BY JEFF FALK
FAYETTEVILLE – One could reasonably say that Campbelltown went quietly. Nary a whimper.
Campbelltown was unceremoniously bounced from the Region Four American Legion baseball tournament on Monday afternoon with an 8-6 loss to Ephrata at Greene Township Park. After opening an early 6-1 lead, C-town’s normally potent offense fell silent and its pitching imploded.
It was a familiar scenario for the Lebanon County champions, who endured an 11-7 loss to Spring Grove a day earlier, after building a 7-5 lead in the middle innings. On Monday, Campbelltown failed to score in the final six at-bats of its season.
After struggling through an underachieving spring high-school season together, many members of the C-town American Legion had vowed to make a run at their potential and destiny as a team, one more time. And while Campbelltown won the Lebanon County American Legion title and qualified for the Region Four event, its season ended much like Palmyra High School’s – in disappointment.
Cambpelltown went 1-2 in the Region Four tournament, finished in a tie for fourth-place in the event and posted an overall record of 18-7 during the summer of 2012.
“We’re the best team here. I’m telling you,” said Campbelltown manager Tim Morgan moments after the ousting. “No question. That’s what happens in this game of baseball. Looking at these teams, they don’t even know how to defend (runners on) first and third. That’s fresh for the picking.
“I coached these kids since midgets,” Morgan continued. “We did a lot of things. We won a lot of championships. We made it to regionals and that was great. Yesterday (Sunday) we had 15 hits and left 16 runners on base. Today (Monday) was the same thing. We went up 6-1 , and you’ve got to get the curveball over. When it’s the third time around the order, you can’t throw straight fastballs.”
“We made up for what was lost in high school,” said Colby Conway, Campbelltown’s on-the-field leader. “You could almost equate this to the high school playoffs, and we went farther. There was some making up to do. We knew we had something to prove.”
Over its final six at-bats, Campbelltown managed just one hit. But thanks mostly to bases-on-balls, C-town threatened to tie the score in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, each time failing to come up with a key hit.
Post 831’s most serious threat came in the eighth, when it left the bases loaded. In all, C-town stranded 11 runners on the bases.
“It was a bad omen,” said Morgan. “The last two days down here. Somebody put a spell on us. To know we lost to two teams that we were better than eats me up. Just the whole way the games went was frustrating.”
“I thought we definitely could’ve hit all their relief pitchers,” said Conway of Ephrata. “But it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll take responsibility for what happened in the top of the eighth inning. We had the bases loaded and I popped out. When it mattered, we couldn’t the big hits.”
It was all Campbelltown early, as Post 831 threatened to blow Ephrata out of the water. C-town scored a pair of runs in each of its first three at-bats – and theoretically it could’ve been more.
In the opening inning, Tyler Carberry smacked a two-run single to make it 2-0. In the second, Conway’s sacrifice fly and an error pushed C-town’s lead to 4-1. And in the third, Preston Bare’s lead-off homer and Tyler Morder’s RBI-single gave Post 831 a 6-1 advantage.
But both the second- and third-inning rallies were short-circuited when C-town double-steal attempts were thwarted by Ephrata’s fundamentally sound defense. And then two innings later, Bare was removed from the game due to an aggravated hamstring he suffered during his third-inning home-run trot.
“The first one was execution,” said Morgan of the botched first-and-third situations. “Guys hesitated, and when they did, they were out. There’s two runs right there that should’ve scored.”
“Our bats definitely picked up where they left off,” said Conway. “We hit the ball throughout the tournament. But when it mattered most we couldn’t get the big hits.”
Campbelltown starter Morder was solid through four innings. After surrendering a first-inning run, Morder settled in and retired ten Ephrata hitters in-a-row.
But Morder ran into trouble in the fifth, when Ephrata’s first three batters reached base, then all scored to make it a 6-4 game. Ephrata pulled to within a run in the sixth, and went ahead for good with three runs in the seventh.
“No he wasn’t tired. Morder couldn’t get his curveball over the plate,” said Morgan. “If you’r throwing dead fastballs, they’re going to hit it. That was a big turning point right there. And having the bases-loaded with no outs in the first, and only getting two runs hurt.
“When we had Colby up there with the bases loaded (in the eighth) I thought to myself, ‘We’re going to win this game,'” added Morgan. “I know he’s kicking himself. He hates to lose. That was a big turning point.”
“I don’t know if there was any individual moment,” said Conway. “I thought once they took the lead that things began to change. Once they got ahead, that was a big factor.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” continued Conway. “We thought we could make a little further run. We’re disappointed about our showing today and that this was the last time this group of 18 would be together. It did not end the way we wanted it to. But all good things come to an end.”
Campelltown’s elimination extended Lebanon County’s futility at the Region Four tournament to an even 20 appearances.
“We were a game away from winning it two years ago,” said Morgan of the regional. “And we were close this time. We did a darn good job of representing Lebanon County two years ago. And this year, we had the best team.
“I can say that we put the high-school season behind us,” Morgan continued. “All the teams in our league had good college players on them. That was good baseball. That was a battle there. The team in general got much better from high school.”
“I definitely thought we had a shot at winning this,” said Conway. “I think we definitely under-achieved in the driving-in-runners category.”