BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Maybe it was everyone embracing their roles.
Perhaps it was a little bit of pride kicking in.
Or it could’ve been the new leadership taking hold.
But somewhere around June 21st things began clicking for Fredericksburg. And Post 915 has never been more like itself since.
On a toasty Thursday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, Fredericksburg outslugged Richland 16-7 in the Undefeated Game of the Lebanoin County American Legion Baseball league’s six-team, double-elimination postseason tournament. F-burg used a gigantic nine-run explosion in the bottom of the fifth inning to snap a seven-all deadlock and gain firm control of the circuit’s playoff.
Winners of ten of their last 11 outings, the defending league champions and reigning Regional Four titlists advanced to Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game, back at Earl Wenger Field. Second-seeded F-burg will await the survivor of Thursday’s 5:45 p.m. elimination game at Palmyra High School, between Richland and top-seeded Campbelltown, which stayed alive with a 6-2 triumph over Fifth Ward.
Richland, the number-five seed in the tournament, fell to 9-9 on the season. Fredericksburg has now won three of its four overall meetings with Richland this summer.
The winner of the playoffs will represent Lebanon County at the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament at Hanover’s Diller Field next weekend.
“That losing streak still blows my mind,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer of a six-game slide earlier in the season. “We were just playing sloppy ball. It was them clicking as a team that got things turned around. They finally understood what it was to win.
“It’s a little bit of both (pride and leadership),” continued Schaeffer. “I never counted on that. But some of these kids are using that (the pride). They’re really leading by example. That’s why I do this. I see all these kids come through. Every summer I have a new set of 17 to 18 boys. They’re your family for the summer.”
“They’re scrappy,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome of F-burg. “Their pitchers throw strikes. We had some at-bats where we took some balls. But they (Fredericksburg) put the ball in play. They make you play defense.
“We just didn’t have it tonight,” continued Thome. “Our defense didn’t come through. They put up runs. We didn’t put up enough runs. It wasn’t anything we haven’t seen. Talking about it doesn’t do you any good. You’ve got to do it.”
Fredericksburg sent 15 batters to the plate during its nine-run, bottom of the fifth, and it unfolded almost like two different rallies – six runs scored before two outs were recorded, and three runs scored after those outs were registered. It all began with singles by Seth Daubert, Mike Marlowe, Logan Rhoad and Hayden Johnson, ahead of Austin Barry’s key three-run triple to right field.
Later in the frame, Daubert contributed a two-run double and Marlowe drove home another run. In all, Fredericksburg collected nine hits in the explosion and benefitted from two Richland errors.
“We were getting two guys on base,” said Schaeffer. “Our pitcher (Rhoad) laid down a perfect bunt and everything began to click. It was like, ‘here we go’. You put pressure on the other team when you hit the ball like that.
“The approach I want them to take at the plate is the approach I took when I played,” Schaeffer continued. “It’s the mindset of ‘look for one pitch’. I try to tell them to look for that one pitch. If you get it, you get it. If not, you’ve got to work the count.”
“We had a couple of errors and a couple of walks,” said Thome of the bottom of the fifth. “Anytime you’re walking guys on top of errors, it’s a recipe for disaster. But they hit the ball. They smoked the ball pretty well. But we didn’t help ourselves.
“They had two big innings,” Thome continued. “That was it. We jumped out early and they came right back. We tied it, and that’s the final score.”
Richland seemed to capture the moment when it scored six times in the top of the fourth inning to tie the score at seven all. Richland needed just two hits to do its damage, scoring six of its runs with two outs.
Clay Hain, Hunter Bojanic and Matt Bentz all walked to start the inning, before Jude Anthony, Joey Ginder, Joseph Carpenter and Jonathan LaBarbera came through with RBIs.
“He wasn’t far out of the zone,” said Schaeffer of his starting pitcher, Johnson. “He was just out of it. But I was determined to stay with him. Then I had enough.
“I just told the kids I was very proud of them,” added Schaeffer. “After they (Richland) tied the game, they had the momentum. But we got it right back.”
“We knew were were going to have to score some runs,” said Thome. “Our number’s kind of ten. We’re going to have to score a lot of runs to win a ball game. We got some momentum back. But anytime someone puts up a big number like that, it’s hard to come back. But we know our lineup can do it.
“I would say this was one of our worst defensive games, all-around,” Thome added. “We played poor defense.”
Nursing a 2-1 lead, Fredericksburg tacked on four runs in the bottom of the second frame. Johnson and Brandon Breidegan knocked home F-burg runs, while the other two resulted from an error and a balk.
“We can fight,” said Schaeffer. “We’re starting to hit the ball on the ground. That’s important. We hit the ball like that a couple of times this year.
“We’re really comfortable here,” Schaeffer added. “We’ve always been comfortable here. The kids are just more relaxed.”
“He threw well enough,” said Thome of his stater, Hain. “His fastball was a little flat. The (strike) zone was a little tight. Then you’ve got to pitch to contact and play defense. They (Fredericksburg) took advantage of pitches over the plate.”
Carpenter drove in Deklan Bressler, as Richland grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the opening inning. But Post 915 responded with two runs in the home half of the inning, on Breidegan’s two-run single.
“We’re good to go,” said Schaeffer, who mentioned Cole Felty as a possible starter on Saturday. “I have lots of pitching left.”
“Oh yeah, we can still win it,” said Thome. “If our bats come through and we play good defense, we’ll be fine. It’ll be tough, but we still have our lineup. We have just about everyone available (to pitch).”
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Lebanon County American Legion
Baseball League Playoff Standings
Team W L
Fredericksburg 2 0
Richland 2 1
Campbelltow 2 1
x-Fifth Ward 1 2
x-Annville 1 2
x-Conrad Weiser 0 2
Regular Season Standings