Fans of the Daily Racing Form know that past performance is one of the keys to picking a winner.
In the history of the LNP Tournament’s Midget division, over the last seven years, the Lititz Oddfellows won championships in odd numbered years, falling in the final in even years.
And while that bit of trivia did not necessarily bode well for the defending LNP champions, their opponent, the SWS Pioneers had a checkered finals history, as well.
In nine trips to the championship game, SWS had won once, in 2014.
So it was no small wonder that, through five scoreless innings Friday evening at Millersville’s Cooper Stadium, it looked like the ultimate winner would be the rain that threatened to arrive at any moment.
“It’s funny you say that,” said SWS coach Scott Eckman, able to find the humor after the Pioneers (18-3) nailed down the 73rd LNP championship with a 5-0 victory. “We’ve been on the doorstep. 12U we made it to Kunkle. 14U we were knocking on the door, and last year we came in second. It’s our last hurrah.”
Rising sophomore Braedon Karpathios, who passed on playing 14U to play lacrosse, capped a successful 17U debut, pitching a three-hit shutout in a game that was curtailed in the top of the seventh inning by the second of two storms to pass through Millersville.
Pitching backwards — throwing curveballs in fastball situations and vice versa — Karpathios had the Oddfellows (25-1-1) off-balance all evening.
“He was just working everything ‘downhill’, finding the zone,” said catcher Tom Shockey. “He was able to keep unpredictable.”
It didn’t seem so at first, as Lititz leadoff batter Josh Farina tripled to the right-field corner to start the game.
“There’s no need to panic in that situation,” said Shockey.
Farina was still there three outs later as Karpathios got a foul out, a strikeout and a ground out.
“He was able to stay calm, get the outs,” Shockey added.
“I just kept my composure,” Karpathios shared.
“It’s certainly not the way you want to start a game,” said Oddfellows coach Bill Weismandel.
Karpathios and Lititz starter Jackson Davies matched zeroes, with Collin Beech coming on for Davies to start the fourth inning.
When Beech walked Shockey leading off the fifth, Colin Brubaker was called on for relief.
Courtesy runner Doug Schneider took Shockey’s place on the basepath, taking second on Dylan Byler’s one-out single.
With two out, Hunter Cunningham singled to left and, from the third base coaches box, Eckman windmilled Schneider home.
Farina fielded the ball cleanly and fired a strike to catcher Zach Shertzer for the third out.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Eckman said, “and I’d send him again if the ball was hit out there.”
Undeterred, SWS went back at it in the sixth inning.
“We’re thinking we’re five innings through, we’ve got to start sometime,” Shockey said, “so why not now?”
Nevin Book walked with one out and, with two out, Taso Kovak was intentionally walked, bringing Shockey to the plate.
“I hadn’t been hitting well the first two games,” said Shockey, who was 0-for-5 before singling in the fifth. “I could just feel it. It was my time.”
Shockey singled to left, scoring Book with the first run of the game, but Lititz could see its way out as Aaron Snyder grounded to short.
Brendan Martin’s toss to Colby Martin to force Schneider was short of the bag and dropped. Kovak scored, and the floodgates opened.
Byler sliced an RBI single into right field and Connor Blantz doubled to center scoring two.
“We had the one critical mistake,” said Weismandel. “That opened up the floodgates.”
Then the heavens opened, causing a 19-minute rain delay.
When rain returned 20 minutes after play resumed, with no lights and dark rapidly approaching, the decision was made to call the game.