaskey coach Dave Hinnenkamp said. "We had a lack of focus.
"We'll look at the good, look at the bad, and we'll make adjustments."
Expect the Tornado to be heard from this season, Draude said.
"They're fast and they can hit," he said. "They're not at the bottom of the L-L League anymore. They come to play."
As does Township.
"I told the kids, 'This is 2013. Different year, different team,' " Sassaman said.
One year removed from a freefall into the Section One cellar, the Blue Streaks appear to be blue chip once more.
On other fronts, Monday's opening-day schedule offered something unique: Four matchups of reigning section champions versus their respective runner-up. Three of the four games were decided in the seventh inning.
In Section One:
Hempfield 12, Cedar Crest 3: Winning pitcher Camden Hess struck out eight and the Black Knights blew open a tight game with an eight-run seventh.
In Section Two:
Solanco 10, Ephrata 7: Trailing 7-6 entering the seventh, the Golden Mules scored four runs. Zack Leonard got the win in relief.
In Section Three:
Lampeter-Strasburg 11, Northern Lebanon 6: Tied at 6 entering the seventh, the Pioneers plated five runs in their final at-bat. Reliever Kohner Morgan earned the victory.
In Section Four:
Pequea Valley 1, Lancaster Catholic 0: Michael Stoltzfus went the distance for the win in a pitchers' duel decided by the Braves' fourth-inning score.