SOUTH LEBANON – Without defense, there can be no defending of championships.
On Tuesday afternoon, error-prone Cedar Crest looked nothing like the defending and reigning District Three Class AAA baseball champion that it is. The Falcons committed eight errors and surrendered four unearned runs in a 6-2 home setback to Solanco.
The Falcons were guilty of at least one error in six of the Mules’ seven at-bats. Meanwhile, Solanco southpaw Harrison Hault was keeping a close check on the Cedar Crest bats.
Cedar Crest graduated ten seniors from a 2012 club which won the program’s second district title in three seasons. At 8-6 overall, this year’s version of the Falcons still has a chance to defend that crown on the field.
But at 5-5 in Section One, a trip to the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs seems less likely for the Falcons. The triumph moved Solanco to 7-6 on the year and 6-4 in Section Two of the L-L.
“We made a lot of physical and mental mistakes,” said Cedar Crest first-year head coach Ryan White. “And Solanco is a good team. And good teams capitalize on mistakes.
“I don’t look at it that way (that they’re the defending district champs), and I don’t know if the kids do either,” added White. “This is 2013, and our goals are still within reach – making the league and district playoffs, and being the best we can be, wherever that puts us.”
With the score all square at one a side, the Mules scored twice against Falcon starter Devin Lutz in the top of the third inning, to take the lead for good. The frame began with a Solanco runner reaching first base on a dropped third strike and continued with a Crest throwing error.
Solanco registered two of its total of three hits during the rally.
“Early on, we were making mistakes almost every game,” said White. “But as the season progressed, we’ve been doing a better job defensively. Those today were physical and mental mistakes.
“You just have to move on,” continued White. “The good thing about baseball is that tomorrow we have another game. We have to learn from our mistakes and go hard at CV (Conestoga Valley) tomorrow.”
Trailing 4-1, the Falcons moved a run closer in the bottom of the fifth on a Mike Wealand RBI-single. Cedar Crest had tied the game at one in the second inning, thanks to a walk to Hunter Wise and consecutive Mule errors.
Offensively, the Falcons mustered two hits off of Hault, who fanned three and issued six walks during his route-going performance.
“He threw well,” said White of Hault. “It was a great game by him. You have to tip your hat to the kid. Good pitching always beats good hitting. But I thought we could’ve made better adjustments at the plate.
“After the game I talked to the guys about yesterday’s 15- win over Elizabethtown and how we’re not as good as that showed,” White continued. “We need to come out and play hard everyday. And we did not do that today.”
Solanco’s sixth at-bat – when it upped its lead to 6-2 – seemed to epitomize the type of day it was for Cedar Crest.
The inning started with a hit batter, a walk and a throwing error. Before it ended, the Mules dropped down three suicide squeeze bunts in-a-row, one of which went for a hit.
“We always talk about making adjustments, at the plate and in the field,” said White. “Today, I don’t think we made adjustments very well.
“I think that (the district crown) was last year,” continued White. “This is a brand-new team, with a lot of new players. I’ve never heard them (his players) talk about it.”
With six games remaining in its regular season, there is still time for Cedar Crest to pick up its play and get on a roll.
“Mathematically, anything can happen,” said White of the L-L postseason. “Baseball’s a funny sport. But the focus has got to be on going 1-0 tomorrow.
“Districts is still within our reach if we play well,” White added. “We have six more games left. If we play well, we’ve got a shot to get in.”