BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON/ANNVILLE – If the first casualty of fatigue is concentration, then the second is resiliency.
On a sultry Sunday evening at Annville-Cleona High School, fresher and second-seeded Annville dominated weary Fifth Ward 12-2 to win its Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League semifinal playoff series, 2-1. The decisive Game Three ended with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Noah Connor drove home Mitch Long with the tally that brought the mercy rule into play.
Earlier in the day, Fifth Ward had forced a decisive, ‘if-necessary’ contest by winning Game Two of the series 4-3, at home, on the Fifth Ward Athletic diamond. Fifth Ward kept the set alive behind the lively right arm of veteran shooter Michael Deleon and his route-going effort.
But Annville’s resiliency and energy was apparent in the bottom half of the first inning in Game Three, when it tallied five times to open a 5-1 advantage that Fifth Ward would never head. Annville added to its lead in the third and fifth frames, before bringing the ten-run rule into effect.
Annville’s resiliency and focus will again be tested on Monday at 7 p.m. at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, when it takes on regular-season champion and top-seeded Fredericksburg in Game One of the best-of-three Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine championship series. Annville will carry an 11-6 overall mark into the set.
Third-seeded Fifth Ward concluded its campaign at 10-11. Annville and Fifth Ward split their six overall meetings this summer.
“In this game, their pitcher (Cody Kissinger) threw 122 pitches in his last outing and caught a whole game in the afternoon,” said Annville head coach Ken Sauley. “He was tired. He looked physically spent.”
“We have guys who are burned out,” said Fifth Ward head coach Tony McDonnell. “Cody pitches to contact. Unfortunately, when you don’t have the right defensive players in the right positions, you’re not going to make plays. I just wish they (his players) would’ve fought a little better than they did.
“Maybe we got tired,” McDonnell continued. “We played six games in six days. That’s a lot of baseball. We were running nine or ten people out there. But the work ethic is there. We try to get into the (batting) cage and work hard.”
Fifth Ward’s momentum from Game Two appeared to spill over into Game Three, in the form of Jorge Garcia’s two-out, run-scoring single in the top of the first inning. Austin Yerger had touched Annville starter Alec Barr for a lead-off single, before Garcia made it 1-0 by driving him home.
But not only was Annville response immediate, it was also decisive.
Annville’s first three batters in the bottom of the first – Eli Setlock. Barr and Izaiah Trimble – all reached base, on a walk and a couple of singles. Hunter Long and M. Long RBI-ground outs made it 2-1, before Tyler Talhelm smashed a two-run single, while Annville’s fifth run scored on a wild pitch.
After that, Fifth Ward’s collective body language suggested that it had already been defeated.
“That was huge,” said Sauley. “When we gave up a run in the first inning, I was a little nervous. In the games we played them this year, some were too close for comfort. I wanted to keep the gas pedal down.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because they (Fifth Ward) battled Richland,” added Sauley. “I thought if we pitched and played defense, we were going to win. The walks are what did us in in Game Two.”
“We did have the momentum,” said McDonnell of the start of Game Three. “I felt good. Then they (Annville) scored five runs by hitting one ball out of the infield. It demoralized even me. I thought we were flat after that.
“We did not stay over aggressive,” McDonnell added. “We were on the baseball early. I’m trying to figure out what he (Barr) was throwing. But we didn’t make contact. I’m thinking they just got tired.”
While Fifth Ward was experiencing its difficulties with Barr, Annville was extending its lead. Cameron Hoch’s sacrifice fly and Connor’s two-out RBI-triple in the bottom of the third frame made it a 7-1 game.
Then in the fifth, Connor and Setlock drove in runs to push Annville’s advantage to 9-2.
Before giving way to Trimble in the top of the sixth, Barr struck out six and walked two.
“Changing speeds was the key, because they can hit the fastball,” said Sauley of Fifth Ward. “He (Barr) was hitting his spots. If I would’ve started Alec in Game Two, he would’ve had a complete game and we might not have had to play this one.
“Obviously the first game (of the day) didn’t go the way I wanted,” continued Sauley. “It makes it a long day. In hindsight, I probably should’ve taken Eli (starter Setlock) out earlier. But everybody played hard today.”
“I didn’t see anything that stood out,” said McDonnell of Barr. “We were on him. We were just missing him a little bit. He was throwing strikes. We probably should’ve scored more runs in the first inning. We had opportunities to jump on them quickly.”
Sunday afternoon’s Game Two was all about Deleon and Fifth Ward’s three-run rally in the bottom of the third that erased a 1-0 deficit.
The outburst began with walks to Camryn Shaak and Kissinger and an Annville error. And before it was through, Pat Finley had smashed a two-run single, Brock Eisenhauer had contributed an RBI-safety and Fifth Ward had a 3-1 lead.
As for Deleon, he fanned ten and issued a pair of free passes while picking up the victory.
“Michael was Michael today,” said McDonnell. “It was the Michael we’ve been waiting three weeks for. I saw his bullpen session and he was ‘on’. He was throwing hard.”
“The first time we faced him, we won 9-0,” said Sauley of Deleon. “This game he wasn’t wild. He was firing gas, and our guys were swinging over it.
“For whatever reason, we stink at that field (Fifth Ward Athletic field),” Sauley continued. “We’re 3-0 against them here (Annville), and we’re 0-3 against them there. We’ve lost one game here this year. We’re better here. When we play here, I like our chances.”
Yet despite Deleon’s dominance, Annville pulled to within a run of the lead on an RBI-single from Connor in the top of the seventh inning of Game Two. But Deleon ended it with a strikeout and a fly ball.
Fifth Ward had upped its lead to 4-2 in the bottom of sixth, courtesy of Shaak’s two-out, RBI-single.
“The big picture is that the future of Lebanon/Fifth Ward baseball is bright,” said McDonnell. “We had nine guys here and we have nine guys back. Lebanon baseball is back.
“No, it’s not a setback,” added McDonnell. “I liked our chances. It’s disappointing we lost, but I liked our chances.”
“We’re probably limping into it, pitching-wise,” said Sauley of the impending duel with Fredericksburg. “They’re rested and we’re not. We were fresher in this series. I don’t have a ton of pitching. But I’ve got to use what I’ve got. They’re (Fredericksburg) obviously not going to be scared of anybody I throw.”
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2016 Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League
Final Regular Season Standings
2016 Fifth Ward Results
|6/29/2016||L||Myerstown 8 5th Ward 2|
|6/28/2016||W||5th Ward 8 Richland 4|
|6/27/2016||W||5th Ward 6 Campbelltown 1|
|6/26/2016||L||Fredericksburg 5 5th Ward 2|
|6/23/2016||W||5th Ward 5 Annville 4|
|6/20/2016||W||5th Ward 3 Campbelltown 2|
|6/19/2016||FFV||Myerstown 0 5th Ward 0|
|6/13/2016||L||Fredericksburg 7 5th Ward 4|
|6/12/2016||W||5th Ward 4 Annville 3|
|6/9/2016||L||Campbelltown 8 5th Ward 4|
|6/8/2016||L||Richland 10 5th Ward 3|
|6/6/2016||W||5th Ward 1 Myerstown 0|
|6/5/2016||W||5th Ward 5 Richland 3|
|6/1/2016||L||Fredericksburg 13 5th Ward 0|
|5/31/2016||L||Annville 9 5th Ward 0|
2016 Annville Results
|6/30/2016||W||Annville 3 Campbelltown 0|
|6/29/2016||W||Annville 6 Richland 2|
|6/28/2016||PPD||Annville 0 Campbelltown 0|
|6/26/2016||W||Annville 10 Myerstown 3|
|6/23/2016||L||5th Ward 5 Annville 4|
|6/22/2016||W||Annville 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/21/2016||W||Annville 4 Fredericksburg 3|
|6/19/2016||L||Richland 3 Annville 2|
|6/14/2016||W||Annville 17 Myerstown 6|
|6/12/2016||L||5th Ward 4 Annville 3|
|6/9/2016||L||Fredericksburg 8 Annville 1|
|6/6/2016||W||Annville 3 Richland 2|
|6/1/2016||W||Annville 4 Myerstown 3|
|5/31/2016||W||Annville 9 5th Ward 0|
|5/29/2016||L||Fredericksburg 3 Annville 1|