BY JEFF FALK
ALLENTOWN – In the baseball score book, they’re mirror opposites. But when mixed and combined, runners left on base and allowing runs to score with two outs possess the destructive power to collectively tear down a season.
On Monday evening at Parkland High School, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA postseason, Palmyra experienced difficulties coming up with the clutch hit and the third out, and endured a season-ending 7-6 setback to Palmerton. The Cougars stranded a total of 13 runners on the base paths and permitted the Blue Bombers to score seven times, after two outs had been recorded in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Palmyra, which had stranded 11 runners on base and surrendered six two-out runs during a 7-0 loss to Hamburg in the District Three championship game on Thursday, concluded its campaign at 17-8. The Cougars finished their spring with two straight losses, after ripping off ten straight wins.
Palmerton, the District 11 champion, moved into Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the state tournament opposite Susquehanna Township, a 6-5 winner over Archbishop Wood.
“Three things killed us,” said Palmyra head coach Tim Gingrich, with a sigh. “Too many left on base. Too many errors. And that play at first base (on a bang-bang call in the bottom of the fourth) cost us four runs. What are you going to do? But you’ve got to make things happen.
“It was almost like reliving the same thing we did on Thursday in the district championship game,” added Gingrich. “You can’t do that at this time of the year.”
Facing the 7-3 deficit that Palmerton’s half of the fourth inning had created, the Cougars clawed back.
Palmyra plated three runs in the top of the sixth to pull within a single tally of the lead. Dylan Spagnolo, Isaac Blatt, Evan Hallowell, Nick Decarlo and Brandon Charochak all singled for the Cougars during the rally, while Zach Yingst and Ryan James drove home runs with a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk. The third Cougar run scored on a Palmerton error.
Then in the seventh, Palmyra got the potential tying run to third base with two outs, after Blatt singled, moved to second on a throwing error and advanced on a ground out. But it was at that point that the Cougars’ dream came to an end.
“To me, I don’t think we let that inning (Palmerton’s fourth) get to us, or we wouldn’t have come right back,” said Gingrich. “We gave up no earned runs. Our defense was not very good. That’s not like us. We usually make those plays.
“We knew it was going to come down to who played best and who made the plays,” continued Gingrich. “You’ve just got to come out ready to play. We did, but we didn’t make the plays.”
The Blue Bombers managed do something that no team had accomplished in over a month – get to Blatt on the mound.
Palmerton sent 11 batters to the dish and scored seven times in the bottom of the fourth. It all started with a Cougar error and a single, before Blatt got the next two hitters on strikes.
But that’s when the flood gates opened. The next six Blue Bombers reached base, on two doubles, two singles, another Palmyra error and a walk.
In all, Palmyra was guilty of four errors.
“They kind of rattled him a little bit,” said Gingrich of the Blue Bombers, Blatt and the bottom of the fourth. “We made some errors. They got some key hits. It kind of snow-balled on us. We came up one run short.
“They (the Blue Bombers) were just like what we were figuring,” Gingrich continued. “We weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.”
Palmyra opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the second.
Yingst led off with a double, then after two outs were recorded, teammates Brady Powell, Ryan James and Jacob Wagner drew back-to-back-to-back walks. Wagner’s was of the RBI variety, while Spagnolo followed with a run-scoring single.
“I thought we did OK at practice, bouncing back from Thursday,” said Gingrich. “But we were leaving too many guys on base.
“I think when I look back on this season it’s going to be one of my favorites,” Gingrich added. “The kids really stepped up late in the year. When you run ten (wins) off, that’s pretty special. You can’t ask any more of these kids. You always hope they’re going to reach their potential, but you never know.”
The Cougars upped their lead to 3-0 in their half of the third, thanks to Powell’s RBI-single. Powell’s hit scored Hallowell, who walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by Decarlo.
Palmyra collected a total of 11 hits.
“I think when I talk to the kids I’ll tell them to look back on the experience they had,” said Gingrich. “But it’s a long way home.
“I always want them (his players) to do well in the summer (Lebanon County American Legion League),” continued Gingrich. “The better they do in the summer, the better they’ll do next spring. It’s nice that they’re going to play together. We’re losing a good group of seniors (six), but we’ve got a good JV team coming up.”
Palmyra’s loss officially ended the 2015-16 Lebanon County scholastic sports year. But it did pave the way for the beginning of the Lebanon County American Legion summer baseball season.
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2016 Palmyra Baseball Results
|2:00 PM||W 10-5|
|4:00 PM||L 0-5|
|4:15 PM||W 7-4|
|1:00 PM||L 2-11|
|4:15 PM||W 11-4|
|4:00 PM||L 1-11|
|4:00 PM||W 5-4|
|4:00 PM||W 16-1|
|4:15 PM||W 10-0|
|4:00 PM||L 1-11|
|4:15 PM||L 1-7|
|4:00 PM||W 6-3|
|12:00 PM||L 2-8|
|4:00 PM||W 3-2|
|4:00 PM||W 3-0|
|4:00 PM||W 13-0|
|4:15 PM||W 6-1|
|4:00 PM||W 2-1|
|7:00 PM||W 9-7|
|4:30 PM||W 10-0|
|4:30 PM||W 7-3|
|4:30 PM||W 10-2|
|4:00 PM||W 1-0|
|6:30 PM||L 0-7|
Final Keystone Division Standings