BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – It says it right there in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League rule book. But perhaps purists, Brett Bawiec and Cody Horst didn’t want it to end that way.
Because there’s no tieing in baseball.
As Tuesday night’s darkness was ascending upon Post 55 Field, B. Bawiec’s long single down the right field line scored Horst with the winning run, as Myerstown edged Fifth Ward 3-2 in the bottom of the 11th inning. Before B. Bawiec lined Lebanon pitcher Danny Carricabeur’s 3-1 offering inside the right-field line, Horst had set the stage for his heroics with a one-out triple to right-center field, and teammates Kyle Bogdanovich and Vinnie Vitelli were intentionally walked to load the bases.
But with daylight at a premium, it was decided by the head coaches and umpires before the start of the inning that the 11th – the contest’s fourth extra frame – would be the last. Had the score remained tied at two, the outcome would’ve gone done in the record books as a rare tie.
“That’s what our by-laws say,” said Myerstown manager Johnny Mentzer. “That’s why we have that rule in there. With the way our schedule is bunched together, to make this up or finish it was going to be impossible. I told our guys, ‘We’ve got to end it now or you’re going to be kissing your sister’.”
“We talked to the umpires about it,” said Fifth Ward head coach Tony McDonnell. “This was the last inning, no matter what. If that kid (B. Bawiec) doesn’t rip that ball down the line it’s a tie. We might have gone to him (stater Carricabeur) too long. I asked him (during a visit to the mound in the 11th) and he said he was good to go.”
With the result, defending league champion Myerstown moved to 2-2 on the year. Lebanon’s fourth one-run loss of the season dropped it to 1-6.
“We could’ve used that two or three innings before,” said Mentzer of the Horst triple that proved to be the onus for the winning run. “We just couldn’t manufacture a run earlier. Cody’s been swinging the bat as well as anyone on our team. And that was as good of a swing that he has had this season.
“We need to get into a groove,” continued Mentzer. “We need to play a little more consistently. We haven’t got in a routine at all. We need to get at-bats against live pitching.”
“That set up the whole thing,” said McDonnell of Horst’s three-bagger. “We figured someone was going to drive the ball somewhere. Actually, the key to the game was the fourth inning. But it is what it is.
“We were hoping on a come-backer (to the mound),” McDonnell continued, “or a force at the plate. We had our guys at double-play depth, and our corners up.”
Horst also picked up the pitching victory with two hit-less innings in relief of Myerstown starter Conor Bawiec After some early offensive fireworks, the contest had evolved into a dandy of a pitcher’s duel between C. Bawiec and Carricabeur.
C. Bawiec twirled nine innings of nine-hit, nine-strikeout, no-walk ball. But C. Baweic surrendered only two hits after the third inning.
Carricabeur tossed ten-and-a-third innings, yielded five hits, fanned two and issued six free passes.
“He was up in the zone early,” said Mentzer of his starter. “I think he thought he could rely on his fastball. He probably has the best velocity in the league, but when he’s not hitting his spots, guys can get the barrels of their bats on the ball. I think he settled in and used his breaking pitch more. They (Fifth Ward hitters) couldn’t focus on his fast ball. We gave them a couple of extra outs early. We weren’t getting the breaks early.
“Danny was fantastic,” Mentzer added. “He threw against us last game. He threw real well. He just takes the ball and goes. I called him over after the game and told him he didn’t deserve to lose that game with that effort.”
“He’s been kind of struggling high a little bit,” said McDonnell of Carricabeur. “He wanted to go one more inning. We had a guy warming up and ready. It was a heck of a ball game. That matters. That was our fourth one-run loss this season. That’s the way the league is going to be this year. There’s going to be a lot of low-scoring games in the league.
“When we got to Bawiec early, I thought we had him,” added McDonnell. “But I told our guys, ‘I think he’s getting stronger’. We jumped on him early. If someone told me we had him 2-0 in the fourth inning, I’d say we got him. But he got stronger and stronger.”
Down a pair of early runs, Myerstown fought back in the bottom of the fourth.
With one out, Kyle Knight walked, and C. Bawiec followed with a single, then promptly stole second. Horst drove home both teammates with a single that tied the score.
“It’s a completely different situation,” said Mentzer of last year’s league championship. “They all know what happened last year, but we only have four of the same guys on the field. It’s a new team. We’re young. We have arms. We have pitching. It’s ‘Are we going to hit?’. If we hit the ball, we’re going to be OK.
“They’re (Lebanon) talented,” Mentzer continued. “They don’t have numbers, but they have more talent than they usually do. I think they’re going to contend. They’re a good baseball team. They’re in everything.”
“The last four games we had more hits than every team we played,” said McDonnell. “We out hit them (Myerstown) tonight. We’re just not getting that big hit. But we’re getting better hitting the ball. Our defense has been our strength. I’d put our’s up against anyone’s in the league. It’s keeping us in games.
“They’re (Myerstown) just like everybody else,” continued McDonnell. “If you don’t have pitching and don’t have defense, you’re not going to win. There’s not a lot of hitting in the league. They’re Myerstown. They’re always going to be fundamentally sound. They’ve got Connor and (Austin) Douple as their one and two (pitchers), and that’s a good arsenal.”
Fifth Ward touched C. Bawiec for a run in the top of the first inning, with the help of an M-town error and an RBI-single from Christian Deleon. Lebanon upped its advantage to 2-0 in the second, courtesy of a two-out RBI.
Using three singles, Lebanon did load the bases in the top of the third against C. Bawiec, but could not score.
“I voted against it,” said Mentzer of a new Lebanon County American Legion League that allows all six teams to qualify for the playoffs. “I’m old school. You have to put a little more bearing on the top four spots in the regular season. It’s not something I was OK with. What I’m thinking about is the competitiveness of our league champion going into regionals. For us as a league, we need to be more competitive at regionals. Whoever wins our league, I just want to see them be competitive at regionals.”
“I voted for that to happen,” said McDonnell of the controversial change. “Everywhere else in the state, that’s the way they do it. I want to legitimately get there. But I can see the league champion having three or four losses going into the playoffs.”
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Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League Standings