BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – The sun came up.
The calendar flipped to a different date.
And again baseball misplaced its memory.
It was a new day. A Campbelltown day.
On an absolutely magnificent Sunday evening at Palmyra High School, Campbelltown bettered Annville 8-4 to square its Lebanon County American Legion Baseball best-of-three semifinal series at a game apiece. On the strength of Isaac Blatt’s pitching and a three-run home run from Christian Kreiser, C-town built leads of 4-0 and 5-2, before the defending champs surprisingly lost their composure during a wild bottom of the fifth inning.
The outcome forced a third and deciding game in the set, and that will be played on Monday at 5:45 p.m. back at Palmyra High School. At stake will be a trip to the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament and the right to meet regular-season champion Fredericksburg, which edged Conrad Weiser 2-1 in the other semifinal series, for the overall league title, beginning Tuesday at Earl Wenger Memorial Field.
The result left Campbelltown 12-7 this summer, and Annville 11-8. Campbelltown has now won three of its four meetings with Annville this season.
“Today I had players playing positions they’re used to playing,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “Yesterday was a crap shoot. We had a team today. Tomorrow we’ve got (Sam) Zeigler going, and Sam’s been pitching well.
“We’re on the edge of a cliff here,” Morgan continued. “We’re going for pizza and handing in our uniforms if we don’t win. But any coach feels good when he has his lineup. I felt good last night, coming back for two home games.”
“I told our guys, ‘Forget about everything that happened in this game,'” said Mike Elliott, Annville’s acting head coach. “It was just a lot of bad breaks. Sometimes you’re the fly and sometimes you’re the windshield. But we have a tendency to hang on to bad calls.
“They (Campbelltown) definitely played better,” continued Elliott. “We didn’t play any worse. They got some big hits and they capitalized. And we didn’t.”
It was Kreiser who struck the decisive blow, a towering three-run bomb over the right field fence that gave Post 851 a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. A batter earlier, Blatt had broken a scoreless tie with an RBI-single that scored Dylan Spagnolo.
“I told them (his players) before the game, ‘Blatty’s going to throw strikes and keep us in the game. You’ve got to get a couple of key hits,'” said Morgan. “They played well. We did what we had to do. You’ve got to hit.
“We’re doing good,” added Morgan. “I got my team back. Now we’ve got to win one more.”
“We’re pretty even,” said Elliott of the two sides. “When we made errors, they capitalized. They put the ball in play. They got better at that as the game went on. We’ve got to do a better job tomorrow or we’re done.
“We need to get a good pitching performance and we need to make plays,” Elliott added. “We have to do a better job of playing as a team. We’ve been working on it and we’ve been doing a better job of it.”
Annville got to Blatt in the top of the fourth, when it scored twice to pull to within 4-2. Brandon Uhrich stroked a two-out, RBI-double and then later came around to score on an error.
But that would be as close Annville would come. Blatt completed his outing with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“Blatty was very good. I give him an A-plus,” said Morgan. “He got the big hitters out when he needed to. You know all about him. He’s a good athlete. He’ll give you everything he can give you.”
‘He threw well,” said Elliott of Blatt. “But there were no surprises. We hit him better than we had. That three-run bomb was huge. But there were positives to take out of this.”
Spagnolo’s RBI-single in the bottom of the fourth made it 5-2. And then while Campbelltown was pushing its advantage to 8-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the wheels came unhinged just a little bit for Annville.
Annville was guilty off three errors in the frame, and head coach Ken Sauley was ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire. There were also two Campbelltown bunts – one by Chris Good and the other by Brian Coburn – that went for singles.
“Everybody makes errors,” said Morgan. “When someone walks and you start bunting and moving runners, that definitely has to help. Each team had runners on base every inning.”
“Yeah, I think that’s fair to say,” said Elliott, to the notion that Annville lost its composure. “Some of our guys have to do a better job of letting go. You’ve got to forget it. Some are horrible at it.”
Annville plated a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, after Uhrich and Tyler Schrader came through with one-hit hits. Tyler Talhelm knocked in a run and the other scored on a wild pitch.
“I think everybody likes playing at home,” said Morgan. “Both sides were lined up (with fans) the whole way down. That’s nice to see.”
“We hit the ball well,” said Elliott. “We made some base-running mistakes. The umps make calls. You’ve got to react. We’ve got to get them (his players) to forget about it. We’ll get it straightened out.”
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