MYERSTOWN – The Elco baseball team isn’t going to qualify for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.
But the Raiders are very much in line for a District Three Class AAAA postseason berth. In fact, given the way it’s playing right now, it would seem that Elco’s poised to make some noise in that tournament.
A big noise.
On a partly cloudy Tuesday evening at Elco High School’s Lyle Krall Field. the Raiders continued to improve their District Three playoff possibilities, with a 10-6 non-league triumph over Schuylkill Valley. Elco raced out to an early 8-0 lead, before enduring a mild hiccup in the middle innings.
The result represented Elco’s ninth victory in its last 12 outings and pushed it to 11-5 on the spring. District Three’s AAAA classification takes ten teams for its postseason, and in the latest power rankings, the Raiders were seated fifth.
With the loss, Schuylkill Valley slipped to 8-10 overall.
“Everything is important from here on out, for the district rankings,” said Elco head coach Roger Hehnly. “We want to hit that three, two or one spot, so maybe we could get a bye or get to see the weaker seeds.
“Oh, we’re definitely looking towards the district playoffs, because we’ll be playing teams our size,” continued Hehnly. “They definitely level the playing field. If these guys stay focused, stay tuned. It’ll be epic. That’s a guarantee.”
The Raiders came out swinging and posted three runs in the bottom of the first inning, courtesy of Braden Bohannon’s two-run single and Wyatt Menzel’s run-producing ground out. Jeremy Eck and Riley Blatt had ignited the Elco rally with a single and a walk, respectively.
In the bottom of the fourth, Elco added five runs to its 3-0 lead.
The first six Raider hitters in the frame reached base, including Dakota Smith, who smashed a two-run triple. Also contributing RBIs were teammates Eck, Bohannon and R.J. Peiffer.
“I thought we played good all-around,” said Hehnly. “We hit the ball very well. A couple of our guys thought they were slumping.
“This season, our offense has been sporadic,” added Hehnly. “We usually see everyone’s number-one (pitcher). But nobody’s really out played us.”
Starting pitcher Blatt carried that 8-0 lead, as well as a no-hitter, into the top of the fifth inning. But the Panthers touched him for six runs in the inning, on five hits, two walks and a hit-batsman, to close to within two runs of the Raiders’ lead.
But Blatt recovered and surrendered just one other hit, before being lifted for Peiffer with one out in the top of the seventh inning.
“He threw good,” said Hehnly. “But he wasn’t as dominant as he usually is. He always keeps us in the game. He’s a battler.
“We have two number ones, Riley and Dakota,” Hehnly added. “We get to use both, depending upon the match-ups.”
The Raiders responded to Schuylkill Valley’s fifth-inning rally with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth. Zane Ruth walked and Eck doubled, ahead of RBIs from Blatt and Smith.
“We talked about expectations at the beginning of the season, and we thought we could go 16-4,” said Hehnly. “Now we’re 11-5, and we could end up 14-5, so that’s close to what we thought we could do.
“The key to success has been team work, and timely hitting,” Hehnly continued. “They’re battlers. We have six seniors and it’s like having six extra coaches. It’s on them. We can tell them what to do, but that’s something the team has to learn, how to grind it out and stay focused. The chemistry’s there.”
|5||Eastern Lebanon County||10-||5-||0||0.615231||0.707071||0.502983||10.50||147.52||4.35||145.77|
|6||Bishop McDevitt (3)||9-||6-||0||0.608432||0.659164||0.546426||10.25||148.30||5.30||123.10|