MYERSTOWN – To say that the Elco baseball team has under-achieved this season would be an understatement.
Wanna hear another understatement? Yesterday the Raiders broke out of their funk in a big way.
On Wednesday afternoon at Elco’s Lyle Krall Field, a season worth of emotions and frustrations for the Raiders came spilling out of their bats, as they bludgeoned Northern Lebanon 19-4, in a four-inning affair that was shortened by the 15-run mercy-rule. Elco scored in each of its at-bats, pounded out 17 hits and feasted on seven free passes and three errors.
Tyler Starry invoked the mercy rule with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning when his single drove home Ryan Weirback with the 19th run. Starry finished his afternoon three-for-five with four RBIs, while teammate Steven Rhoades also knocked in four Raider runs with a three-for-three performance.
Every Raider starter knocked in at least one run.
Before the breakout, a talented and experienced Raider band had dropped its first six games to open the 2013 spring campaign. The result made Elco 1-6 overall and 1-4 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, while the Vikings slipped to 1-7 on the year and 1-4 in the league.
“I think you’re accurate. There’s no doubt about that,” said Elco head coach Chris Weidner about the degree to which his charges have under-achieved. “It is a funny game. In situations when we’ve pitched well, we weren’t hitting. But it’s been all three phases of the game. ”
You can absolutely build on this,” Weidner continued. “(winning pitcher) Jake Stager spoke up during our post-game talk and he said, ‘Now it’s time to win six in-a-row.’ Are we going to do it? I don’t know. But it’s the right attitude. The fight’s not out of them. And the approach at practice has been good.”
“They hit the ball hard,” said Northern Lebanon skipper Daryl Hess. “And they got out of some jams they needed to. They hit our mistakes. And we got the ball up a little bit.
“What you do is forget about it and go on,” added Hess. “I told our guys, ‘You think about this tonight. But when you wake up tomorrow, think about Lancaster Mennonite.’ If we were going through the motions and not playing hard, I’d be upset. But we’re playing hard.”
Northern Lebanon had actually assumed a 3-1 advantage in the top of the second inning on the strength of Tony Pesta’s two-run homer to left field. But the Raiders scored eight times in the bottom of the frame to assume control, 9-3.
Elco scored all of their runs after two outs had been recorded, and at one point, nine Raider batters in-a-row reached base. Starry, Elco’s lead-off hitter, smacked a two-run double in the rally, as did catcher Cody Horst.
“We hit the ball well on Monday against Garden Spot,” said Weidner, “but we didn’t pitch it well enough. We’re seeing our swings getting better, but you don’t ever envision putting up 19 runs. The odds were we were going to break out of it sooner or later, in one form or another.
“In some ways, it was inexplicable,” added Weidner. “But you have to learn from adversity. You don’t learn your greatest lessons when you’re 6-0, 7-0 or 10-0. We talked about the lessons we learned, and they’re lessons you can’t learn in a class room.”
“Our pitching has been up and down,” said Hess. “Again, with a young crew, it’s going to be that way. We have one returning pitcher, and the rest are young kids.
“They (the Raiders) hit the ball,” Hess added. “They hit it hard. And they hit it in spots.”
The Raiders upped their advantage to 15-4 in the bottom of the third, this time sending 11 batters to the dish and scoring six runs, mostly against the Viking bullpen. Ryan Weirback stroked a two-run single for Elco, while Starry, Stager, Evan Zimmerman and Rhoades all contributed RBIs.
The onslaught continued into the next frame, as the Raiders’ first five hitters reached, before Starry ended it.
“You could sense the relief when I talked to them,” said Weidner of his troops. “There’s the thought that there’s pressure on them. But there’s pressure in baseball because there is so much failure. I don’t have to get on them about it. They’re like, ‘Coach, we’re not happy with how we’re playing.’ It did come out today, a little bit.
“We were expecting that we were going to hit it better early,” Weidner continued. “We pitched better last year too. I honestly thought that pitching was going to be more of a strength, and that our hitting was going to be improved.”
“I think what happens is that you go out and run into some tough luck early, and it’s tough to get out of it,” said Hess of the Raiders. “They’re showing signs that they’re coming out of it. It looks like they’re starting to come on. It’s sometimes a matter of confidence.
“We just have to keep plugging away,” continued Hess. “We’ve had a couple of games like this and we’ve stayed positive. If we hang our heads, it’s only going to get worse.”
The Vikings scratched out a run in the top of the first inning, on singles from Dustin Bachman and David Brooks, and a sacrifice fly by Ian Whitman. The Raiders responded in kind in the bottom of the frame, courtesy of a Stager double and a Chris Kreider RBI-single.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Daryl,” said Weidner. “When he got off the bus, we were pepping him up a little bit. They’re scuffling like we are. I feel for him, and he offered me some words of encouragement.
“If we put it together, we can be competitive and make it difficult for the teams ahead of us,” continued Weidner. “And we can earn some respect back. Coming into the season, we thought we had a team that could compete, get into the league playoffs and get into districts. We thought we had to win 12 or 13 ball games to do that. Now it’s about building that respect and scraping out as many wins as we can.”
“I’d be more disappointed if we weren’t playing hard,” said Hess. “I’m not disappointed with the effort we’re getting. Am I displeased being 1-7? Absolutely.
“I think we are better than 1-7,” Hess continued. “A lot of the problem is confidence. But it comes to the point where it’s like, ‘Is it here we go again or, you know what, we’re going to go out and win this.'”