BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS BY JEFF PITTENGER
SOUTH LEBANON – Pre-, regular and post.
For one glorious moment on an absoultely stunning opening day, all three components of the 2012 spring season aligned perfectly for the Cedar Crest baseball team.
On Friday afternoon, with an eye on the distant future, the Falcons put their preseason behind them and opened the regular season with a 10-0, five-inning victory over Northern Lebanon. Back-to-back five-run rallies in the third and fourth innings made it an auspicious beginning for a Cedar Crest club that has high expectations this year.
The triumph was accentuated by the fact that Cedar Crest surrendered but one lone safety to the Vikes and that its pitching recorded two-thirds of its 15 outs via the strike out. Meanwhile, six different CC hitters drove home runs.
The Falcons are coming off a 2011 campaign during which they went 19-4 and won the Lancaster-Lebanon League and the circuit’s Section One titles. Always competitive in Section Three of the L-L, Northern Lebanon is in search of the right mix.
“The goal is always to go 1-0,” said Cedar Crest boss Chris Groff. “Past that, we want to get to the post-season. We want to take championships as they come.
“Whether it was 80 degrees or 40 degrees, having the veteran guys we have, they had to get to the first game,” Groff continued. “They just needed to get to today. I was pleased. We played well.”
“That’s always the case with the first game,” said Northern Lebanon manager Daryl Hess of the anticipation surrounding opening day. “The guys want to get out there and get against another team. They were excited. We were ready to play.”
Whether it was the warm temperatures or the fact that he plies his trade nearly year-round, Falcon ace Logan Fullmer appeared to be in mid-season form. The hard-throwing righthander used his fastball to keep Northern Lebanon hitters guessing and whiffed seven of them in just four innings – and 60-some pitches – of work.
Fullmer did not allow a hit and retired the Vikings in order in three innings. Fullmer did walk two batters, both in the third inning.
Fullmer’s relief, junior Cameron Mathis, fanned three and allowed NL’s only hit, a sharp single inside the third-base bag from Jordan Anspach, with one away in the fifth inning.
“He threw very well,” said Groff of Fullmer. “He spotted his fastball and kept them (the Vikes) off balance. Our game plan (for Fullmer) was four or five innings, that’s it. We have some very good pitchers behind him.
“Logan is our ace,” Groff added. “And Dave Black is our number two guy. With those two guys, we feel like we have an outstanding one-two punch.”
“They’re sound, defensively and offensively,” said Hess of the Falcons. “Give them opportunities to score, and they’ll get the hits when they need them. They’re strong on the mound, on offense and on defense. That’s what I see from them. And Chris (Groff) does a nice job coaching them and getting them to play hard.
“Fullmer did a good job of keeping us off balance with his fast ball,” Hess added.
After sending the minimum number of hitters to the dish in their first two at-bats, the Falcons’ first five batters in the third frame reached base, and all five scored. The big blow in the rally was a two-run double from Dauton Ritter, while teammates Galen Rader, Zach Smith and Garrett Getz followed suit.
“What impressed me was his velocity,” said Groff of Northern Lebanon starter Lucas Gienow. “He threw hard. But our guys put some pressure on them with our small-ball game. Our guys ran hard. We have team speed, and we want to get after teams. But we think our strength is pitching and defense.”
“I think the game was a little closer than the score might indicate,” said Hess. “That one inning got us, when we gave them extra outs. You can’t make mistakes against a good team like that. They’re going to take advantage of it.”
It was more of the same for the Falcons in the bottom of the fourth inning. Thanks to a Viking error, a walk and a hit-batsmen, Cedar Crest’s first six batters in the fourth reached base.
And Rader made the Vikings pay with a two-run single, then Zach Hostetter, Colin Miller and Getz added other CC RBIs.
“We always try to do our best in the section,” said Hess. “That’s what we’re shooting for this year. We want to play well, play hard and do the best we can.
“We lost our whole infield,” Hess continued. “But it’s not like our guys didn’t get playing time last year. I got some of our seniors playing time, but we have some holes to fill as well.”
“Gienow did a heck of a job of limiting us early,” said Groff. “If he throws like that, they’re (the Vikings) going to do some good things this season. I expect that they’re going to be competing in Section Three.”