BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – It’s baseball’s greatest risk-reward. It’s called ‘the double steal’.
With runners on first and third bases, the trail runner takes off for second base. If the opposing catcher chooses to throw down, and the runner beats the throw, the runner from third base can simply waltz home.
Fifth Ward liked its chances because of the strong arm of catcher Cody Kissinger. Annville liked its chances because of the fleet feet of Cameron Hoch. But something had to give.
On a humid Saturday evening at Annville-Cleona High School, Hoch’s steal of second base with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning scored teammate Hunter Long with what would prove to be the decisive run, as Annville shaded Fifth Ward 5-3 in Game One of their Lebanon County American Legion baseball league’s best-of-three semifinal playoff series. Annville’s successful double steal came on the back side of its three-run uprising that at the time gave it a 4-3 lead.
Annville went on to tack on an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and sturdy southpaw Mitch Long took care of the rest.
This semifinal series will be decided on Sunday with a possible doubleheader. Game Two of the set will be contested at 2 p.m. at Fifth Ward Athletic Field, while Game Three, if necessary, will be played back at Annville-Cleona High School at 6 p.m..
Waiting in the wings is regular season champion and top-seeded Fredericksburg, which swept Campbelltown 2-0 in the other semifinal series. The best-of-three Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine championship series is expected to get underway on Monday at 7 p.m. at Fredericksburg’ Earl Wenger Memorial Field.
With the outcome, Annville improved to 10-5 overall, while Fifth Ward fell to 9-10 on the summer. The two clubs have now split their four overall meetings this season.
“The stolen base that made it 4-3 was huge,” said Annville head coach Ken Sauley. “Oh yeah, I was surprised he (Kissinger) threw. The only time Cameron has been thrown out this season was later on at third base.”
“I made a bad decision,” said Fifth Ward head coach Tony McDonnell. “That was my call. That was the first time all year Cody hasn’t thrown out a runner. I asked him if he wanted to throw down and he said he can get him (Hoch).”
Annville, which was coming off an eight-day layoff, actually entered the bottom of the fifth trailing Fifth Ward and starter Austin Yerger 3-1. But Annville scored all three of its runs in the frame with two outs.
Long knocked home Eli Setlock, who had started it with a one-out single. And Izaiah Trimble, who had walked, scored on a wild pitch. All before Hoch and Long worked their base-running thievery.
“I don’t think it affected us defensively and with our pitching,” said Sauley of the time off. “I think it did with the hitting. Even though we’re not a great hitting team, we don’t strike out that much. We did practice during that time.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” continued Sauley. “When you have everyone rested and the other team’s been playing, sometimes you lose. Just with the hitting, I would say ‘yes’. But with everything else, ‘no’.”
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” said McDonnell, of the bye Annville earned by finishing second during the regular season. “I’m sure they were doing something. I wish we would’ve played last night (Friday). They (Annville) were off all week. That seems like an awful lot.”
Fifth Ward scored three times in the top of the second inning off Long, to open a 3-1 lead.
Jorge Garcia touched off the uprising with a long, lead-off dinger to left field. Then after Austin Yerger singled and Brock Eisenhauer walked, Andy Ortiz lined a two-run single.
But M. Long settled down and surrendered just three more hits the rest of the way, and didn’t allow another Lebanon runner past second base. He finished with nine strikeouts and a single walk.
“It was the outcome I was looking for, but I was sweating it,” said Sauley. “Mitch found his breaking ball, and it changed the whole game. Other than the second inning, he was phenomenal.
“I was thinking about who I was going to bring in next,” added Sauley. “But in the third inning, all of a sudden he found his breaking ball. They (Fifth Ward) helped him a little bit on high fastballs. You can never lay off a high fastball. They look like beach balls coming in there.”
“He (Garcia) crushed it,” said McDonnell. “The thing about Mitch, I don’t think he’s overpowering. I don’t know what he throws. But he’s sneaky fast. He throws first pitch fastball all the time. But then he began to mix it up.
“The bottom of our order is just not hitting,” McDonnell added. “But we all work hard in the batting cage. Our guys are gamers. These kids play their tails off. It’s a great group to be around.”
Before its fifth-inning rally, all Annville could manage off Yerger was a lone tally in the bottom of the first. M. Long walked and advanced on a wild pitch, ahead of Trimble’s RBI-single that made it 1-0.
Before being lifted in the sixth, Yerger was touched for a total of six hits, fanned seven and issued four free passes.
“I thought he threw well,” said Sauley of Yerger. “I’m guessing he’s their (Lebanon’s) fourth pitcher and maybe a guy who doesn’t go so long. I was impressed. I think because he doesn’t pitch a lot of innings, I assume he got tired.”
“He (Yerger) pitched a lot in teeners,” said McDonnell. “Now he’s got a spot in our rotation. I thought he was using his off-speed really well. He had them off balance. His pitch count was getting up and I asked him, and he said, ‘I feel great. I feel great’. But you could see his ball was coming up. I thought Mitch got up a little late, as well.
“That’s why I wanted Michael (Deleon) to throw,” continued McDonnell. “You can’t look to tomorrow. You have to win today. It’s (Sunday) going to be a long day. It’s going to be difficult.”
Fifth Ward collected a total of six hits.
“They need to win,” said Sauley of Fifth Ward. “We’re in the driver’s seat. But I want to win that (first) game. We’re getting their best. Either way, Fredericksburg is going to be a thorn for either team that makes it. I’m not a fan of being behind. I just hope my team comes ready to play and battle tomorrow. But we need to take more pitches.”
“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I think we’re playing hard,” said McDonnell. “I like our chances with Michael (Deleon) throwing and Cody (Kissinger) throwing. We’re 2-0 in elimination games. So we’ll see how we do.”
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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|
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 Lebanon County American Legion League
Final Regular Season Standings