HARRISBURG – The Palmyra baseball team finds itself in the enviable position of having to choose between getting reserves some additional playing time or trying to maintain an elevated level of play as a way of preparing for the upcoming postseason. It’s a nice dilemma that the Cougars have earned the right to navigate.
The way it turns out, Palmyra has chosen to develop its depth and stay hot at the same time.
On a pleasant Thursday evening at Susquehanna Township Middle School, the Cougars kept rolling along with an effective combination of reserves and regulars, during a 9-2 blitzing of the hometown Indians. Performing as a team on a few different levels, it was business as usual for Palmyra, which raced out to an early 7-1 lead.
The triumph in the Cougars’ next-to-last regular-season contest came a day after they had clinched the Mid-Penn Keystone Division title, with a 9-3 victory at Lower Dauphin on Wednesday. The win was also Palmyra’s tenth straight, as well as the 16th in its last 17 outings, and pushed it to 16-3 on the spring.
On Monday at 4 p.m., Palmyra will travel to Northern York for a Mid-Penn Conference semifinal postseason match-up. The conference championship game is scheduled for that same night, at 7 p.m. at Northern York.
In the latest District Three power rankings, the Cougars were positioned fifth in an AAAAA classification that takes 16 teams for its playoff tournament.
With the loss, Susquehanna Township dropped to 8-10 overall.
“It’s baseball. You’ve got to take the losses with the wins,” said Palmyra head coach Neil Weber. “When you get off to a slow start, you try not to panic. You try to go out and win every inning. When you start 0-2, you can look at it two different ways. You can dig a deeper hole, or you can just go out and win the next ball game. We knew we could come out, play well and go from there.
“Scoring runs is important,” continued Weber. “But the pitching staff has done a really nice job. If you throw strikes and take care of the baseball, good things are going to happen. We have different guys contributing every day, in every facet of the game.”
Palmyra has also made a habit of getting off to fast starts. Against the Indians, the Cougars plated seven runs in their first two at-bats.
In the top of the first inning, Palmyra assumed a 2-0 lead, courtesy of RBI-singles from Gage Miller and Isaac Kleinfelter. Then, after Susquehanna’s Titus Shay had hit a solo home run leading off the home half of the first, the Cougars took control of the outcome with a five-run rally in the top of the second.
The big blow was a three-run ding-dong to center field struck by Mason Kepler. Gavin Neal contributed a run-scoring single to the Palmyra rally and Miller added an RBI-double.
“We actually had a lot of guys in the lineup who don’t normally get a lot of playing time, and they stepped up and did great,” said Weber. “I wanted to get those guys some playing time. We have another game tomorrow at Cedar Cliff, and the game plan was to get (starting pitcher, Fisher) Caleb four innings of work, and have him throw strikes.
“Everybody on the team deserves playing time,” added Weber. “They all work really hard. But by no means did that put us behind the eight-ball. Now we’re going to re-focus and go play Cedar Cliff.”
The solo shot by Shay in the first inning was the only earned run surrendered by Fisher. Before giving way to Nick Lafoe to start the bottom of the sixth, Fisher, a junior southpaw, allowed three hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.
“It was either Caleb’s first or second start of the season,” said Weber. “He was outstanding. He gave up that solo home run to the first batter, but then settled down and pitched lights out.
“He’s a big strong lefty,” Weber continued. “As he keeps developing, he’ll get more time on the mound. For him, the key is fastball location. But he actually threw a good number of change-ups today. Caleb’s got all the makings of a front-line pitcher.”
The Cougars extended their lead to 9-2 in the top of the sixth. Miller’s lead-off walk and Kepler’s ringing double set the stage for Evan Siegfried’s two-run single.
Palmyra left a total of 12 runners on base.
“You never know what the team is going to be like,” said Weber, of the start of the season. “On paper, it really looked like we had a strong team. But it takes effort to have a winning season. I think we’ve learned a lot as a team. For us, it’s been one game at a time and focusing on playing seven innings the next game.”
|2021-03-31||A||vs||Bishop McDevitt (3)(3)||L||9-11|
|2021-04-05||H||vs||Central Dauphin East(3)||W||15-0|
|2021-04-26||H||vs||Bishop McDevitt (3)(3)||W||14-4|
|2021-04-28||A||vs||Central Dauphin East(3)||W||10-0|
|11||Spring Grove Area||11-||6-||0||0.656306||0.726496||0.570518||12.75||192.35||4.80||144.80|