FREDERICKSBURG – It was kind of like Murphy’s Law, in reverse. ‘Lyle’s Law’, if you will.
Anything that could go right for the Elco baseball team did. It would’ve been the perfect ending to an incredible run of a season – if in in fact it was the end.
On a humid Friday afternoon at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, the Raiders earned their first-ever District Three baseball championship, in dominant and near-perfect fashion, with a 10-0, five-inning mercy-rule victory over Wyomissing, in the Class AAAA final. Dakota Smith flirted with a perfect game, before settling for a one-hitter, and Elco’s senior right-hander was supported by a Raider attack that scored runs in all four of their at-bats.
Senior Wyatt Menzel scored the eventual winning run for Elco in the bottom of the fourth inning. After reaching first, Menzel stole two bases and then came around to score the run that evoked the ten-run mercy rule on an error.
The District Three championship was the first for a program that’s been in existence since the Eastern Lebanon County school district was formed in 1962. Current assistant coach Lyle Krall has been a part of every one of those Raider seasons, in one form or another.
With the outcome, third-seeded Elco improved to 16-7 on the year. As the District Three champion, the Raiders will open play in the PIAA Class AAAA postseason tournament on Monday at 5:30 p.m., back at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, against District 12 runner-up Science Leadership.
Fifth-seeded Wyomissing fell to 15-9 overall.
Last month in Myerstown, Elco posted a similar 12-2 triumph over Wyomissing.
“There’s nothing that could’ve gone better,” said Elco head coach Roger Hehnly. “Coming back here (after Thursday night’s rain-out) might have been a blessing. We were really comfortable going into the game. We liked our chances.
“They (his players) had it (the intensity) yesterday,” added Hehnly. “They’re so even-keeled, all the time. They don’t get too high or too low.”
“Besides that walk and single in the fifth, nothing,” said Smith, when asked to list the things that didn’t go the Raiders’ way. “They couldn’t have gone much better. We came out and hit the ball and it just kind of snowballed.”
“I’ve been waiting for this since 2007,” said Krall, of the last time Elco made an appearance in a District Three title tilt.
It was also Menzel who had gotten Elco off on the right foot.
His two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the first inning staked the Raiders to a 2-0 lead. Elco’s first four batters in the frame – Jeremy Eck, Braden Bohannon, Smith and R.J. Peiffer – all reached base.
“We see it all the time,” said Hehnly of Smith’s outing. “He didn’t throw a bad game all year. When you score early runs like that, it builds your confidence. That lead was going to be tough to come back against.”
“We just wanted to come out and put some runs on the board,” said Smith. “We wanted to take care of business and get out of here.”
With runs to work with, Smith was on top of his game, again. He retired the first 13 Wyomissing batters he faced in order, before issuing a free pass to five-hole hitter Ryan Latourelle with one out in the top of the fifth inning.
Smith finished with a one-hitter and struck out four.
“I’ve been looser,” said Smith. “I just came out and did what I had to do. My fastball wasn’t quite there, but the guys played really well behind me.
“When you have a lead, you’ve got to pitch to contact,” Smith added. “When you have the runs behind you, it makes it just a little easier. Run support is the key to pitching.”
“Early on (in the season), we had success,” said Bohannon. “But we lost a couple of close ones against good teams. We’ve been playing well throughout the season. But towards the end, we’ve been playing our best baseball.”
In the bottom of the second, the Raiders scored four times to extend their lead to 6-0. Bohannon’s two-run single was the key blow, while teammates R.J. Peiffer and Riley Blatt also drove home runs.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Hehnly. “It’s for those guys (his players). We knew we had it. It was just a matter of, if we got hot and how we’d finish. We knew they were going to hit a point. You always peak at a certain point.”
Elco’s constant offensive pressure created a crack in Wyomissing’s defense in the bottom of the third.
The Raiders plated three more runs to bring the mercy-rule into play. Eck, Bohannon and Smith all collected RBIs, but the rally was fueled by three Spartan errors.
“It’s very exciting to finally win a district gold,” said Bohannon, a three-sport star. “We kind of had success in football and basketball, but it just feels good to win gold in baseball. It’s not my number-one sport, but I really enjoy playing it. It’s just great to be on a team, to compete and to win.”
|3***||Eastern Lebanon County||13-||6-||0||0.625661||0.722667||0.507098||13.55||171.47||5.20||166.67|
|6***||Bishop McDevitt (3)||10-||8-||0||0.578718||0.611702||0.538404||11.50||179.10||7.30||153.55|