FREDERICKSBURG – Represent. Reasonable. Respectable. Realistic.
Say what you want about the Fredericksburg American Legion baseball team. But there is no other participant in the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament whose goals for it are as attainable and reachable.
On Saturday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, the host team represented itself well with a respectable showing, dropping a 4-1 opening-round decision to Glen Rock. Fredericksburg played tight defense, received yet another sturdy outing from righthander Zane Merkel and never, ever one time threw up the white flag.
Fredericksburg, which received an automatic bid into the Region Four tournament by hosting it – despite a 7-10 record – will be looking for more of the same when it plays Shippensburg, which fell to Ephrata 5-4, at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, in an elimination game in the event. Southpaw Hunter Torres is expected to get the ball for Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg, which was playing without many of its regular-season regulars, fielded a club that featured eight 16-year-old players. Glen Rock, the runner-up from York County, improved to 13-8 on the summer.
“I was hoping for a respectable game,” said Fredericksburg head coach Jim McKinney. “I was hoping to get my kids experience. To have fun, and have them feel what this whole tournament is about. We always try to be competitive. That’s always the goal, to do that.
“It’s definitely going to help us, if we continue to stay together,” continued McKinney. “What we’re trying to find is a commitment to the team. If we had that, we’d have those third-year players. To do well in legion, you’ve got to have that commitment. Every coach I talked to says the same thing.”
Fredericksburg, which was eliminated by Annville in the opening round of the Lebanon County legion league playoffs last Thursday, experienced difficulties squaring up baseballs against Spring Grove righty Sammy Miller. Over his eight innings of work, Miller surrendered just two hits, struck out ten and walked four.
Miller carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth inning, when F-burg’s Quentin Rutkowski broke it up with a swinging bunt which straddled the third-base line. But to Fredericksburg’s credit, it was retired one-two-three in only three of its at-bats against Miller.
“The guy threw well,” sad McKinney of Miller. “Nothing super overpowering, but he kept it in the strike zone pretty well. Defensively, I thought we did alright. Offensively, we just weren’t getting hits. We couldn’t get the hits at the right time. Two (more) hits and it’s tied up.”
Trailing 4-0, Fredericksburg got to Miller a little bit in the bottom of the seventh.
After David Gerth walked and Dylan Blauch was hit by a pitch, Torres sacrificed them to third and second. A batter later, Tyler Faller picked up an RBI by dribbling a ball back to Miller.
“With our bats, we weren’t going to win a high-scoring game,” said McKinney. “We had to be clean. We had to play defense. Zane (Merkel) kept us in the game. He pitched and we made outs when we had to. With our firepower, we weren’t going to outscore anybody 10-8 or 12-8.”
Merkel, who emerged as one of F-burg’s top chuckers this summer, pitched in to the eighth inning and amassed a whopping pitch count of 156. Merkel fanned seven and walked three.
In the top of the first against Merkel, Glen Rock turned a walk, a wild pitch and Miller’s RBI-single into a 1-0 lead. Then in its next at-bat, Glenn Rock doubled its lead courtesy of back-to-back two-out hits from Kevin Chick and Conner Hood.
“Zane threw good,” said McKinney. “He threw a lot of pitches, but it was his last game of the season, so we left him in an extra inning. He was throwing well. That’s about 30 pitches more than I would’ve liked him to throw. But his arm was OK.
“He’s pitched fine for us all year long,” added McKinney. “I don’t like his pitch count. The first 15 kids, he was like 2-0 on them, and that was like the first five innings. That’s (keep his pitch count down) what I liked him to do, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Glen Rock extended its lead to four runs in the top of the sixth. A walk, an error and a pair of two-out safeties did the trick for the York County representatives.
“We did alright,” said McKinney. “A couple of runs they got scored on errors. We didn’t do too bad. Other than the errors, we played fairly clean baseball.
“I knew absolutely nothing about them,” continued McKinney. “Half of the teams in this tournament didn’t get in until the last night. It’s hard to know who you’re going to play.”
Region 4 Tournament
at Earl Wenger Field Memorial, Fredericksburg
Game 1: Spring Grove 2, Red Land 1
Game 2: Ephrata 5, Shippensburg 4
Game 3: Hummelstown 12, Myerstown 9
Game 4: Glen Rock 4, Fredericksburg 1
SUNDAY, JULY 20
Game 5: Red Land vs. Myerstown, 9:30 a.m.
Game 6: Shippensburg vs. Fredericksburg, 12:30
Game 7: Spring Grove vs. Hummelstown, 4
Game 8: Ephrata vs. Glen Rock, 7:30
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, 1
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 4
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7:30
TUESDAY, JULY 22
Game 12: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Loser Game 11, 4*
Game 13: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 7:30*
WEDNESDAY, JULY 23
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 11 a.m.
Game 15 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 8, following Game 14