ANNVILLE – When everybody makes the postseason, it detracts from the importance of regular-season games. Still, there must be some sort of foundation in place, because it is very difficult to simply flip a switch when playoff time does roll around.
On a clear Thursday night at Annville-Cleona High School, Annville suffered an emotionally draining 11-5, eight-inning setback at the hands of Ephrata, in Lebanon County American Legion baseball action. After Annville raced out to an early 4-0 lead, Ephrata scored 11 of the next 12 runs, including six in the contest’s first extra inning.
With darkness descending upon the field and the game tied at five, Ephrata sent nine batters to the plate in the top of the eighth inning. The big blow was Evan Rohrbach’s two-run triple, while teammates Gerald DeBalto, Kyle Mather, Caleb Sturtevant and Ryan Flury also drove home Ephrata runs.
After opening the season 3-0, the loss was Annville’s fifth in its last six outings and left it 4-5 in the Lebanon County American Legion League. The result evened Ephrata’s mark to 3-3.
“We started off 3-0, and we played very good baseball,” said Annville head coach Mitch Long. “But ever since then, I’m not sure what has happened. It doesn’t seem like we’re the same team, that it’s a different bunch of guys.
“But going into the playoffs, I think we’re in a good spot,” continued Long. “We have a pretty good number-one pitcher (Isaac Good), so I think we have a pretty good chance no matter who we play. And we have some pretty good guys after that. If we can put up some runs, we should do fine. If everyone makes the playoffs, why does the regular season matter? But momentum will be key going into the playoffs.”
Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Annville loaded the bases on an Ephrata error and walks to Alex Lingle and Josh Speraw. The run that forced extra innings scored on a double play.
“I always tell them (his players) to hunt the fastball,” said Long. “Look for the fastball in a hitter’s count or on the first pitch. That’s what I’m trying to preach to them.
“The kids were out on the field for a good 20 or 30 minutes in the top of the eighth inning, and it was getting late,” Long continued. “I understand why we didn’t have the best bottom of the eighth. It would’ve been hard to come back from that.”
It was all Annville early. Post 559 plated four runs in the bottom of the opening inning to take a 4-0 lead.
Annville needed just one hit to take advantage of six walks. Lingle, Corey Swingholm, Good and Trent Brubaker all collected RBIs for Annville.
“I was very happy with our first inning,” said Long. “We made their pitcher work. We hit the ball too. But I was hoping to score even more runs, and it came back to hurt us.
“I think the pitching change helped them,” added Long. “Their first pitcher struggled to find the zone. The next pitcher found the zone better, and we started to struggle. We didn’t put the bat on the ball.”
Annville starter Jeremy Seyfert fanned the first five batters he faced, before Ephrata got to him in the top of the fourth inning. The visitors used doubles from C. Sturtevant and Rohrbach, and an Annville error to pull within 4-2 of the lead.
“Before tonight, Jeremy had thrown one inning for us,” said Long. “He’s not a pitcher. But I was pleased with how he went out there and did what he did for us.
“Thirty minutes before the game, someone told us they weren’t going to show up,” Long continued. “That put us in different spots in the field, and I think that hurt us. But Ephrata’s a pretty solid team.”
Courtesy of RBIs from Aiden Sturtevant, DeBalto and Kyle Musser, Ephrata scored three times in the top of the sixth to assume a 5-4 edge.
“Everything’s important,” said Long. “The middle of the standings is close, and two through six is really close. We’ve had nine games, and in six of them, we only had nine players. When that happens, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of options.”