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Annville-Cleona Baseball 004BY JEFF FALK

ANNVILLE – In light of yesterday’s convincing 13-0 triumph, the Annville-Cleona baseball team appears well on its way to the postseason. But ironically, it seems the club that the Little Dutchmen defeated is in line for a playoff spot as well.

Just further proof that things aren’t always what they appear to be.

On Tuesday afternoon, Annville-Cleona dismantled Lebanon Catholic  in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four contest involving two teams jockeying for playoff positions. The Little Dutchmen broke open a tight 1-0 game in the bottom of the third inning, then brought the mercy rule into play with another six-run explosion in the fourth.

While 2013 certainly hasn’t been a banner campaign for Lebanon County scholastic baseball, it may be that the Little Dutchmen and Beavers are both headed for postseason appearances.

At 10-7 overall and 8-5 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, Annville-Cleona is very much in contention for both league and District Three Class AA berths. Lebanon Catholic, which was without two starters because of poor grades, is now 2-14 on the year, 1-13 in Section Four and could still qualify for the district tournament as one of the last Class A teams in.

“We can still get second in the section,” said Annville-Cleona first-year head coach Scott Shyda. “We’re tied with Pequea Valley, we beat them the first time we played them and we play them again on Thursday. We have our sites set on that (qualifying for the league playoffs), but we’re trying not to look too far ahead.

Annville-Cleona Baseball 015“I couldn’t be happier for these kids if that’s the way it ends up,” Shyda continued. “Tanner’s (Fitting) the big spark. He doesn’t let them (his teammates) get down. He’s held us together when things could’ve gone south. I couldn’t ask for more of a senior leader.”

“If we can get in, w’ere going to go,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Scott Hargett of the District Three Class A postseason. “Right now we’re number eight in the power rankings (and eight qualify). This shouldn’t hurt us. We feel like we have to win one more game to make sure. We have four games left and at least two are winnable.

“If we get to districts, everybody is 0-0,” continued Hargett. “We start all over, at the beginning. We’ll take our chances.”

Yesterday was all about Fitting and two error-fueled Little Dutchmen rallies.

In his five innings of work, Fitting got ahead in the count and worked his curveball effectively. The senior southpaw surrendered three hits, walked one and fanned eight – including the side in the third.

“We as coaches have been talking and we’ve seen growth in Tanner, where he’s in control of all of his pitches,” said Shyda. “When he throws strikes, he’s tough. He’s really come through for us his last couple of outings.

“Just throwing strikes, that’s the key for Tanner,” Shyda added. “When he’s doing it, he can throw different pitches and keep good hitter off-balance. He has options later in the count. When he doesn’t have to throw strikes, he’s tough.”

Annville-Cleona Baseball 010“I’ve seen Tanner throw many times before,” said Hargett. “He did a good job. We tried to pull the curve-ball to left-field. And he was smart enough to keep throwing them.”

After breaking through with an unearned run in bottom of the second, the Little Dutchmen went to work on Catholic starter Chris Decker in the third. It was Annville-Cleona’s hot bats and the Beavers’ shoddy fielding that proved to be Decker’s undoing.

Fitting, Justin Ulrich, Adam Bennett and Adam Connor stroked consecutive RBI-hits during a six-run uprising. But the Beavers were also guilty of three errors in the frame, all three of which were of the throwing variety.

“I’ve liked our approach at the plate the last good many games,” said Shyda. “Lately, we’ve seen some good pitching, and we hit it well. I’m very pleased how, in recent games, we’ve been hitting good pitching. If we can do that, we can move on to districts.

“Coach (Ryan) Coleman has taken the hitting upon himself, and it has certainly made a difference,” Shyda added. “He does a great job with it. I’ve got some good people working with me.”

“They’re a good team,” said Hargett of the Little Dutchmen. “They have a big bat out of the lineup with Nat (Hughes) not batting. They’re more of a line drive team without him. I thought they’d run a little more than they did. I guess they figured it wasn’t going to take long. And they were right. Lately, it’s been an accomplishment for us to get past three innings.

“We knew every ball in the air was going to be an adventure,” continued Hargett. “They (the Little Dutchmen) have good solid pitching. They have three, four, five guys who they can throw out there. And they put the ball in play.”‘

Annville-Cleona Baseball 009Lebanon Catholic committed five more errors and Annville-Cleona scored six more runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Little Dutchmen sent six pinch-hitters to the dish during the rally, and one of them, Robbie Beidler stroked a two-run single.

“I am very pleased,” said Shyda. “The goal was to get a win. They (the Beavers) were missing a few players, which made it tough for them. The end result was a win. That’s what we were looking for today.

“At this point, every game is critical,” continued Shyda. “We don’t want to get to the end of the season and look back and say, ‘That’s the one that cost us.'”

“We ran into an all-freshman outfield, two of which don’t normally play out there,” said Hargett of his defensive tweakings. “Two of our best kids were ineligible, and we had one kid who had never caught before behind the plate. I was happy for the first two innings.”

Fitting collected three of the Little Dutchmen’s ten hits. The Beavers were guilty of a total of nine errors.

“The fact that they’re missing two of their best players, that puts them at a disadvantage,” said Shyda of the Beavers. “But they had some good energy going for them out there.”

“That was a microcosm of our whole season,” said Hargett. “That’s been the problem all year. We’re giving teams five, six outs an inning. I don’t know how to fix it, or if it can be fixed. It’s just a case of getting out there and playing. And it’s a matter of doing it.”

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