BY JEFF FALK
EPHRATA – Some say the best thing about baseball is that the next game is starting any minute now. And even when a season is complete, a new one is just around the corner.
In that way, the game imitates the circle of life.
On an overcast Thursday evening at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, Annville-Cleona and Lebanon County’s scholastic baseball seasons reached a conclusion with a 5-1 loss to arch-rival Lancaster Catholic, in the semifinals of the District Three Class AAA postseason. In a game where runs figured to be as precious as gold, the Crusaders scored twice in the bottom of the first inning and the Little Dutchmen just couldn’t muster enough offense to catch up.
Let the record show that the Little Dutchmen went 16-5 this season. Annville-Cleona, which was seeded third in the District Three tournament, went 1-2 overall against Lancaster Catholic this season.
The Little Dutchmen, who were without a pair of regulars because of graduation ceremonies at Lebanon County Career and Technology Center, said good-bye to ten seniors, many of whom helped Annville to the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball championship in 2016.
With the win, second-seeded Lancaster Catholic, the reigning Lancaster-Lebanon League champion, advanced to 17-4 and into Tuesday’s District Three Class AAA title tilt.
“At this point, our season is over,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda. “When I look back at our season, we had an awesome bunch of guys. When I look back, I won’t remember this game. There’s no sense in talking about what didn’t go our way.
“This game is tough,” added Shyda. “You’re actually there with these guys every day. And then boom, it’s over. And I miss them. There have been other teams where the mix hasn’t been as good. It’s tough when it comes to an end.”
The Crusaders touched Little Dutchmen starter Sal ‘Sonny” Biondollo for a pair in the bottom of the first, and they came after Biondollo had retired the first two batters he faced.
It all started harmlessly enough with a hit-by-pitch. But Catholic’s Dillon Marsh followed with an RBI-double and Brayden Clair drove in Marsh with a single.
“They deserved to win today, no question,” said Shyda of the Crusaders. “I can’t do anything more than give them credit. We made some mistakes early, got behind and then it got away from us.
“Getting down 2-0 and then 4-0 put us in a difficult spot,” continued Shyda. “Their pitcher (Nick Breznak) didn’t let us get going. As soon as we got down to a team like this, struggling the way we do with the bat, it changes our approach.”
Annville-Cleona’s hole got a little deeper in the bottom of the third, when Lancaster Catholic tacked on another pair of runs.
The Crusaders again got the job done with two outs, after Jordan Scott had doubled and the Little Dutchmen had committed an error. This time, it was Tyler Peters who delivered, in the form of a two-run single.
“I thought he did a pretty good job,” said Shyda of Biondollo. “We misplayed a couple of balls, but he pitched pretty well. But they (the Crusaders) did hit the ball well. Hitting has been our Achilles Heel. Our pitching and defense has been rock solid.
“There was no debate (as to who would start),” Shyda added. “That is in no way saying we didn’t have confidence in Eli (Setlock). Sonny beat Lancaster Catholic 2-1 the last time we played them, and he pitched well his last time out. We had plenty of confidence in Sonny.”
Lancaster Catholic’s advantage reached 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a lead-off walk and Bryce Behmer’s two-out, RBI-double.
The Little Dutchmen got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth, after Cameron Hoch drew a lead-off walk. Hoch scored on Benny Miller’s run-scoring single.
But Breznak finished what he started, scattered four hits, struck out eight and walked three.
“They didn’t help us at all,” said Shyda of the Crusaders. “They didn’t make a lot of mistakes. He (Breznak) earned the win. He held our bats at bay. If he’s not putting guys on base, he’s doing his job.”
Biondollo also went the distance. The sophomore right-hander surrendered seven hits, fanned five and issued a pair of free passes.
“We came with the intent of winning the game,” said Shyda. “We fully intended to take it to them. They’re a good team. They always are. We had to play a great game.
“They’ve kind of been our nemesis the last couple of years,” Shyda continued. “We take them as a challenge. We’re not going to be intimidated or play like an underdog. Against them you’ve got to go out and play your hearts out.”
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2017 Annville-Cleona Baseball Results
@Lancaster County Christian
|4:15 PM||W 7-1|
|4:15 PM||W 6-0|
|4:15 PM||L 7-8|
|4:15 PM||L 2-12|
|4:15 PM||W 7-0|
|4:15 PM||W 7-2|
|4:15 PM||W 12-0|
|4:15 PM||L 1-11|
|4:15 PM||W 9-4|
|4:15 PM||W 12-0|
|4:15 PM||W 2-1|
|4:15 PM||W 4-1|
|4:15 PM||W 4-2|
|4:15 PM||W 2-1|
|4:15 PM||W 4-3|
|7:00 PM||W 3-2|
|4:15 PM||W 15-0|
|7:00 PM||L 3-8|
|4:15 PM||W 10-2|
|7:00 PM||L 0-1|
|4:30 PM||W 5-0|
|6:30 PM||Ephrata’s War Memorial Field|
PIAA District Three
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