If you didn't get to see any of the Bob Reigle Memorial Tournament last weekend, you missed some of the best baseball of the Mifflin County Babe Ruth season. Belltown, the lowest seed in the tournament, upset second-seeded Beaver Springs to open the tournament.
The last game featured Lewistown, the league champion, scoring in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Reedsville, 11-10. And that was not the only time that the West had to score in the bottom of the seventh to win a game as it had to do the same against Yeagertown in the semi-finals.
Here is a look back at the 2012 season:
Beaver Springs (21-6, 21-7 overall)
The Springs were predicated to finish second in the league and that is where they landed. Beaver Springs played two nine inning games within days of each other winning one against Reedsville 6-3 and losing to Milroy 10-9. At one point in the season, the Springs had a 15-2 record. But a lapse in mid-June cost it the title as it went 2-4 in a six-game stretch. Beaver Springs had the top offensive lineup, but its fielding and depth in pitching hurt it throughout the year. Manager Scott Wright won his 100th game late in the season.
Talk about streak stoppers. In 1965, Belleville beat Burnham Green, 2-1, and put an end to a 44-game winning streak. Then 47 years later, Belleville put an end to another long winning streak, this time by Lewistown of 47 games. And by the same score, 2-1.
If the league gave out a 'Manager of the Year Award,' Belleville's Bill Corbin would win it hands down. Belleville was the only team in the league that had no returning All-Stars from the 2011 season. Not only did Belleville finish fourth, it won 16 games despite a defense that sometimes resembled a ride at an amusement park. When the ball left the bat, it was in for a lot of twists and turns and nobody knew where it might end up.
Belltown (4-23, 5-24)
Talk about a team having bad luck. For the second straight year Belltown saw its starting catcher go down with an injury. Pitching might be the most important position in Babe Ruth baseball, but catching isn't far behind. Just ask Butch Bender, the Belltown manager. Belltown got off to a hot start winning its first two games and scoring 32 runs. But it went on two long losing streaks of seven and 16 games later in the season. One thing that Belltown can look forward to in 2013 is that it loses only two players.
Not many times do you go to a Babe Ruth game and get to see an NFL-type highlight. But on May 20, Burnham's Jack Packer went airborne as he scored over the Belltown catcher, Levi Sherwood, and landed on the plate. Packer also threw a no-hitter that day in a 5-2 win. However, the highlights for Burnham and manager Tom Heller were far and few between. Late in the season, it did give third place Reedsville a scare as it just missed winning, 10-9 and 9-8. And Reedsville had to score in the seventh inning of both games to win.
Lewistown (26-1, 28-1)
For the West, it was their fifth straight title and as Bernie Howard, the manager, likes to point out, it was the defense that put them over the top in 2012. It wasn't until the last game in the Bob Reigle tournament that a team scored in double figures against Lewistown. The West turned 14 double plays in the infield during the 29-game season. Lewistown gave up just 96 runs for an average of 3.3 runs per game. The key to the West's defense: Once an error is made, don't throw the ball away.
McVeytown (7-20, 7-21)
When McVeytown was 0-16, the assistant coach, Ryan Rupert, said to me as we watched a rain storm pass by the McVeytown field, "We are going to win seven games."
I thought, how optimistic? Well, I was wrong and Rupert was right as McVeytown turned its season around by winning seven of its last 12 games. First-year manager Justin Yoder inherited a team with a lot of 15-year-olds that were inexperienced. But, with a lot of work, he watched his team develop into a solid ball club by the end of June.
Milroy (14-13, 14-14)
Milroy has played a lot of games over the years (it joined the league in 1958), but on a hot, Saturday afternoon in early June, it had an effort that was one of its finest. It went into Beaver Springs (15-2) at the time with just nine players and won in extra-innings (nine), 10-9. At that point in the season, Milroy was 11-10. It was down early and came all the way back. Ted Rhoades, the Milroy manager, was smiling all the way home.
Reedsville (19-8, 21-9)
Reedsville was predicted to finish third and it did with a 19-8 record. But it just couldn't beat the two teams ahead of them in the standings, Lewistown and Beaver Springs. That frustrated long-time manager Scott Reigle.
However, in the last game of the Bob Reigle tournament it battled Lewistown right to the end, falling 12-11. Reedsville took the lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but just couldn't stop the West. It was one of the best efforts that Reedsville had all year. In that game, it had timely hitting, good pitching and the attitude of never giving up. Over a 20-day period in May, it put together one of the longest winning streaks of the year, nine games.
Strodes Mills (11-16)
After the first six games of the season, Strodes Mills was 5-1, and tied for second place. Then it went into a seven-game losing streak and it took until June 6 to get things back on the winning path. The Mills' boys finished with a flurry by winning five of its last nine games and it made life miserable for second place Beaver Springs by beating it twice in its late season pennant drive. Manager Butch Larson only loses four players, so 2013 could mean more wins for Strodes Mills.
Yeagertown (11-15, 12-16)
Fred Zook, the manager at Yeagertown, must be counting the days until next season. Zook's team finished sixth and had a big win over one of the top teams (Reedsville, 9-2, on June 6). Zook only had three 15-year-olds on his team and four of his top five pitchers return. All three of his 15-year-olds were starters, but he has a strong nucleus of players returning that could make 2013 a year to remember.