MYERSTOWN – Win enough games and you start raising eyebrows. Win enough games when you play poorly, and they start calling you the team to beat.
On Monday night at the Myerstown Legion Field, the home team did a little more of both, as they edged Campbelltown 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Myerstown catcher Cody Horst had the final say, ripping a hard ground single down the left field line to score teammate Conor Bawiec from second base with the winning run.
After Campbelltown had intentionally walked clean-up hitter Chris Kreider to get to him, Horst unloaded on a 2-0 offering from C-town righthander Tyler Julian with two outs. Bawiec had set up the winning play by legging a single into a double, on sheer hustle and speed.
The win was Myerstown’s eighth straight and came on a night when it wasn’t necessarily on top of its game. It also clinched a playoff spot for first-place Myerstown, now 11-1 in the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league.
The loss left Campbelltown, which is jockeying to slide in the backdoor of next week’s postseason, at 3-8. A week earlier, Myerstown had defeated Campbelltown 8-1 at Palmyra High School.
“He didn’t have his best at-bats early in the game,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer of Horst. “But we stayed with it. I think the important thing was getting the count to 2-0, getting himself in a hitting count and then getting a ball to drive. And that’s what he did. The key was hitting a line drive in that situation.
“I’m surprised they walked Kreider because he’s struggling,” Mentzer added. “But Chris has a reputation around the league. It’s probably the smart baseball move setting up the force on the bases. But the way Chris has been swinging the bat, I think he was surprised.”
“I wasn’t going to let Kreider beat us,” said Campbelltown manager Tim Morgan. “That’s the law of averages. They’ve (Myerstown) got sticks. They’re what I’d love to have. Their kids want to play. But a lot of teams lost to them by a run.”
Campbelltown had touched M-town ace Bawiec for the run in the top of the sixth that tied the score at two. John Binner singled with one out, was moved up by Anthony Faiola’s hit and scored on Julian’s two-out, clutch double to right center.
Bawiec also manufactured Myerstown’s second run, in the bottom of the fifth, when his side assumed a 2-1 edge. He led off the frame with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on Jake Stager’s fly ball to right field and came around to score on a Tyler Starry sacrifice fly to center.
“We played poorly,” said Mentzer. “I don’t know how many guys we left on base. Probably close to ten. Defensively we played poorly as well. We gave them both runs. It was not our best effort.
“A win is a win,” Mentzer continued. “That’s baseball. Sometimes it’s ugly. But any time you get a win you’ve got to feel good. We’ve got to get back to Myerstown baseball. This was the first time in a couple of games we didn’t get to five runs.”
“I’ve never in my life been under .500, ever, ever,” said Morgan. “I’d love to win it (the County title) again this year. But it’s not looking good. You’ve got to go with the flow. It’s the simple stuff that makes a big difference.
“It’s one at a time right now,” continued Morgan. “They’re (Myerstown) tough. I’m not going to catch (second-place) Annville.”
Surprisingly, Julian did not back down from his head-to-head pitching match-up with Bawiec, who some consider the top hurler in the local summer circuit. Although he retired Myerstown in order just once, Julian only surrendered six hits, struck out one and walked three.
The hard-throwing Bawiec mowed down 11 Campbelltown batters, while walking one and allowing six hits. His defense turned two double plays behind him, but was also guilty of three errors.
“Conor is getting towards the end of the year and he’s tired,” said Mentzer. “This was his last start before the playoffs. We want him fresh and he only threw 80 pitches tonight. Yeah, they (Campbelltown) had six hits, but they really didn’t hit him that hard. I think he’d tell you he didn’t have his best stuff. But even less than his best is still top-notch in this league.
“He (Julian) mixed his pitches and threw strikes,” Mentzer continued. “Against our team which is aggressive, it throws us off a little. Tonight we just didn’t get key hits. And they (Campbelltown) made some nice running catches.”
“He’s a pretty good buddy of mine,” said Mogan of Bawiec. “He spots his fastball, but he didn’t want to throw that curveball with runners on base. Conor is one of the best in the league. (Annville’s Mitch) Rodkey, him and Kreider are probably the top pitchers in the league.
“Tyler Julian threw a great game tonight,” continued Morgan. “We had six hits and they had six hits. Against a team like that, are you kidding me?”
Bawiec scored the first of his three runs, on the first of his three hits, in the bottom of the third, to stake himself to a 1-0 cushion. He led off with a single, stole second and came plateward courtesy of Starry and his RBI-double.
But Campbelltown responded in its next at-bat, with an unearned run from a Myerstown throwing error. Griffin Mitchell applied pressure to the M-town defense with a single, reached second on a ground-out and made it to third on a passed ball.
“Where we need to improve is between the eyes – mentally,” said Mentzer. “There was a lot of chirping going on, and it took us out of our game. We got to thinking we didn’t have to put forth our best effort. Baseball-wise, we don’t have too many holes.”
“It’s been Palmyra’s nemesis for years, that slow, sloppy (pitching) stuff,” said Morgan. “But get a guy like this (Bawiec) with velocity, and we hit the ball. I was happy with what I got out of the guys we had here. It is what it is.
“Everybody loses to them (Myerstown) by a run,” Morgan continued, “and we lost to them by a run. But these kids played well.”
Lebanon County American Legion
Baseball League Standings
W L T Pts.
x-Myerstown11 1 0 33
Annville 7 2 0 21
Richland 4 8 0 12
Campbelltown 3 8 0 9
Fifth Ward 2 5 0 6
x- clinched playoff berth