Lebanon Sports Buzz
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 IMG_6515BY JEFF FALK

LEBANON – Of the three major male sports in which Cedar Crest and Lebanon High compete against each other, baseball is one that has the most distinctive feel. It is also the one which is historically the most lop-sided.

On Monday after school at Coleman Park, the Falcons’ long-time dominance of the Cedars resurfaced in the form of an 9-2 Lancaster-Lebanon Section One-Two crossover triumph. Feasting on Lebanon errors, Cedar Crest plated three unearned runs in the top of the first inning, then tacked on and tacked on until it had a six-run advantage in the fourth.

IMG_6415The win lifted Cedar Crest, which has owned the five decade-long rivalry with Lebanon, to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Section One. In the face of five errors, the Cedars’ eighth straight loss dropped them to 1-8 on the spring and 0-6 in Section Two.

“I think the kids are more into it,” said Cedar Crest head coach Ryan White, who is also familiar with the Lebanon rivalry as a player. “Everyday is a battle. Some years are more difficult than others. We know a win over Cedar Crest would kind of make their (the Cedars’) season.

IMG_6508“Yeah, (the rivalry is more important to Lebanon), because I don’t have anyone to brag to,” continued White. “As a player, I thought it was more important. Our coaching staff is focused on going 1-0 every game, no matter who the opponent is.”

“In terms of baseball, you know each other from playing over the summer,” said Lebanon head coach Robert Nordall, who also experienced the rivalry as a contestant. “Sometimes you play with them (the Falcons) in teeners. It’s a matter of pride. You don’t want them to beat you.

“You’re always disappointed after a loss,” Nordall continued. “And with the Cedar Crest-Lebanon rivalry, you’re always disappointed with a loss. You saw some level heads out there. We made errors, but you’ve got to make plays.”

IMG_6425The Cedars gave Cedar Crest six outs in the top of the opening inning, and the Falcons made them pay.Clean-up hitter Devin Elder stroked an RBI-single, while the second and third Falcon runs came home via LHS errors.

Then in the second, the Falcons upped their lead to 6-0, after their first three hitters – Chase Ocker, Hunter Wise and Conor Baweic – all reached base. Baweic’s single drove in Ocker, ahead of teammates Caleb Albright and Nick Gonzalez, who also registered RBIs.
IMG_6410“We’re doing a better job of getting our pitches to hit,” said White. “When you put balls in play, sometimes good things happen. And I thought our pitchers did a good job of pitching to contact.

“We’re probably not going to hit a lot of home runs, even though some of the kids are trying,” added White. “We’re trying to get them to hit the pitches they can hit. Some of the kids go up there without a plan. But I think we’re doing a better job with our approach at the plate.”

IMG_6338“What makes it even worse, they were unearned runs,” said Nordall of the Falcons’ top of the first. “There was a point in the later innings where it should’ve been 4-2, without the unearned runs. When it’s a close game you can do more things offensively. When it’s 8-2, it puts in the back of your mind that you shouldn’t be in this position.”

The Cedars touched Falcon starter Gage Ocker for a two-spot in the bottom of the second.

After Brycen Loeper doubled and Mark Pyles walked, Ocker appeared to wiggle off the hook by retiring the next two batters. But Lebanon nine-hole hitter Christian Deleon delivered a sharp single to center.

But the Cedars’ momentum was short-lived, thanks to Wise’s single with two outs in the top of the third that scored Austin Douple to make it 7-2.

IMG_6453“Early in the year, we would score some early runs, and then in the middle innings we’d hit a lull,” said White. “I thought we did a better job today of being consistent.

“Early in the year if you would look at our (batting) average, it wasn’t good,” White continued. “Some of the kids thought they had to get a hit every time up. We need to do a lot of the little things because we don’t have a big bopper.”

“It’s a matter of time before we break out,” said Nordall. “It’s been a rollercoaster for us. We have guys who are first-year starters. We’re experienced, but also very young.

“We’re trying to instill into them (his players), ‘every pitch you hit hard is not going to be a hit’,” Nordall continued. “‘And every pitch you hit soft isn’t going to be an out’.”

IMG_6393In the top of the fifth inning, the Falcons turned yet another Cedar error into yet another unearned run. Austin Douple’s two-out RBI-single pushed Crest’s advantage to 8-2.

“With the rain, Gage is our number four starter,” said White. “I thought he did a good job of changing speeds. I knew Gage wouldn’t be able to go all the way. But I thought Matt (reliever, McCarrick) did a good job too.

“Lebanon’s always going to be a battle,” added White. “It’s a rivalry game for our kids. But I thought we did a good job of controlling our emotions.”

IMG_6457“He moved the ball in and out,” said Nordall of G. Ocker. “He kept us off balance. He did what a starting pitcher is expected to do.

“They’re (the Falcons) a typical Section One team,” Nordall added. “They have one through nine. They’re fundamentally sound and they have the numbers. When you have that, you can work on a lot of different things.”

Wise rounded out the scoring and a fine individual performance with an RBI-single in the top of the seventh.

“We’re in the mix,” said White. “That’s all you can ask for. There’s a lot of games to be played. And there’s a lot of scenarios to be played out.

IMG_6443“Section Two teams are not pushovers,” continued White. “You’re going to see Section One teams lose to Section Two teams here and there. When it does happen, it’s really going to change the standings.”

“We’re overcoming some team adversity,” said Nordall. “We’re continuing to have young guys get experience. They’re learning. We’re not where we want to be. We’re not where we thought we’d be. I expected a lot more. Once you get confidence, I think you’ll see a difference.

“Confidence sometimes comes down to pure luck, like getting a hit to fall in,” Nordall continued. “I thought we had confidence going into the season, but some personal issues took us down.”

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