BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Its underlying motive may have been to expose a chink in the armor, reel in the front-runners a bit. But in reality, it could be that Annville fields the type of ball club that can present Campbelltown with difficulties.
On Friday evening at Palmyra High School, the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League’s regular-season race got a little tighter, with Annville’s 4-1 road victory at Campbelltown. Keyed by late back-t0-back bunt singles, Annville tallied all of its runs from the sixth inning on, to turn Colton Long’s route-going effort into a win.
The result pushed Annville to 5-3 in the league, a mere game-and-a-half behind first-place C-town. The loss was only Campbelltown’s second of the summer, against seven wins.
“We were 4-3 and they were 7-1,” said Annville head coach Steve Hostetter of the circuit’s standings. “If we lose, it puts us in the middle of the pack. If we want to be in the top echelon of the league, then we’ve got to win this game. But winning the league, that’s been our goal since Day One.
“They’re (Campbelltown) solid,” Hostetter continued. “They have good players. But I think any team can beat anyone on any given night. I still think Fredericksburg has the best pitching in the league.”
“It’s good to lose,” said Campbelltown skipper Tim Morgan. “You’ve got to get put in check now and then. Tonight, we were the better team. It’s just how the game goes.
“We had our chances to score,” Morgan added. “We pitched well. You can’t win eight in-a-row. These teams are quality.”
With the score deadlocked at one, Annville scored three times in the top of the seventh inning, by getting its first three batters on base. Jordan Gohn stroked his first career American Legion hit, ahead of consecutive bunt singles from Tyler Runkle and Alec Barr.
On Barr’s bunt, Campbelltown was guilty of a throwing error that allowed Gohn to score the tie-breaking run. One out later, Annville’s Hunter Long came through with a two-run single.
“What did it was the small ball,” said Hostetter. “It was the bunts. I’m not one to sit back and wait for the big hit. I want to pressure the defense. I want to make them (C-town) play it. Good things happen when you put the ball in play, especially on the ground.
“He (Campbelltown starter Zach Yingst) threw well,” continued Hostetter. “He had to be getting up in his pitch count. But we got some bunts down. Some good bunts, up the third-base line. Those were the little things we needed to do to get some runs around.”
“Unearned runs were the difference,” said Morgan. “Throwing that bunt away really hurt. Tonight we hit the ball pretty good, right at people. But that over-throw at first base, that killed us.”
Right around the plate, C. Long had the Campbelltown hitters off stride most of the evening. He scattered eight hits, struck out four and walked one.
With the help of a double play, C. Long faced the minimum number of hitters in the bottom of the fourth. But the only inning he retired Post 831 in order was the bottom of the seventh.
In support of C. Long, Annville did not commit an error.
“I don’t think he had many walks,” said Hostetter of his starter. “His key is he throws strikes. He mixes his pitches well. He throws a hard, high ball, and it’s tough to get on top of it.
“He’s got a funky kind of delivery that can be hard to pick up,” Hostetter added. “And our defense played well. You never know. Anything can happen.”
“It was nothing special,” said Morgan of C. Long. “Our guys were helping him out by swinging at high pitches. The way we’re scoring runs, we’ve got to take some chances.
“Myerstown, Annville, Campbelltown and Fredericksburg are always good,” added Morgan. “Anybody can beat anybody. But nobody’s hitting the ball in this league. Nobody.”
Yingst carried a shutout and a 1-0 lead into the top of the sixth inning, but Justin Ulrich got things going for Annville with a double. Ulrich and H. Long executed a double steal, before Ulrich scored on a wild pitch, during Alec Barr’s at-bat.
“It (his batters’ approaches at the plate) hadn’t been going well. That’s flat out,” said Hostetter. “We strike out too much. We put the ball in play tonight. The other night we struck out 12 times. That’s unacceptable to me. It doesn’t put any pressure on the defense at all. But we finally got some key hits.”
“He was at 89 pitches,” said Morgan of Yingst, who struck seven and walked four over six-plus innings. “He said he was alright. We checked. He didn’t throw more than 11 pitches in any inning, until the fifth.”
Campbelltown raced out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Isaac Blatt led off with a double, was sacrificed to third by Tyler Julian and scored on Bobby Dorta’s RBI-single.
“I think it’s everybody,” said Hostter of the fast pace of the league’s games. “It seems to be that way all the time. I don’t think it’s the wooden bats. We don’t have too many guys in the league who have home run power, or even warning track power. I don’t think we’d be getting a lot more hits with aluminum bats. It’s a fact that we’re not making good contact.”
“We’ve got pitching,” said Morgan. “Dorta’s ready to throw now. (Trevor) Gill hasn’t given up an earned run. We lost a game. It’s not the end of the world.
“Tonight was a matter of starting people and keeping people happy,” continued Morgan. “If you play your best nine, you won’t have anybody else, because they all want to play.”
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Lebanon County American Legion
Baseball League Standings