BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – It was more a matter of being a complete team than a different team. Or put another way: Fredericksburg was a completely different team.
Competing with its entire roster intact for just the second time this summer, Fredericksburg manhandled regular-season and defending champion Campelltown 9-1 on Wednesday night at Palmyra High School, in the opening game of a best-of-three semifinal playoff series in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league. F-burg rode the live right arm of Ian Whitman, received an early offensive spark from Brad Kreiser and then put the outcome out of reach with a six-run, sixth-inning rally.
Fredericksburg, the fourth seed which went 7-7-1 during the regular season and lost two of three previous meetings with C-town, will take its 1-0 lead into the second game of the set, Thursday at 7 p.m. at Earl Wenger Memorial Field. Fredericksburg will send righthander Zach Smith to the hill in search of a sweep, while top-seeded Campbelltown, now 13-3, will counter with Mitchell Saulley.
“I think this may be the second time out of 20-some games this season where I’ve had all my kids,” said Fredericksburg head coach Jim McKinney. “What I would call my nine normal starters. It’s always nice. Defensively we can line up well. And I’ve got decent speed in my lineup, and it’s nice being able to move runners.
“Coming in, I was cautiously confident,” continued McKinney. “I know we have a good team. We have some players who can play some good baseball.”
“Everything started when we showed up tonight, and there’s no urgency,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “We’re playing Fredericksburg. This is the biggest rivalry in the league. This is the playoffs. We have home-field advantage. We stunk it up. All the little things we did wrong.”
Kreiser swung the momentum into the Fredericksburg corner with a ‘solo bomb’ to left field with two outs in the top of the second. It was momentum which Post 915 would never relinquish.
Two batters later, F-burg’s Jon McKinney stole home on the back end of a double steal to make it 2-0. Then Fredericksburg pushed its advantage to three runs in its next at-bat when Daulton Ritter walked, went to third on a throwing error and scored on Jordan Seltzer’s RBI-single.
“You’d have to ask him if this was a surprise,” said McKinney of Morgan. “We have a pretty decent team. We think we can compete with anyone. We’ll see how we do tomorrow night.
“Brad’s home run brought the team up a little bit,” McKinney added. “It got people excited. We only hit one or two home runs all year.”
“I didn’t want to take the heart out of my team tonight and jump all over them,” said Morgan. “But everybody knows how bad we played. If we lose tomorrow, I’m not going to be disappointed because we’ve won a couple of championships over the last few years.”
Except for a minor blip in the third, when C-town plated its lone run on Trent Filter’s two-out RBI-single, Whitman was pretty much ‘on’ all night. The sturdy righty retired the first seven batters he faced, also retired the side in the sixth and wiggled out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth, when the score was 3-1.
In his complete game victory, Whitman surrendered five hits, struck out seven and walked two.
“Ian threw a great game for us tonight,” said McKinney. “He kept it in the strike zone. I think he threw like five pitches that weren’t even close.
“When Ian is around the plate, he’s effective and a good pitcher,” McKinney continued. “When he’s around the plate, that’s when Ian shows his stuff. He’s not a huge strikeout guy. But he was ahead in the count a lot tonight, and that’s important to him.”
“That’s a pitcher,” said Morgan of Whitman. “That kid pitched a great game tonight. Every batter he changed things up. He threw all three pitches well.
“You’ve got to get something going when a pitcher is throwing like that,” continued Morgan. “If you put the ball in play, good things happen.”
Fredericksburg chased Campbelltown starter Josh Sollenberger during its six-run sixth. After Seltzer walked and Drew Bene singled, Fredericksburg registered five runs with two outs, on the strength of two-run singles from Garrett Getz and Zach Smith, and an RBI knock from Ritter.
“The team you saw tonight moved runners, played aggressive offense and solid defense,” said McKinney. “We played our game. For us to hit him (Sollenberger) and the way we played, I’m definitely pleased. This time of the season you’ve got to step up.
“Just moving runners,” McKinney added. “Getting the bunt down when we had to. We need to do that.”
“It’s going to be a battle tomorrow night because (Zach) Smith is tough,” said Morgan. “I would’ve liked to have done some damage here tonight. But that’s hind sight now.”
McKinney collected three of Fredericksburg’s 14 hits, while Getz, Kreiser, Seltzer and Bene all contributed a pair apiece.
“Of course, winning the first game is important,” said McKinney. “It’s simple math. Getting up on a good team like this is definitely helpful. That’s one win. One more to go.
“Whether or not our season has been a success hasn’t been determined yet,” McKinney continued. “I’d say it would be a success if we got into the championship series. Right now, it’s still to be determined. We had a good game tonight, but one win does not make a season.”
“Most of these kids have been here before,” said Morgan. “They’ve got to understand that if they want to repeat as champions, they’ve got a lot of work to do. They’re over this already. That’s how it is will all these teams. These kids just don’t care. But Fredericksburg played good tonight.”
Lebanon County American Legion Baseball
Final Regular Season Standings
W L T Pts.
xy-Campbelltown 12 3 0 36
y-Myerstown 10 5 0 30
y-Annville 8 6 1 25
y-Fredericksburg 7 7 1 22
Fifth Ward 5 10 0 15
Richland 2 13 0 6
y-clinched playoff berth