BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – It has officially progressed beyond the point of a trend, a nice run or an upswing of a cycle. What the Campbelltown baseball team has accomplished over the last four season has crossed the border into ‘historically significant.’
On Monday evening at Palmyra High School, Campbelltown authored another chapter in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league record book by capturing its third championship in four seasons. Campbelltown completed a sweep of the circuit’s Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine best-of-five championship series with a 6-4 triumph over Myerstown in Game Three.
After opportunistic Campbelltown took advantage of some shaky Myerstown defense to open a 6-0 lead, Myerstown plated four runs with nobody on and two outs in the top of the seventh. Myerstown actually got the potential tying run to the plate in its final at-bat, before C-town 19-year-old southpaw Josh Sollenberger completed his complete-game win with a called third strike for the final out.
Campbelltown’s fifth straight playoff victory produced its 10th overall championship in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league, a number which pales in comparison to Fredericksburg’s record of 23. Now 17-4 overall, Campbelltown will represent Lebanon County in the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament at Hanover, which begins later this week.
Campbelltown will take on the York County champion on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in its opener of the tournament. Myerstown, which entered the postseason as the number-two seed, ended its campaign at 12-8.
“This team here, we don’t have a bunch of Division One players, but they play together,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “That (a dynasty) is what it is. For years, it was Fredericksburg. But when you expect to win every year, you’ve got something good going on. Being a dynasty, that’s why we have trouble with other teams in the league. Maybe in a few years it’ll be Myerstown’s turn, or Annville’s turn.
“They realized with it being a best-of-three series (referring to a 9-1 loss to Fredericksburg), there was no tomorrow if they lost,” Morgan added. “They didn’t want to go down that path. All along the goal was to get to regionals. We think we have a better chance at regionals (than last year). Hopefully we can do some damage for this county. That would be an honor for us.”
“The difference was not making mistakes, not making errors,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer. “Those (in the top of the seventh inning) were probably the two only errors they made the whole series They’re not invincible. You saw how quiet they became when they made those errors.
“The key to the series was winning Game One, and it didn’t happen,” Mentzer added. “It set the momentum for the whole series.”
Myerstown’s inability to defend the sacrifice bunt helped stake Campbelltown to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
C-town spark-plug Tyler Morder got things going with a single, and then just never stopped running after Myerstown botched Bryce Betz’s sacrifice. Then Betz came around to score when Myerstown couldn’t handle Mitch Sauley’s bunt.
In the third inning, Morder scored Campbelltown’s third run, on a similar bold base-running move, with two outs. Morder scored all the way from first base on Betz’s bloop single to short center field.
“He did it again,” said Morgan of Morder. “He ran right through me (stop sign at third base). He does it anyways. The baseball people around here are asking what he’s doing on the bases.”
“The game doesn’t like us at all,” said Mentzer. “The baseball gods did not like us. We did not catch a break. They’re (C-town) human and we capitalized in the last inning. We left close to 30 runners on base. We just didn’t get the hits when we needed to.”
Campbelltown doubled its lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Sollenberger picked up an RBI-single ahead of Mike Fuhrman’s two-run, two-out base knock.
“If you put the ball in play, good things happen,” said Morgan. “The last couple of games I was going against the grain.
“John Binner was key in this series,” added Morgan. “I’ll tell you what, he won us two games. And I can’t complain about Michael (Fuhrman). A lot of guys chipped in.”
“They’re a good team,” said Mentzer of Campbelltown. “Their pitching fell into place. We had to sit for four days and it contributed to our sluggishness. I can’t say they beat us. We beat ourselves.
“He (Sollenberger) pitched well,” Mentzer added. “We left some runners on base and a lot of them were in scoring position. We put the ball in play, but they were right at people. He’s not overpowering. He doesn’t strike out a lot of people.”
By getting out of jams in the second, fourth and fifth innings, Sollenberger carried a shutout into the top of the seventh. But he didn’t fare as well in that frame, despite retiring the first two batters he faced in the seventh.
After C-town committed two errors behind him, Sollenberger yielded a two-run single to Chris Kreider, an RBI-triple to Grant Fisher and a run-scoring single to Cody Horst.
“There are two pitchers in my career who I have given the nickname ‘bulldog’ to,” said Morgan. “Josh is one and the other is Kyle Weary. He doesn’t give in. He had it in his mind and he wanted to strike that last guy out. He had a shutout going in, but it could’ve gotten ugly.
“Josh pitched out of some jams,” Morgan continued. “It’s good to have a pitcher who can get out of tough situations. We were pretty flawless in the field until the seventh inning.”
“We’re going to stay in the game. We’re going to swing the bats,” said Mentzer. “There were plenty of opportunities throughout the game, and we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Morder was awarded the Jack Bicher Memorial award as the championship series’ top hitter, while Binner took home the Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine trophy as the series’ top pitcher. The league did not name a postseason Most Valuable Player, but if it had, Binner would’ve been the recipient of that as well.
“If I’m going Conor (Bawiec) and Mikey (Wealand) the first two games, maybe we’re up 2-0,” said Mentzer of his missing star. “I’ll be very happy when Conor is here all summer. He wanted to beat those guys (Campbelltown) just as bad as anyone on our bench. But we made it interesting.”
Lebanon County American Legion League