PALMYRA – Being in first place is like being on the pole position. You don’t get any plaques or ribbons for it, but it is the spot from which races are most easily won.
And no matter what anyone tells you, there is a certain psychological edge associated with looking down, as opposed to looking up.
On Thursday night at Palmyra High School, reigning champion Campbelltown took over sole possession of first-place in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league, and in the process sent a message to the rest of the circuit. C-town hit and hit and hit, and then hit some more to blow away a solid Myerstown club 17-4, in a game shortened to five innings by the 12-run mercy rule.
Campbelltown scored ten times in the bottom of the fourth inning to turn a 7-4 game into a route. After wiggling out of a bases-loaded-nobody-out predicament in the top of the first inning, C-town had opened a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the second.
The triumph was Campbelltown’s second over Myerstown this season and lifted it to 4-0 on the season. Myerstown, which could’ve taken over sole possession of first-place with a different outcome, slipped to 4-3.
“Four-and-0 is pretty good stuff,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “Everybody’s got three losses but us and Annville. These scores are lop-sided, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that everyday.
“I think we’re hitting the ball well against better pitching,” Morgan added. “We have good quality pitching, but the kids can hit. I couldn’t believe it with Fredericksburg (an 11-1 win). And I couldn’t believe it tonight. It’s a long way to go, but I like where we’re at now.”
“Yes and no,” said Myerstown skipper John Mentzer of the importance of first place. “This is such an even league. The county, in general, is full of talent, but it’s spread out. I don’t think there’s a target on their (Campbelltown) back.
“They didn’t hit the four-games-in-a-week part of their schedule yet,” Mentzer continued. “It’s going to get interesting over the next couple of weeks. But they’re a good baseball team. They showed that with their hitting tonight.”
The bottom of the fourth inning represented the second time in the contest that Campbelltown loaded the bases with nobody out. In fact, C-town’s first five batters in the frame reached base and all five came around to score.
John Binner’s two-run single was the highlight of the Campbelltown rally, while six teammates – Mitchell Saulley, Griffin Mitchell, Tyler Morder Mike Rothermel, Trey Baker and Mike Furhman – also drove home runs. In all, 14 batters hitched a ride on the C-town merry-go-round.
“That’s exactly what I tell them,” said Morgan of his players. “When you’re successful, everyone wants you. Everybody (his players) seems to be happy. That’s what the key to success is here.
“Obviously their good pitcher (Conor Bawic) wasn’t here,” Morgan added. “You’ve got to have pitching. Next week, everyone’s got five games. I think everybody’s got a number-one pitcher, but after that a lot of teams don’t have much.”
“Chris (Kreider) really hasn’t throw much all summer,” said Mentzer of his starter. “We kind of threw him out there to see what he could do. They (Campbelltown) adjusted, they hit the ball and made the plays. It was the long innings. We didn’t deserve to win the baseball game. It is what it is.
“This was a result of us being bad,” added Mentzer. “We shot ourselves in the foot and we made mental mistakes.”
With three straight hits from Tyler Starry, Mike Wealand and Jake Stager, Myerstown loaded the bases with nobody out against C-town starter Morder in the top of the first. But after a visit from Morgan. Morder got back-to-back strikeouts and then an inning-ending ground-out to get out of the jam unscathed.
That series of events would prove to be a huge momentum changer.
“I said to Tyler, ‘You’ve got to throw something different (than the fastball),” said Morgan. “And when he did, he started getting outs. To get out of a bases-loaded-nobody-out jam, that set the tone for the whole game.
“I don’t believe we have an error in the season,” continued Morgan. “We’re doing the little things. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
“He really shut us down the first time we saw him,” said Mentzer of Morder. “We were on him all day. We just didn’t do our job. Do I think they’re 14 or 15 runs better than us? No.
“I told my kids after the first inning, ‘We’re going to hit the ball,'” Mentzer continued. “I commended my guys for coming back and swinging the bats.”
On an error and singles from Baker and Fuhrman, Campbelltown loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the first. RBI ground-outs from Saulley and Mitchell and a two-out single by Morder made it 3-0 Campbelltown.
Then Campbelltown tacked on four more in the second, as Fuhrman blasted a two-run triple to the fence in left and Josh Sollenberger and Saulley collected single RBIs.
“I figured I’d start Tyler and roll the dice,” said Morgan. “I don’t like to throw the same guy against a team. But he pitched well against them earlier.
“This team (Myerstown) can hit, one through four, no question,” continued Morgan. “Tyler started throwing his curve-ball and kept the guys off balance.”
“If we put a crooked number up in the first inning, it’s a different ball game,” said Mentzer. “We’re doomed from there. If we do (score a run or more), they don’t score three in the bottom of the first.”
Myerstown made a game out of it by plating four runs in the top of the third. Kyle Bogdonovich laced a two-run single, while Grant Fisher smashed a two-run double with two outs to pull M-town to within 7-4.
“They (Campbelltown) have a benefit because they are the only team in the league that doesn’t have other kids coming from different high schools,” said Mentzer. “It’s continuity and accountability. It shows. They play the game well and they play it hard.”
Playing his first game of the year for Campbelltown and batting out of the three hole, Fuhrman went four-for-four with three RBIs, while Saulley collected an RBI in each of his four trips to the plate. C-town out hit M-town 13-7, while the losers were guilty of three miscues afield.
“At this stage we’ve lost three game, two to Campbelltown and one to Fredericksburg,” said Mentzer. “The goal is to win two out of three against every team in the league. If you do, you’re in the scheme and you’re going to compete when it comes to playoffs. I can’t complain about four wins. Did we not show up in a couple of games? Yeah, against Fredericksburg and this game.”
LEBANON COUNTY AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL STANDINGS
W L T Pts
Campbelltown 4 0 0 12
Myersotwn 4 3 0 12
Annville 3 1 0 9
Fredericksburg 2 2 0 6
Lebanon Fifth Ward 1 3 0 3
Richland 0 5 0 0