PLEASANTVILLE — New Bethlehem’s first year as a member of Little League’s District 25 is one win away from yielding a title.
Monday against Titusville in the winners’ bracket final, New Bethlehem’s Junior Little League (13-14-year-olds) rode the combined two-hit effort of pitchers Cam Wagner and Tate Minich to a 6-1 win.
That puts New Bethlehem as the only unbeaten team in the four-team double-elimination tournament. Also Monday, Oil City eliminated Knox-Rimersburg-Emlenton (KRE) in a 10-9 game and Oil City was scheduled to face Titusville Tuesday night.
That winner has to beat New Bethlehem twice. Wednesday at Redbank Valley Municipal Park, New Bethlehem faces Tuesday’s winner. The “if necessary” game is scheduled for Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
However, Tuesday night District 25 announced that Wednesday's game will be played at Oil City due to the RBV Municipal Park's conditions not meeting Little League standards. New Bethlehem manager Alan Clouse indicated the news after hearing from the district.
The D25 champion earns a trip to the Section 1 Tournament hosted by the French Creek Valley Mid-East Little League in Guys Mills starting next Tuesday and running through next Friday, July 19.
It’ll be a four-team double-elimination setup as per past years at sectionals. Districts 1 (Southern Erie County, Crawford County) 3 (Erie County), and 10 (traditional PIAA District 9 area minus Clarion County) make up the bracket.
District 10 will be either DuBois or Punxsutawney, District 1 will be Tri-Boro or Meadville/Mid-East/Cochranton, and District 3 is either Harborcreek or Corry.
Last Saturday, New Bethlehem opened the tournament with a 12-2 win in six innings against Oil City. Manager Alan Clouse was able to take Wagner out early enough to keep him eligible for Monday’s Titusville game.
His decision worked exactly to plan as Wagner gave up two hits over five innings, striking out seven and walking three. Minich closed things out with two hitless innings of relief, striking out four and walking just one on 29 pitches. He’d be available in Wednesday’s final.
“We showed up and put it to them,” Clouse said. “The second inning set the tone.”
New Bethlehem, the visiting team via the coin flip, put up four runs in the second inning. Half of its eight hits came in the inning. Minich led off with a single. Mason Clouse followed with another single and Cole Lufsey singled in Minich for the first run. Colton Shick doubled in Clouse and with runners on first and third, a run came home when Ashton Kahle reached on an error. Peyton Rearick’s forceout grounder got Shick home from third to put Newbie up 4-0.
In the fifth, Minich walked with one out and came around to score on a wild pitch. In the sixth, Tyler Hetrick walked with one out, was doubled to third by Minich and scored on a wild pitch.
Minich finished with three hits, including his double and two runs scored. Rearick and Hetrick added singles to Newbie’s eight-hit performance.
Titusville’s lone run came in the third inning with a walk and error producing a run. New Bethlehem came up with a couple key defensive plays, including the third inning when Shick, backing up an errant throw in left field, threw out a runner trying to score.
In the fifth inning after an error allowed Titusville to get the leadoff batter on base, Newbie turned a double play to end any hopes of a late rally by the home team.
In last Saturday’s game:
SATURDAY, July 6
New Bethlehem 12,
Oil City 2
Also at Redbank Valley Muncipal Park, New Bethlehem needed six innings for a 10-Run Rule win over visiting Oil City. It scored the game-ending run with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning when Peyton Rearick’s infield single scored Brandon Ross from third.
New Bethlehem spread out its pitching between Cam Wagner, Mathew Kozma and Tate Minich, keeping Wagner and Minich for the Titusville game.
Wagner went the first 2 1/3 innings with Kozma going three innings, getting the final two outs of the third and the first out of the sixth before Minich struck out the only two batters he faced in the top of the sixth inning.
Combined, the trio allowed three hits while striking out 10 and walking three.
“We showed up and wanted to play defense. That was the biggest thing,” New Bethlehem manager Alan Clouse said. “We felt if we didn’t make errors, we’d win the game.”
At the plate, Newbie scored in all but one at-bat. Minich singled in a run and Cole Lufsey delivered a two-out, two-run single in a three-run third inning. Owen Clouse scored from third on Wagner’s popout to first base in shallow right field in Newbie’s two-run second.
In the third, two outfield errors on missed catches gave Newbie a run. In the fifth, Ashton Kahle singled, Minich doubled and Wagner ripped a triple in a decisive five-run rally.
After Minich’s double, Wagner ripped a triple to left field that drove in Tyler Hetrick and Minich. Wagner also raced home on an errant cutoff throw.
In the sixth, Ross reached on an error, went to third on two wild pitches, then scored on Rearick’s infield single that ended the night.
Newbie had nine hits in all with Minich the only one with more than one, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Owen Clouse scored three runs, reaching base in all four plate appearances with a single.
“For having a couple of weeks off, I thought we came out and hit the ball well,” Coach Clouse said. “To score 12 runs and win by the 10-Run Rule, you can’t beat that.”
Despite the rainy conditions in the area Saturday, the game did start on time.