By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
NEW BERLIN -- Every Little League All-Star team from the area is going to deal with nerves and jitters when it plays for the first time in the District 13 Tournament.
The Selinsgrove Junior Division All-Stars were no different Sunday, as they committed four errors against Berwick in their opening-round game.
Despite its miscues Selinsgrove repeatedly turned a negative into a positive, and after putting two runs on the board in the first inning the Snyder County All-Stars came away with a 6-0 victory at the New Berlin Legion Field.
Selinsgrove next plays the Milton-Juniata winner Thursday at 5 p.m.
"It feels really good (to open with a win over Berwick). Our kids hit well," said Selinsgrove manager Rodney Kantz.
Although Selinsgrove didn't showcase its hitting prowess until late in the game, the team scored two runs in the first on a double to right by Noah Hendricks.
The two runs followed a shaky top of the first for Selinsgrove starting pitcher Aaron Zechman, who issued a pair of walks and also made an error as Berwick loaded the bases. Zechman, though, struck out the side to get out of trouble.
"We got two runs in the first, but then the (offense) wasn't there so much in the middle innings," said Kantz. "Aaron pitched a heck of a game. He had 11 strikeouts and he was the workhorse. He settled down real nice (after the first), and he got into a real good groove. Once he got into that groove he was able to throw his pitches."
Through the first four innings Selinsgrove scored only those two runs and had just three hits total, so the team needed Zechman's pitching and the defense behind him to step up.
The defense turned a double play the hard way in the second inning after an error put Berwick leadoff batter Luke Fisher on base. Fisher tried to advance to third when Matt Champ grounded out to short. Selinsgrove shortstop Kyle Mertz didn't have time to get Fisher out at second, but he made a throw to first baseman Cross Kantz to get Champ. Kantz then alertly fired the ball across to third and Hendricks was able to put the tag on Fisher and complete the double play.
Three innings later Selinsgrove took a commanding 6-0 lead behind an RBI single by Hendricks and a two-run single from Jayden Geiswite. Connor Lytle brought another run home when he hit into a fielder's choice.
"Hendricks had a real big at-bat (in the first), and he's a very good kid and he comes through all of the time," said manager Kantz. "The whole lineup -- all 13 players -- did their job. It takes a team effort.
"(The four-run fifth) gave us a big boost. We were questioning on whether or not to pull (Zechman) so he could be ready to pitch on Thursday if we won this game, but we decided to leave him out there because we needed to win this first game."
Zechman eventually was taken out after the fifth, and Mertz took over. Mertz quickly got into trouble in the sixth when an error and two walks helped Berwick fill the bases. The runners were stranded following a Mertz strikeout of Denver Knorr for the final out.
Another error helped get Berwick going in the seventh, but the beneficiary of the error, Cullen Mensinger, was thrown out at third following a double by Austin Horsefield. The double didn't matter as Mertz struck out ensuing batter Will Morey to end the contest.
"It was our first game, and we had our first-game jitters," said manager Kantz. "You get some more reps in the field and you come and play Thursday. The kids are ready to play."