BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – It’s not easily discernible, the way it is in sports like football, basketball or soccer. But there is momentum in the game of baseball.
After the Cedar Crest baseball team enjoyed some early momentum, there was a point during the middle of yesterday’s non-league contest that Palmyra stole it away from the Falcons. That Cedar Crest was ultimately able to wrestle it back was more than a little surprising.
The Falcons’ three-run rally in the top of the eighth inning – on their own home field – lifted them to an 8-5 triumph over Palmyra on Saturday afternoon. Gavin Smith, Nick Gonzalez and Caleb Albright all knocked in Crest runs through free passes, after teammates Kyle Bogdonovich, Austin Douple and Gage Ocker had set the Falcon table.
Thanks to the wildness of Palmyra pitching, Cedar Crest plated its runs with the benefit of only one hit, after Cougar Bobby Dorta had delivered a two-out two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at five, and send it to extra frames. The Falcons would’ve been out of that inning unscathed, if it hadn’t been for two costly errors.
The win was the first of the spring for the Falcons and evened their overall mark at 1-1. Palmyra, which had fallen to Manheim Central a night before, slipped to 0-2 in the early going.
“Kyle Bogdonovich had a big hit for us,” said Cedar Crest head coach Ryan White of the at-bat that sparked the decisive rally. “If we go one, two, three there, I think they do have the momentum. Sometimes seniors are asked to step up and lead the team. Kyle did a great job of that.
“There can be momentum swings in baseball,” continued White. “Today I didn’t think either way was there big momentum swings. The game didn’t flow today. I didn’t think there was a lot of flow to it. It wasn’t a clean game.”
“That was a key hit by a young kid,” said Palmyra head coach Tim Gingrich of Dorta’s tying safety. “We need stuff like that when we’re not scoring runs. And we need to play good defense, which we are.
“When you keep winning games you can create momentum,” Gingrich continued. “And you’ve got momentum swings within games. You had two swings in the matter of 20 minutes. After we scored two runs in the seventh, I thought we’d put it away. But we had other opportunities.”
Up until the seventh, the Cougars’ process of stealing momentum away from Cedar Crest was much more subtle.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cougar Griffin Mitchell’s RBI ground-out pulled his side to within 5-3. And in many ways it was a response to the run Cedar Crest had scored in the top of the frame, via Hunter Wise’s run-scoring double.
“I thought we did a nice job of jumping out early,” said White. “But we can do a better job of keeping up the intensity through the middle part of a game. But I thought we showed character when we got down, coming back and making things happen.”
“I thought we played really good defense,” said Gingrich. “We did get a timely hit, but our pitching needs some work. We threw eight or nine pitchers the last two days, just because we wanted to find out what we’ve got. It was almost like a scrimmage in that way. But it wasn’t.”
Cedar Crest wasted precious little time grabbing momentum by the throat. Albright’s two-run single in the top of the first inning staked the Falcons to a 2-0 lead, and before the frame was through, Crest had tacked on a couple of runs in the form of bases-loaded walks to Douple and Gage Ocker.
“You never want to start 0-2,” said White. “So it was important to get a win under our belts and go into next week. With some more practice, we can clean some things up.
“I like our pitching depth,” added White. “Today you saw three guys (Hunter Torres, Diego Pachecho-McEvoy and winner Matt McCarrick) who I have confidence in. We’re got six guys (pitchers) who can get guys out. The hitting is going to come around later.”
“Heck no, I’m not worried,” said Gingrich. “Not this early. I’m still trying to figure out who goes where.
“We’re young,” Gingrich added. “We have four seniors. That’s it. And it’s showing a little bit. But that’s OK. As long as we keep getting better, I’m OK.”
Not unlike the Falcons, the Cougars’ first three batters in the bottom of the first inning reached base, ahead of Evan Halloway drawing a bases-filled walk. Then Palmyra sliced Cedar Crest’s lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the second, thanks to an unearned run that resulted from a pair of CC errors.
“I like it because they’re (the Cougars) in the County and because a lot of the kids play against each other over the summer,” said White. “It’s always a battle with them. Palmyra’s always a good team.
“It showed that they (the Cougars) didn’t give up,” continued White. “They came back in the seventh. The middle of their lineup is doing well. (Shortstop) Zach Miller’s their leader, and they always know what they’re doing.”
“It’s been the last ten years we started playing them (the Falcons), or even more,” said Gingrich. “It’s a good crosstown rivalry. I always like playing Lebanon County teams. It’s always good. It’s always competitive. It’s a good way to measure yourself.
“They’ve (the Falcons) got a couple of good hitters,” Gingrich continued. “They have a good lefty (Torres), and a good righty (Conor Baewic). They’re well-coached. It’s a good bunch of guys. I like playing them.”
Because of unplayable field conditions, the contest was moved from Palmyra to South Lebanon. Even though it was played on the Falcons’ field, the Cougars were considered the home team.
“Our goal is to just improve everyday, and at the end of the season, see where you are,” said White. “Everybody wants titles and championships. But sometimes it’s about how you’re playing at the end of the season.
“I’d like to see our offensive approach improve, and our in-game adjustments,” added White. “Those are the things I talk to the guys a lot about.”
“Over the first ten games, I want to see some improvement,” said Gingrich. “And then we want to get on a little winning streak at the end of the year.”