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BY JEFF FALK

CENTER VALLEY – Not sure the better team won. But Elco was not the better team on this day.

That’s the thing with runs, momentum and streaks. They must be built and nurtured and maintained, but they can end so very abruptly – in the blink of an eye.

On a humid Thursday afternoon at DeSales University’s Weiland Park, the Raiders concluded one of the most successful baseball seasons in school history, with a 6-4 loss to Wyoming Area, in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoff tournament. The Raiders didn’t as much misplace their mojo, as they had it taken away from them by the District Two champion Warriors.

Elco’s magical run through the postseason produced four straight victories, the program’s first-ever District Three championship and a boat load of heightened relationships and memories. Entering the fray, the Raiders had outscored their playoff opponents by a combined total of 34-2, while two of their postseason victories had come by the mercy rule.

The Raiders concluded their spring with a 17-8 overall mark.

Only two teams in the history of Lebanon County scholastic baseball – Palmyra and Annville-Cleona – have captured state championships.

“We gave the kids the car,” said Elco head coach Roger Hehnly. “They were driving it. We (the coaches) were putting the gas in it, but at the end, they were putting the gas in it.

“They advanced as far as we expected them to,” added Hehnly. “We came up short. It was special to be in the run we were in. What I’ll remember is all the hard work, just all the coaches, and the kids stepping up. It’s been a great ride.”

“This year kind of came from previous years,” said Elco senior pitcher Dakota Smith. “The mentality coming in was win as many games as possible, and make a run. It worked out pretty well for us.

“I’ll remember my teammates always having my back, on and off the field,” Smith added. “And the great coaching. We just made great memories. I’m glad I was able to go out of this on top.”

Trailing 2-0 early, Elco posted four runs in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead.

Three of those runs came home on R.J. Peiffer’s two-triple, a fly ball to center that was lost in the sun by the Wyoming Area outfielder. Riley Blatt followed Peiffer with a run-scoring single.

“The bottom line is we got three runs on a can’t-see fly ball,” said Hehnly. “They (the Warriors) out played us. We just had a let down, but they (his players) fought to the end. They (the Warriors) were the better team today.

“No, we didn’t play our best,” continued Hehnly. “They (the Warriors) were scrappy. We had three hits and two errors. That’s not a good recipe. Their kid (Hunter Lawall) threw well. We could’ve hit more.”

“I’d say they were the better team,” said Smith. “They hit the ball better and their pitcher threw strikes.”

Following the Raiders’ third-inning uprising, Lawall retired them in order the rest of the way – 12 straight.

“He threw good,” said Hehnly of Lawall. “He pounded the zone.”

“It was alright,” said Smith. “It wasn’t anything special. His fastball up had a little more on it.”

In the top of the fifth, the Warriors erased Elco’s 4-2 lead with four runs of their own. The big hit was seven-hole hitter Jack Mathis’ two-run single, after Evan Melberger and Casey Noone had led off with doubles and Smith had issued three free passes.

“A couple of their smaller kids squared up the fastball,” said Hehnly of the Warriors. “Dakota kept us in the game, we just couldn’t get him enough runs. No, we never considered taking him out. We were going to ride him until we had to bring (Riley) Blatty in. We had a couple of miscues, but you can’t be perfect all the time.’

“I did my job, for the most part,” said Smith. “I threw strikes. We struggled a little defensively, early. It was one of those days.

“I felt good. My arm was loose,” Smith continued. “The velocity felt like it was there. That was some of the best I felt all year.”

Wyoming Area plated a single rally in the top of the second, after Smith had retired the first two batters. Mathis’ double scored Johnny Morgan, who had singled.

The Warrior outburst ended Smith’s scoreless playoff-inning streak at 18-plus.

An inning later, the Warriors made it a 2-0 game. It was an unearned run driven in by Noone.

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

2021 Elco Baseball Results

DateOpponentsOutcomes
3/26
4:15 pm
Elco
at Donegal
7
1

League
3/29
4:15 pm
Lebanon
at Elco
2
6

Nonleague
4/05
4:15 pm
Elco
at Manheim Central
0
5

League
4/06
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco
8
6

League
4/07
4:15 pm
Garden Spot
at Elco
2
6

League
4/09
4:15 pm
Elco
at Octorara
4
1

League
4/13
4:15 pm
Cocalico
at Elco
4
3

League
4/14
4:15 pm
Elco
at Lancaster Catholic
6
0

Nonleague
4/21
4:15 pm
Lancaster Mennonite
at Elco
0
15

Nonleague
4/26
4:15 pm
Donegal
at Elco
1
10

League
4/29
4:15 pm
Elco
at Columbia

Nonleague
4/30
7:00 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon
11
1

League
5/03
4:15 pm
Manheim Central
at Elco
6
1

League
5/07
4:15 pm
Octorara
at Elco
4
5

League
5/08
1:00 pm
Elco
at Tulpehocken
12
2

Nonleague
5/10
4:15 pm
Elco
at Cocalico
0
1

League
5/11
4:15 pm
Schuylkill Valley
at Elco
6
10

Nonleague
5/12
4:15 pm
Elco
at Garden Spot
4
6

League
5/17
4:15 pm
Pequea Valley
at Elco
0
1

Nonleague
5/18
4:15 pm
Wyomissing
at Elco
2
12

Nonleague
5/27
2:30 pm
Bishop McDevitt
Elco
at Lebanon Valley College
0
6

Playoff
6/01
4:30 pm
Elco
at Eastern York
3
2

Playoff
6/04
12:30 pm
Elco
Wyomissing
at Wenger Field

Playoff
6/07
5:30 pm
Science Leadership
Elco
at Wenger Field
0
15

Playoff
6/10
11:00 am
Elco
Wyoming Area
at DeSales University

Playoff

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