BY JEFF FALK
CAMP HILL – Lebanon Catholic lived upstairs all afternoon. It wasn’t the fall that killed the Beavers, as much as the impact of the bottom.
After flourishing on the high heat of righthander Matt Kern, the Beavers perished by it in the bottom of the seventh inning, Tuesday during a quarterfinal contest in the District Three Class A postseason. The Lions finally caught up to Kern’s 80-mph fastball, in the form of Kevin Chrencik’s walk-off, game-winning single, and Camp Hill retired the Beavers’ season with a 4-3 win.
A tiring Kern had surrendered a double, an intentional walk and a base-on-balls to load the bases with one out, setting up Chrencik’s heroics. The home club erased Catholic’s 3-1 advantage by sending eight batters to the dish and scoring twice in the sixth.
The setback sent the up-and-down Beavers home with a 7-14 overall mark. The third-seeded Lions reached Thursday’s Class A semi-final with a 9-10 record.
“All four years, they (the seniors) made it to districts,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Scott Hargett, “as far as I know, no other class at Lebanon Catholic has ever done that. (Before the season) the seniors came to my door and asked me to coach. That’s why I’m here. This is the best summer I’ve ever had.
“Yes, any time you make district playoffs (its a successful season),” Hargett added. “That was our goal. The seniors have been here three years in-a-row, and I didn’t want to be the guy who left them down.”
Kern took a perfect game into the fourth, and had allowed two hits and one run entering the Lions’ sxith at-bat. But after lead-off guy Chad Bronson went solo on him, Camp Hill’s next three hitters reached on Kern.
Kern, who sat on the bus with ten strikeouts, declined the opportunity of a post-game interview.
“After our meeting, I told him that was the best he threw all year,” said Hargett, who never warmed up relief. “He (Kern) had all three pitches working, and if he has all three he’s effective.
“Towards the end, he lost his curveball so he had to go fastball,” Hargett continued. “There wasn’t a high strike zone early. They were going after it, but they wised up.
“He (Kern) likes to be there (high in the strike zone). All of us who ever played the game think we can hit a high fast ball. But we’re all wrong.”
Nick Culbert’s first-pitch suicide squeeze in the bottom of the sixth, after Ian Long had started it with a double, pushed Lebanon Catholic’s advantage to 3-1. Culbert also plated Drew Gates with Catholic’s first tally, on a bases-loaded walk with two outs in their opening at-bat.
“I ran it in the first game of the year,” said Hargett of successful suicide. “It worked with the same batter (Culbert). We just put the sign in today.
“They (the Lions) won the game,” added Hargett. “They did what they needed to do. Their pitching kept them in the game. We wanted to get a high pitch count on them.”
Lebanon Catholic assumed a 2-0 edge in the third, as Gates singled,was sacrificed to second by Andrew Hainly and scored on a hot grounder off the bat of Long. Catholic counted at total of four hits,only two of which came after the first inning, and fanned during nine at-bats.
“I thought we played good actually. I liked the game,” said Hargett. “When you get into a game like this, what matters is luck. They had some today, and we didn’t.
“We had done a little scouting on them,” Hargett added. “We talked to some people and they said their pitcher (Bronson) was as good as Matt. So we knew there weren’t going to be a whole lot of runs scored.”
“They’re (his players) down. No doubt about it. Matt especially. He wasn’t happy with my intentional walk (in the bottom of the seventh) call. But he (Bronson) was their best hitter.”