BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – When people starting throwing around the concept of rebuilding there always accompanies it this inference that things are going to take some time and some work.
It may be that the current Annville-Cleona construction project is ahead of schedule. Or maybe the Little Dutchmen have just discovered the secret to working smart, instead of hard.
On Monday afternoon, Annville-Cleona’s make-over continued to look more like a retool than a rebuild, as it shaded Manheim Central 10-7 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three-Four crossover affair. After the Little Dutchmen surrendered six runs and the lead in the top of the fifth inning, they bounced back with five runs of their own in the home half of the frame, to claim the game’s momentum for good.
The win was the young Little Dutchmen’s seventh in eight tries this spring and pushed them to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in Section Four of the L-L. The Barons fell to 2-7 on the spring and 2-6 in Section Three.
“We have three seniors starting, so we’re very young,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Dave Bentz, who graduated a number of key 12th graders last year. “We’ve got a sophomore behind the plate, we’ve got a sophomore at shortstop and we’ve got a sophomore at second base. Next year might be the year to do damage. But no, I’m not writing this year off at all. One thing Dave hates to do is lose.
“No, 7-1 isn’t surprising,” continued Bentz. “I think a lot of teams are pretty weak. Coming into the season, I was thinking ‘growing pains’ for sure. We were going to live and die by the mistakes we made. But the best thing about sophomores is that they become juniors.”
Annville-Cleona certainly seemed to be in a world of trouble after a six-run top-of-the-fifth put them behind a 7-3 eight-ball. But it just proved to be a test of the Little Dutchmen’s resiliency.
The first two batters in the bottom of the fifth – Morgan Zimmerman and Sarah Fischer – reached on a single and an error. Then teammates Christy Snyder and Amber Rexrode followed with RBI-safeties.
But the big blow was struck by Emma Lerchen, a towering double to the right-center field gap that knotted the score at seven. Kaci Zimmerman’s two-out single produced what would prove to be the winning run, and at the time gave A-C an 8-7 edge.
“That was the key sequence of the game, without a doubt,” said Bentz. “This was probably one of the most important games of the year. After our first loss (to Lampeter-Strasburg on Friday) we wanted to see what would happen. We could’ve stuck our heads in the dirt. But we didn’t. And when you don’t, good things happen.
“Maybe we just started swinging at better pitches,” Bentz continued. “I moved some kids around today. I haven’t found the everyday lineup I’m looking for yet. As long as they (his players) give me a good effort, we’ll be OK. When we don’t, that’s when we get in trouble.”
Annville-Cleona tacked on a couple of insurance tallies in the bottom of the sixth. Morgan Zimmerman doubled to lead off the at-bat, ahead of Hannah Fischer’s run-producing triple and Snyder’s RBI-single.
“I thought we were very complacent,” said Bentz. “We were on our heels a little bit. I don’t know why. Our defense was a little shaky. We’re young. We’re very young. We’re having growing pains.
“But we’re battling,” added Bentz. “We’re learning. It’s on-the-job training.”
Little Dutchmen starting pitcher Lerchen had retired nine straight Baron batters and carried 3-1 lead into the top of the fifth. But Manheim Central’s first three hitters in the inning touched her for hits – and a total of six in the frame – and the Barons scored four of their six runs after two outs had been recorded.
Lerchen finished with five strikeouts and a single walk.
“I thought she threw well,” said Bentz of his ace. “She got scored on that one inning. We don’t want to give multiple outs. We want to give three outs. We don’t want to give five outs. We need to make some plays behind her.”
Annville-Cleona tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, on four Manheim Central errors and without the benefit of a hit, to take a 3-1 lead. The Little Dutchmen had knotted the score at one an inning earlier, courtesy of Rexrode’s lead-off triple and Lerchen’s sacrifice fly to right.
“I don’t know what our goals are,” said Bentz. “I haven’t pushed a lot of goals on them (his players). I put a lot of emphasis on districts. We’re the third smallest team in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. I like to look at other teams square in the eyes.
“Who knows what their (his players’) goals are,” Bentz continued. “I want to win. If there’s a chance for the section (championship), I’d take it. We haven’t won it in a while. But I look at districts. But so far, we’re doing pretty well.”
Section Four Standings
2015 Annville-Cleona Results
|4:15 PM||W 11-1|
|4:15 PM||W 6-0|
|4:15 PM||W 15-0|
|4:15 PM||W 19-0|
|4:15 PM||W 7-3|
|4:15 PM||W 21-1|
|4:15 PM||L 3-13|