BY JEFF FALK
EPHRATA – Baseball is a cruel, unforgiving game in which non-failures are celebrated as successes. One bad inning has the power to spoil the bunch.
But not only can that bad inning short-circuit momentum, it can be nearly impossible from which to recover.
Avoiding that one-bad-inning scenario was one of the big reasons Myerstown had reached this point of the season.
On a hot, sticky Sunday afternoon at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, Myerstown’s one bad inning was the fifth, as it endured an 8-3 setback to Red Land, in the winner’s bracket of the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament. Red Land notched seven of its runs in the bottom half of the fifth, on six hits and two errors, and Myerstown never fully recovered.
The loss dropped Lebanon County champion Myerstown to 14-9 overall, 1-1 at regionals and into the loser’s bracket of the tournament. With its season on the line, Myerstown will take on Dauphin County champion Linglestown on Monday at 12:30 p.m., back at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.
The win moved Red Land into the undefeated game of the tournament, opposite the winner between host Ephrata and Shippensburg.
“One inning,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer. “We’re not five runs worse than that team. There’s no way. I’m proud of our effort. It was just that one inning.
“We’re competing,” added Mentzer. “We could’ve easily won that game. That’s (Red Land) a good baseball team, but we’re just as good. Those 20 minutes hurt us.”
It was the top of Red Land’s order which did the damage against Myerstown starter Austin Douple in the bottom of the fifth. The first four Red Land batters tagged Douple for hits, and then Myerstown committed errors on back-to-back plays to stoke the blaze.
All six of those batters would eventually score, as Red Land sent a total of ten hitters to the dish during the rally. Prior to the uprising, Douple and Myerstown were cruising along with a modest 3-1 advantage.
“That’s baseball,” said Mentzer. “I could’ve went out there and talked to Austin, but he was doing his job. We weren’t making the plays. It was better not to bring Cole (reliever, Miller) in during the middle of an inning. They (Red Land) got the hits when they needed them. That scoreboard is not indicative of this game.
“I wasn’t going to take him (Douple) out of that inning,” continued Mentzer. “He didn’t pitch bad. It was inches on a couple of those plays. That’s what creates big innings.”
Myerstown had taken a 3-1 lead with a two-run, top-of-the-third, on RBI hits from, first Brett Baweic and then Cody Horst. Douple had started the inning with a walk, and a Red Land error had kept threat going.
“They gave us runs too, by making errors,” said Mentzer of Red Land. “We didn’t capitalize more to make the inning bigger, or it could’ve been a 6-1 or a 7-1 game. We got plenty of hits today (ten), just not at the right time.
“I told our guys we’re still sitting fine,” Mentzer continued. “Yesterday was the key win. We still have a chance. We can do it. I have the arms. We just made it a little harder on ourselves today. It’s tough to rebound, but we’re going to have to do it.”
Red Land reached Douple for a single run in the bottom of the first inning, but Myerstown got it right back in the top of the second. Myerstown loaded the bases with one out, on singles from B. Bawiec and Vinnie Vitelli and an error, before Miller knocked in a run with a grounder.
“We needed to chip away,” said Mentzer of his team’s deficit. “I wasn’t looking to score five runs the next inning. We loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning, and we needed to score a couple of runs. If we did, that would’ve made the eighth and ninth innings different. That’s what took the wind out of our sails a little bit.
“I was pleased with the way we responded,” added Mentzer. “We got guys on base in three of the next four innings. We responded. We continued to hit. Zach (Red Land’s Newmyer) is a good pitcher. He’s a Division Two pitcher (at Bloomsburg). The way we hit against him was a big plus.”
Newmyer went the distance to get the win, striking out 14. Before giving way to Miller to start the bottom of the sixth, Douple struck out one and walked two.
“Our pitching was set up perfectly. It was,” said Mentzer. “‘Doup’ was pitching well until that one inning. His fielding left him down a little bit.”
Brett Bawiec collected three of Myerstown’s ten hits, while Conor Bawiec, Horst and K. Bogdanovich each contributed a pair.
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Region Four American Legion
Baseball Tournament Schedule
(at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field)
SATURDAY, JULY 18
GAME 1: Myerstown 1, Pleasureville 0
GAME 2: Shippensburg 7, Linglestown 4
GAME 3: Red Land 2, Penn Manor 1
GAME 4: Ephrata 21, Northeastern 4 (7 innings)
SUNDAY, JULY 19
GAME 5: Penn Manor 6, Pleasureville 3 (Pleasureville eliminated)
GAME 6: Linglestown 5 Northeastern 3 (Northeastern eliminated)
GAME 7: Red Land 8, Myerstown 3
GAME 8: Shippensburg vs. Ephrata, 7
MONDAY, JULY 20
GAME 9: Linglestown vs. Myerstown, 12:30 (loser eliminated)
GAME 10: Penn Manor vs. Loser Game 8, 3:30 (loser eliminated)
GAME 11: Red Land vs. Winner Game 8, 7
TUESDAY, JULY 21
GAME 12: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Loser Game 11, 3:30* (loser eliminated)
GAME 13: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 7* (Winner Game 9 or 10 eliminated with loss)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22
GAME 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 11:30 a.m. (Winner Game 12 eliminated with loss; Winner Game 13 possibly eliminated with loss)
GAME 15: Winner Game 14 vs. Winner Game 11, 2 (if necessary, loser eliminated)