BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Approaching the midway point of the regular season, the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League standings are beginning to take shape – some of which is based on traditional roles in the circuit. For its part, Campebelltown has the look of a contender, a club which will ultimately have to be dealt with, a group that, dare we say, could be the team to beat.
On Thursday evening at Palmyra High School, short-handed Campbelltown kept merrily rolling along with a tougher-than-it-looked 8-2 victory over last-place Fifth Ward. Behind the complete-game pitching of starter Zach Yingst, Post 831 plated all of its runs from the fourth inning on.
Despite being down a number of key players to the right of passage known as ‘Senior Week’, Campbelltown improved to 5-1 in the local summer baseball circuit. Fifth Ward fell to 1-7 in the league.
“I’d love to go to regionals this year,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan, of the prize for winning the County legion championship. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. We’ll see how it goes from here.
“I’ve got 18 players on my roster, and on Sunday we had nine,” added Morgan. “And when the kids do show up, they want to play. I’m missing the heart of my team.”
“Campbelltown is the same as always,” said Fifth Ward head coach Tony McDonnell. “They are what they are. They have a great feeder program. They make all the plays, and they do the little things. It’s going to be who has the best arms at the end of the season.”
For all intents and purposes, last night’s outcome was decided in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Campbelltown batted around, scored four times, on just one hit and benefited from three Lebanon errors. None of the runs C-town scored were earned.
Evan Hallowell did jump start the Campbelltown rally with a single, and teammate Isaac Blatt drove in a run with a bases-loaded single. But the other three Post 831 runs were direct results of Fifth Ward fielding blunders.
“It took long for us to get it going,” said Morgan. “That lefty (Fifth Ward starter Christian Deleon) had us off-balance. I guess the word must be out about us. It seems like all we’ve seen this year are left-handed pitchers.
“I saw it (the life going out of the Lebanon players after that),” added Morgan. “It was like turning the lights out.”
“Horrible defense. Horrible,” said McDonnell. “They (Campbelltown) scored four runs on one hit in the fourth. You saw they (his players) went down. They went down. We expected so much more of this group this year. It was a struggle tonight.
“He (Fifth Ward third baseman William Scaturo) makes two errors, and then he gets down on himself,” continued McDonnell. “But they (Campblletown) made the plays. And we didn’t. We just fell apart.”
Yingst was steady, stingy and sturdy throughout. After running into some early difficulties, he seemed to gain confidence pitching with the lead.
In his seven innings of work, Yingst scattered five hits, whiffed seven and walked two. Yingst’s defense supported him by turning a pair of twin killings.
“He didn’t pitch well for Timmy (Gingrich) for some reason,” said Morgan of Yingst’s spring scholastic season with the Palmyra Cougars. “But he’s pitched well for me. He throws strikes. He’s such a gamer. He’s an athlete.
“He was throwing three balls,” Morgan continued, “and he was throwing three strikes. If he wouldn’t gotten out of trouble in the sixth, I was going to make a move. I’m glad I didn’t.”
“I thought our kids were too lackadaisical against him,” said McDonnell of Yingst. “They were letting the first strike go. When I saw who was pitching I thought we could get to him.
“Chrisitan (Deleon) was fine,” continued McDonnell. “He was throwing very well. But you could see it in his body language, when things didn’t go his way.”
Ahead 4-1, Campbelltown added on in the bottom of the fifth inning, in the form of Hallowell’s lead-off double and Bradey Powell’s RBI-single. Then C-town broke it open in its next at-bat.
Isaac Blatt and Chris Good opened the home half of the sixth with singles, and Bobby Dorta followed with a run-scoring double. Hallowell drove in a run with a grounder, while the third run of the rally scored on the fourth Lebanon error of the evening.
“We make the plays,” said Morgan. “Tonight we played good defense. We had a couple of key double plays that got us out of trouble. It’s what you get. All these kids are good. They’re young, talented kids. I’m happy with my defense. And I haven’t used one of my better pitchers yet.
“It’s Senior Week and there’s four down there (the shore),” Morgan added. “I’ve got a few boys going to basketball camp with the high school team this weekend. I used to let it stress me out. But I don’t let it get to me now.”
“We try to reset goals,” said McDonnell. “We went 0-5, and at the beginning of the second third of the season, we beat Richland. We’ve got to get some kind of momentum going into the playoffs.”
Fifth Ward grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, after Yingst had retired the first two batters. Cody Kissinger reached on a C-town throwing error and Scaturo plated him with a double.
Lebanon also scored the final run of the contest, in the top of the seventh inning. Brycen Loeper led off with a walk, went to second on a passed ball, moved to third on a ground out and came home on Dharlim Vasquez’s grounder.
“I think it might be the Lebanon mentality,” said McDonnell of his club’s struggles. “They had a little success in high school. It is what it is. I think they get in the mindset, ‘Here we go again.’ We started the season with some great practices. But we’re very young.”
“I voted against it,” said Morgan of the league’s decision to include all teams in its postseason. “The team who voted for it, you know who they are. They were the teams who never make it. In other leagues, the champion is the team that wins the regular season. They don’t have playoffs. You don’t deserve to be in the playoffs if you’ve got three wins.”
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Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League Standings