BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Strike first. Strike fast. Strike decisively.
More scholastic baseball game are won in the first inning than are won in the last.
On Thursday afternoon, Annville-Cleona wasted precious little time jumping on rival Lebanon Catholic, plating eight runs in its initial at-bat, on its way to a 13-1, five-inning victory over the Beavers – and in some ways the weather. The Little Dutchmen used hot sticks to take advantage of some shoddy Catholic fielding, then with complete control of the outcome, turned things over to junior southpaw Jordan Gohn.
With the win, Annville-Cleona upped its overall mark to 3-1 and its Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four mark to 2-0. Lebanon Catholic fell to 1-2 on the spring and 0-2 in the circuit.
“It relaxes your team, especially the pitcher,” said Annville-Cleona Scott Shyda of the early 8-0 cushion. “When you go out 8-0, it certainly makes your pitcher more relaxed. You get on a roll, you get out to an 8-0 lead and it puts him at ease. We haven’t had a whole lot of that.”
“What I told the kids is, ‘It’s 8-0. You can relax,'” said Lebanon Catholic co-head coach in charge of media relations, Glenn Meck. “‘No one is expecting you to come back and win the game.’ We haven’t won a lot of games over the last few years, and now we’re looking for bad things to happen.”
Annville-Cleona sent 13 hitters to the dish during its initial at-bat, scoring its ‘crazy eight’ with six hits, one walk, a hit batter and two Lebanon Catholic errors. The Little Dutchmen’s first five batters in the frame reached base, and four of them scored.
Little Dutchmen three-hole hitter Mitch Rodkey smacked two different RBI-singles during the rally, Colton Long slugged a two-run double and teammates Caleb Setlock and Hunter Long each contributed single RBIs.
“We haven’t met our expectations at the plate,” said Shyda. “But we’re headed in that direction. We can produce some runs. Mitch’s not where he wants to be. When he gets going, we’ll be OK.
“I was surprised how shallow their (the Beavers’) outfielders were playing,” added Shyda. “But we told our guys not to pay any attention to that. We told them, ‘make good contact and good things will happen.'”
“Pitching is our issue this year,” said Meck. “We have a lot of games to play, so we’ve got to pick and choose the pitchers against the teams we can be competitive against. We’ve got to tighten up some places. We can’t give up six outs an inning with the team we have. There’s things we’ve got to work on.
“We’re working with two pitchers,” Meck added. “It comes down to who doesn’t have a sore arm, and who we can throw.”
With runs to work with, Gohn was in control the whole way. In picking up the win, Gohn surrendered three hits, struck out seven and walked three in his five innings of work.
“He has such a good curveball,” said Shyda of Gohn. “He can throw either pitch on any count. He works really fast, and I like that. Last year as a sophomore he pitched some of our tougher games. He just goes out there and does what he does. We’re going to need to count on him down the line.
“We do have some depth on the mound, and it helps,” continued Shyda. “I’m very pleased at this point. But we know things are going to be different. Certainly we’re not content.”
“I thought he threw well,” said Meck of Gohn. “He was sharp. He seems to work really fast. We told our batters: ‘let’s try to break that rhythm.’
“This was the best pitcher we faced all year,” Meck continued. “But we went up there and swung the bats well.”
Annville-Cleona brought the ten-run rule into play with a five-run bottom of the third. The Little Dutchmen scored all of those runs after their first two hitters had been retired, thanks in part to a couple of catcher’s interference calls and a pair of errors.
The only A-C hit of the frame was Colton Long’s run-scoring single.
“To be honest, up until game time, we thought we’d be seeing (Matt) Kern,” said Shyda of the Beavers’ ace. “We’ve seen him a lot over the years, and he’s pitched well against us. If they (the Beavers) had pitched him, it would’ve been a more competitive game.”
“They swing the bats well,” said Meck of the Little Dutchmen. “They’re a good team. But I don’t know if they’re 12 runs better than us. We’re more competitive than that.”
Though they couldn’t avoid the mercy rule, the Beavers did break up Gohn’s shutout in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Drew Gates scored Sam Nye, who had walked.
“I’m not surprised,” said Shyda of his team’s fast start to the spring. “The tough part of our schedule is coming. Three-and-one is good. We like where we are. Next week it starts. We’re happy about being 3-1. But we have a lot of tough competition coming up.”
“We’re taking it one step at a time,” said Meck. “Our goal this year is to be more competitive in the section. We haven’t been competitive in the section over the last few years. The ultimate goal is districts. We can compete against Class A teams. But we’re not looking ahead to districts. We want to see improvement.”