(Editor’s Note: This story on the Lebanon Catholic baseball program first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz in April of 2016. This week, the LCS administration decided to temporarily suspend its varsity baseball program in favor of a junior-varsity-only schedule.)
BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
Or why you play the game.
Or in the case of Lebanon Catholic, if you play the game.
More and more, it appears the likelihood that Lebanon Catholic School will not field a baseball program in the very near future – quite possibly as soon as next season – is increasing. For the smallest school in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, an overall decline in numbers has made the Beavers less and less competitive over the past decade.
On Friday afternoon at Fifth Ward Athletic Field, Lebanon Catholic was bombed by Cocalico 13-3 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three-Four crossover game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule. The loss was the Beavers’ 11th straight to start the season. Lebanon Catholic is 0-8 in Section Four of the L-L. And a large majority of LCS’s losses this year have been shortened by one form of the mercy rule or another, and that’s not counting a contest that the Beavers were forced to forfeit.
Lebanon Catholic has dropped 29 of its last 30 games overall. The Beavers have not won a game in the Lancaster-Lebanon league since 2013.
“My gut feeling, right now, is I doubt it,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Glenn Meck, when asked if the Beavers would field a team next spring. “Looking below, I don’t know how many eight-graders play baseball. Replacing six seniors is very difficult. I don’t foresee it. That’s reality. It is a little sad, absolutely. You hate to see a program go away.
“Do the kids know? Sure,” continued Meck. “They know what they’re up against every time they walk on the field. The kids are really looking forward to the Carson Long game at the end of the season. The kids think they can win it.”
Yesterday against the Eagles, Lebanon Catholic dressed 13 players. But a lack of experience was just as much a problem for the Beavers as a lack of numbers.
“I’m hoping there are players who are going to be there to help with the program and help the program keep going,” said Meck. “But I’m prepared for the possibility of not. In the younger grades, we could develop a program and become competitive. I’m hoping they (the administration) can look at a middle school program.
“Those would be my goals,” added Meck. “This will be my last year coaching. But I’d like to be instrumental in getting things in place (for the future).”
Last season, Lebanon Catholic played a partial varsity-partial junior varsity schedule. When the Beavers were competing on the JV level, they were forced to forfeit their varsity games.
“It was the same situation we were in now,” said Meck. “We weren’t competitive. In reality, that’s what we had. But it helped us. It helped us learn some things. It’s hard to learn when you’re being ten-runned. We’ve got to be able to teach kids. Having six senior this year, it (playing a JV schedule) wasn’t the thing to do.
“We need to improve on the knowledge of the game,” Meck continued. “The little things that people who have played baseball all their lives know. Sometimes I think, ‘What are they doing?’ I have to remind myself that some of them are new to the game. If anything is frustrating, it’s that I can’t tell them until it happens. Just knowing what to do in certain situations.”
Lebanon Catholic’s history in the sport may not be a great one, but it is a proud one. Beaver baseball dates back over five decades, and parallels the founding of the little school on Assumption Hill.
“We always expect to win,” said Meck. “I tell them (his players) that we expect to win every game. If we don’t, we shouldn’t have showed up. You never know, anything can happen any given day.
“I’m as competitive as the next guy,” continued Meck. “I want to win every game. But in some parts of high school athletics, we put too much emphasis on winning. I’d love to be sitting here 12-0. Sometimes we make athletics more than it is. We want to teach the importance of working hard and working together. We try to put those into practice. But winning isn’t the end to it all.”
Should Lebanon Catholic disband its baseball program, it would follow in the controversial footsteps of a football program that was disbanded 15 years ago for similar reasons. Of all the sports that the Beavers currently field, basketball is the only that’s truly competitive on a regular basis.
“We struggle competing in the Lancaster-Lebanon League,” said Meck. “There’s a very strong sophomore class for females. As we go on, it’s difficult competing with the big schools. Even if they have baseball, I’d like to see them play an independent schedule.
“With 30-40 boys in the high school, it’s hard to field a baseball team,” added Meck. “I can barely field 11. But in all the Class A games we played, we were fairly competitive.”
On this particular afternoon, Cocalico scored runs in each and every one of its at-bats, methodically bringing the ten-run rule into play. The bright spot for Lebanon Catholic was a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth, when it pulled to within 11-3 of the Eagles.
The Beavers loaded the bases with nobody out, on a single by Noah Marinkov, a walk to Sam Nye and a catcher’s interference ruling. Driving home Lebanon Catholic runs were Greg Morrison, Matt Brennan and Cameron Shott.
“We talk all the time about controlling the things we can control,” said Meck. “That means things like throwing strikes, making the fundamental plays and having good at-bats. We don’t really look at scores. It’s tough for us to compete with schools like Cocalico.
“I’m pleased with the effort,” added Meck. “I can’t complain. I’m not frustrated. The kids aren’t frustrated. It’s hard for me to be frustrated when the kids aren’t frustrated.”
But on the other side of the coin, Lebanon Catholic was guilty of five errors and didn’t even attempt to throw out Cocalico runners stealing bases. The Beavers were limited to two hits, Marinkov’s in the fourth and Shott’s single leading off the third.
“Every game is important to us because it’s about learning,” said Meck. “We have six kids who never played baseball before, and another four or five kids who haven’t played since little league. Everyday we do things right is a learning experience. It culminates in games, and that’s the fun time.
“Everyday when they (his players) come to practice, they’re upbeat,” concluded Meck. “They work hard. They try hard. They try to do the things we ask them to do. They know they’re out-matched every game. They know they could easily be ten-runned. But they don’t hang their heads. Everyday they give us everything they have. Every game we’re out-matched talent-wise, and out-matched baseball-wise.”
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