BY JEFF FALK
HANOVER – Maybe it’s the level of competition or the added pressure or the unfamiliar surroundings or the two-hour drive. But whatever the reason – not excuse – Campbelltown fares better in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league than it does at the Region Four tournament.
On Saturday afternoon at Hanover’s Diller Field, Campbelltown had its five-game playoff winning streak snapped by a 5-4 loss to Spring Grove, in the opening round of the annual eight-team, double-elimination event. Over the last four years, Campbelltown has gone 0-3 in opening round games in the Region Four tournament.
Not that the Lebanon County champions performed all that poorly, but C-town did make some mistakes which were uncharacteristic of its run to a third local title in four years. In squandering a 3-0 lead, Campbelltown was guilty of three errors and issuing five free passes.
Errors played a big part in Spring Grove plating three unearned runs in the decisive bottom of the sixth inning. All that was left for Spring Grove reliever Daulton Hoiles to navigate was a first-and-third, two-out situation in the top of the eighth, which he did with a fly ball to right.
The loss dropped Campbelltown, which was without two regulars because of family vacations, to 17-6 overall and into Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. loser’s bracket contest with Lancaster County champion Ephrata, which fell to Hampden Township 7-2. The last Lebanon County champion to win the Region Four tournament was the 1986 Fredericksburg club.
“Without a doubt, we were the better team today,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “But it didn’t turn out that way. We were a hit away. We had our chances.
“One bad inning,” Morgan continued. “We played pretty good today. It’s not an excuse, but we had guys out of position and had two kids on vacation.”
With Campbelltown protecting a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Spring Grove loaded the bases with no outs, on two errors and a walk. An out later, tiring C-town starter Mitch Sauley issued a bases-loaded walk to force in a run.
After Sauley gave way to reliever Johnny Binner, Colby Murphy touched him for an RBI-single. Spring Grove scored the eventual winning run on another RBI walk, this one to Levi Krause with two outs.
Nine batters. Three runs. One hit. Two errors. Three walks.
“Mitch didn’t have his good stuff, but he did well early,” said Morgan. “With the bases loaded, I had to get him out of there. It was just one of those days. We didn’t get the breaks today.”
Campbelltown got on the scoreboard first, in the top of the second inning when Tyler Morder manufactured a run with his legs. Morder led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Bryce Betz, stole third and came home on an errant throw.
“I thought we were good today,” said Morgan. “I didn’t see anything special pitching-wise. The thing with him (Spring Grove reliever and winner Hoiles), he wasn’t consistent with his strikes, but when he needed one he got one.”
C-town made it a 3-0 ball game in the fourth. Mike Fuhrman singled, Morder doubled him in and Sauley scored Morder with an RBI grounder.
“To go up 3-0, I thought we were in good shape,” said Morgan. “I thought we were super confident. That one inning hurt us, which was something that hadn’t happened to us in a while.”
Spring Grove broke through in the bottom of the fourth, after Sauley had yielded a pair of singles to start the frame, to get within a run at 3-2. Campbelltown’s response was Griffin Mitchell’s single, a safety from Mike Fuhrman and Bryce Betz’s RBI-hit.
“It’s been all good,” said Morgan of his club’s past experiences at the regional tournament. “The last time we were here (Diller Field, in 2010), we were one out away (from winning it). It’s possible, but I need those two guys. If I don’t have those two guys, it makes it tough to work my magic.”
Campelltown out hit Spring Grove 10-7. Fuhrman collected three of those C-town hits, in four official at-bats, while Morder and Bentz each had two safeties.
Spring Grove committed one error.
“I know I’m going against the grain, but they don’t have a batting cage here,” said Morgan. “If you’re going to host these things, you should have a place to hit. So we’ve got to hit three hours before the game. The field’s beautiful. But it’s tough. It makes it harder on the kids. I’d love to get here early and hit.”