The tension, like the still, humid air at Mount Joy's Kunkle Field on Wednesday night, was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Taken to the limit, and beyond, by the Lancaster Jr. Tornados, the top-seeded Mountville Angels rallied for a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the opening game of the LNP Junior-Midget Tournament, 4-3.
Brandon Wingenroth, who gave the Angels (34-1) a brief 3-2 lead in sixth inning, battled back from an 0-2 hole to single into right, driving home Cam Berger from second with the game-winner.
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"I was just trying to hit a line drive. Put it in play and see what happens," said the busy Wingenroth, who finished the evening 3 for 4 with a run scored while appearing at third base, second and center field. "I wasn't trying to pull it out."
"He's been doing it all year," said assistant coach Chad Constein, designated as spokesman for coach Richard Glenn. “He's an incredible hitter."
Wingenroth's hit made a winner of Devin Atkinson, who started the game at shortstop and came in behind Gage Graupensberger with an inning and two-thirds of one-hit relief.
With the victory, the Angels earned a date back at Kunkle Thursday night with the Manheim Lions, who picked up a 5-2 win over the second-seeded Manheim Township Blue Streaks in Wednesday’s late nightcap.
The Streaks and Jr. Tornados will play an elimination game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, with the Angels-Lions tilt to follow 20 minutes after the conclusion of the opener.
Christian LaBarbera got the start for the Angels, and, with pitch counts a factor, bought himself innings at the back end with a five-pitch first, followed by 11 in the second and nine in the third.
"He was only able to get two of his four pitches across the plate consistently," Constein said. "But when the game’s on the line, you want him in there."
With a 1-0 lead on his first-inning fielder's choice RBI, LaBarbera ran into trouble in the fourth when the Angels’ Alex Vine walked with one out.
Dinzy Feliz-Cruzado stroked a towering, two-run home run out of Kunkle's forgiving right field geography, giving the Jr. Tornados (14-13-1) the 2-1 lead.
They had an opportunity to expand that advantage the next inning, loading the bases on a single, fielder's choice and two errors, bringing Feliz-Cruzado to the plate.
He jumped at LaBarbera's first offering, skying to Graupensberger in short center field, and LaBarbera got Xavian Padilla on strikes to end the threat.
The Angels tied the game in the fifth as Tanner Pobursky smoked an RBI single off the batter's eye in center, then took the lead once more in the sixth on Wingenroth's hit.
Graupensberger relieved LaBarbera to begin the seventh and immediately ran into one-out trouble on three straight base hits. Atkinson came on to face Feliz-Cruzado and fed him a steady diet of curveballs, running the count to 3 and 2 before Feliz-Cruzado sent a fastball deep to center for a sacrifice fly RBI.
With runners at first and third, Atkinson got Padilla to hit into an inning-ending double play, one of three turned by the Angels.
Mountville could do little with reliever Argenis De Los Santos in the seventh. But De Los Santos walked two in the eighth, sandwiched around a ground out and a force, bringing destiny to Wingenroth one more time.