BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – They were sure they would play well and be competitive. And they knew they were the underdogs.
But that didn’t mean they believed they couldn’t win.
On a glorious Saturday morning at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, Campbelltown opened the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four American Legion baseball tournament with a huge 2-1 upset of favorite Linglestown. Propelled by a brilliant pitching outing from right-hander Isaac Blatt, C-town assumed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning and then survived Linglestown’s most serious threat in the top of the ninth.
For Campbelltown, the unofficial eighth-seed and now 14-9, the result was a pleasant surprise, given Lebanon County’s lack of historical success at the event. The triumph pushed Post 831 into Sunday’s 4 p.m. winner’s bracket contest opposite the winner between Dallastown and New Cumberland.
Linglestown, the seasoned Dauphin County champion and the unofficial top-seed in the tournament, dropped into the loser’s bracket.
“I told them before the game, ‘There’s a reason why you’re here – because you deserve it,'” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan of his troops. “You can’t worry about them (Linglestown) being the number-one seed. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to battle and keep moving on.
“I told you I’d be happy to win a game here. Now everything’s a bonus,” continued Morgan. “I knew (Fredericksburg head coach Tim) Schaeffer played them (Linglestown) twice. I talked to him about it. They didn’t hit, and we didn’t hit.”
“Our mindset was: It comes down to execution,” said Blatt. “It doesn’t matter how young we are or how experienced we are. It comes down to who executes.”
And Blatt executed Linglestown to death.
Blatt needed 102 pitches to finish what he started. He fanned six, walked one and yielded six hits, half of which came in the top of the ninth.
And his mates made all the plays behind Blatt.
It turned out to be one of the finest moments in Blatt’s illustrious athletic career for Campbelltown and Palmyra High School.
“Blatty, I’ll tell you what,” said Morgan. “He leads by example. He’s just a gamer, and he loves the big spots.
“He rises to the occasion,” added Morgan. “I didn’t see anything different (from him in the top of the ninth). We were going to 122 (pitches) with him. But we have three quality starters.”
“This may have been the best I ever pitched, especially given this high level of competition,” said Blatt. “And throwing all nine innings, that’s a first. I felt like I normally did. The last couple of games I had a good fastball. I had command of all my pitches today.”
With Linglestown employing four different hurlers to conserve pitch counts, the game was tied at zero through seven-and-a-half innings. But Campbelltown broke through for two runs in the bottom of eighth, after Kasey Shughart and Brian Coburn opened the at-bat with singles, and Jake Wagner sacrificed them to third base and second.
Then, after an intentional walk to Blatt, clean-up hitter Christian Kreiser lofted a sacrifice fly to center that scored Shughart. Trevor Binner followed with a two-out RBI-single to make it 2-0.
“We had those two runs and I was licking my chops,” said Morgan. “Then five minutes later I was squeezing. Absolutely we were the underdogs. Just look at our record.
“They (Linglestown) have the luxury to do that (change pitchers multiple times),” Morgan continued. “Everybody threw strikes. I think that last move was because of a suicide squeeze possibility.”
“I’m more of a silent leader,” said Blatt. “I don’t do a whole lot of talking on the bench. But I want to lead by example, especially in big games like this.”
After cruising through eight innings by pitching ahead in the count, Blatt ran into trouble in the top of the ninth.
Linglestown’s first three batters in the inning singled, to load the bases with nobody out. But Blatt bore down and only yielded a one-out RBI grounder before closing it out.
“I knew it was not going to be easy,” said Morgan. “You go with the flow and have fun.”
“I was still feeling good,” said Blatt of the top of the ninth. “I didn’t feel like I was going to lose it. They were hitting it just out of the reach of our guys.”
Campbelltown loaded the bases after two outs had been recorded in the bottom of the third. But Linglestown got out of the jam with a strikeout.
In the bottom of the sixth, Blatt employed some daring base running to reach third base with one out. He laid down a perfect bunt single, then was the beneficiary of a two-base throwing error.
“What stands out to me about this tournament is that it includes all the best high-school players – and even some college players – from the surrounding counties,” said Morgan. “But you’ve still got to play.”
Campbelltown collected eight hits.
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