BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Sports is psychological warfare. Get inside a team’s head and get it down, then you break its will and douse its spirit.
And if you do that, then you win.
On a warm Wednesday evening at Elco High School’s Lyle Krall Field, the Campbelltown American Legion baseball team won the mental battle by taking it to Richland early, on its way to a 10-0 road triumph. Campbelltown scored seven times in its first two at-bats, making the pitching job for right-hander Sam Zeigler, who collaborated with reliever Dylan Fausey on a one-hitter, relatively easy.
Consider this: Some Campbelltown batters had been to the plate three times before Richland got through its line-up once. Zeigler retired the first ten Richland hitters in-a-row, and by the time the home team got a runner on base against him in the bottom of the fourth, C-town was sitting on an 8-0 cushion.
The win evened Campbelltown’s record at 2-2 in the summer circuit, and was the first of nine games over the next 12 days. Richland now also stands at .500 in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League, at 3-3-1.
“We just came out well and played baseball,” said Campbelltown head coach Geoff Good. “We got ahead and got everybody in the game. Getting ahead, that’s a must for us. When we start on top, we play much better.
“It allowed us to get everyone in the game,” continued Good. “We have a very young team and they’re all learning.”
“As soon as the first pitch was thrown, it didn’t feel like we were in it,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome. “You could just tell. When we got to the field, our approach tonight, we weren’t in it.
“I think you find out who your ball players are when you’re on the wrong side of the scoreboard,” Thome continued. “You see who’s here to compete. I think we had three base runners all game. We didn’t do anything offensively. We were quiet as a mouse out there.”
Campbelltown wasted precious little time jumping on Richland starter Aron Dietz, as its first three hitter of the game – Dylan Spagnolo, Jacob Wagner and Isaac Blatt – all singled ahead of Zeigler being hit by a pitch. Blatt’s single drove home a pair, before he came around on Trevor Binner’s RBI knock.
Then in the top of the second, C-town added to its 3-0 advantage. Kasey Shughart’s lead-off double set the stage for Spagnolo’s RBI-single and Binner drove home another pair, while the fourth run of the rally came in via a throwing error.
“I thought we had quality at-bats,” said Good. “We had several six- and seven-pitch at-bats. And we ran the bases well. We really played good fundamental baseball.
“We’re a very young team,” added Good. “We count on the older guys for leadership. And the other guys are going to learn, one way or another.”
“We have some older guys on the team,” said Thome. “Guys who are going to be seniors and guys who were seniors. You tell them, ‘You’ve got to step up. You’ve got to communicate.” But they’ve got to want to do it.
“They’ve (Campbelltown players) always got some pep,” Thome continued. “It always seems like they’re ready to play. They’re excited to be here. You know you’re going to get a good game from them. This year isn’t any different for them.”
The only hit Zeigler surrendered was Clay Hain’s sharp single in the hole between third base and shortstop with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. He gave way to Fausey on the next hitter, but before he exited, he struck out five and walked one in his 59 pitches.
Richland advanced a runner as far as third base only once all night.
“That was probably Sam’s best performance,” said Good. “He threw a lot of strikes. He got ahead in the count and threw all three of his pitches for strikes.
“He had a no-hitter, and gave up a hit,” Good continued. “And with his pitch count, he could pitch a little for us on Saturday. But they’re (Richland) a much better team than they showed today. That’s baseball.”
“They threw well,” said Thome of Zeigler and Fausey. “They weren’t anything we hadn’t seen. Tonight we played another good team contending for the playoffs, and we just weren’t ready to play. If we don’t come to play, it’s going to be a long night.
“I don’t think we had one (an approach at the plate,” continued Thome. “Our first two innings we had three strikeouts and three pop-outs. We’re swinging early. We’re not making him (Zeigler) throw anything.”
Post 831 made it 8-0 in the top of the third, as Chris Good, Spagnolo and Wagner all walked ahead of Blatt’s sacrifice fly to right. Campbelltown grew its lead to nine runs in the fifth, when Frankie Errichetti came through with a run-scoring hit with two outs. And Binner drove home C-town’s final tally with a single in the sixth.
“I think as a team, as a whole, everyone plays better with the lead,” said Good. “It’s more fun.Right now, we’re watching our pitching. Seeing who’s available. And we’ve got vacations to consider.
“The goal is just to improve our skills and learn the game of baseball,” added Good. “It’s not always about wins and losses.”
“Our last two games showed what kind of team we are,” said Thome of wins over Fredericksburg and Annville. “We had good defense, good pitching and timely hitting. If we’re really stroking the ball, things might turn around.
“We’re going every game hoping we have enough players,” Thome added. “It’s a matter of if you want to be here or not. We’re hoping they want to compete.”
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