BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – It wasn’t easy. But it really was needed.
Fredericksburg certainly isn’t going to ‘balk’ about the result.
On a warm Thursday evening at Annville-Cleona High School, Fredericksburg used a balk to score the winning run in the top of the eighth inning and shade Annville 6-5, in an edge-of-your-seat, back-and-forth Lebanon County American Legion baseball contest. Five-hole hitter Brandon Briedegan started F-burg’s winning rally with a double, then was moved to third by teamnmate Eli Ritter’s sacrifice bunt, before being awarded the plate courtesy of a balk call.
But that run didn’t become decisive until Fredericksburg reliever Nate Cavic worked his way out of a bases-loaded-one-out situation in the bottom of the eighth inning. Cavic got the job done with a punch-out and a ground-out, after walking three straight batters.
Annville sent the game to extra frames with a two-run rally in t he bottom of the seventh. Annville’s Ben Miller drove home Mason Moore with a one-out double, and then scored himself on a key F-burg error.
When the dust from all that give-and-take had settled, Fredericksburg had its second win in as many nights and had snapped a seven-game slide in the Lebanon County American Legion league. The defending league champions are now 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the circuit, while Annville slipped to 3-3 in the league.
“Heck yeah we’ll take it,” said Fredericksburg manager Tim Schaeffer. “But it was stressful. I had a couple of kids in positions they’re not used to and that hurt us. But we got through it. We are playing a little better. The last four games have been a little better.
“It was a rollercoaster,” added Schaeffer. “If I had finger nails, I would’ve chewed them.”
“We played like crap, like a train wreck,” said Annville head coach Ken Sauley. “It wasn’t too pretty for either team. We were playing solid defense until today.
“They (his players) didn’t quit,” continued Sauley. “Last year’s team had a lot of talent, but they wouldn’t have come back like that. We have some young players playing in important spots. At some point we’re going to get better.”
In the top of the seventh inning, Fredericksburg added an insurance tally to make it a 5-3 game, courtesy of a run generated by lead-off guy Hayden Johnson. With one out, Johnson doubled, went to third on a ground-out and scored on wild pitch.
“He balked the pitch before. He pulled his hands apart,” said Schaeffer of the play that produced the winning run. “Throughout the game I was thinking, ‘Just make the plays’. If we make the plays, we’re not in those situations. We don’t have those problems.
“We needed this a lot,” Schaeffer added. “Last night’s win (a non-league triumph over Hamburg) helped out. I think they (his players) forgot how to win.”
“They could’ve quit,” said Sauley of Fredericksburg. “They lost seven in-a-row coming in. They got it. That’s baseball.
“With the new playoff format, you’ve got to finish in the top three to have a chance,” Sauley continued. “When you play everyday, it’s tough. I don’t have pitching. You can see that.”
Down 4-0 and with just three hits through its first five at-bats, Annville touched Fredericksburg starter Johnson for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Cole Waldhausen and Benny Miller got things going for the home side, while Jeremy Seyfert and Jeremy Bours drove in Annville runs. But there was also the matter of two Fredericksburg errors.
“Hayden pitched a heck of a game,” said Schaeffer of Johnson, who struck out one and walked three over his six-plus innings of work. “He threw a lot of strikes, a lot of first-pitch strikes. I thought I was going to get four innings out of him, and I couldn’t take him out.”
“He battled,” said Sauley of Johnson. “We didn’t get good swings off him until the end. I thought we did good with our approaches at the plate. We’ve cut down on our strikes this year. We just didn’t get a lot of base runners.”
Already ahead 1-0, Fredericksburg padded its lead with three fourth-inning runs. Ritter and Mike Marlow drove home runs, after Michigan Daub walked, Brock Eisenhour singled and Briedegan sacrificed.
“I thought he pitched fantastic,” said Schaeffer of Annville starter Sal ‘Sonny’ Biondollo, who fanned five and walked two in his seven-plus innings of work. “He’s a real good pitcher. He throws the ball well. That’s the first time I saw him throw. It’s brutal when you pitch a good game and lose.”
“He (Biondollo) did fine,” said Sauley. “His defense let him down a little bit. When you have errors in key spots, it’s tough to overcome.
“Sonny threw 24 pitches in the first inning,” Sauley added. “That kills you.”
Fredericksburg’s single run in the first inning came courtesy of a double steal pulled off by Austin Barry and Daub. Barry had walked, moved up to second on Daub’s single and taken third on an Annville throwing error.
“I really do think we’re going to progress a little better,” said Schaeffer. “When you get a couple of wins under your belt it really helps. They’ve (his players) got the taste again. They showed they’re more in the game. Our problem has been throwing strikes.
“The guys who were here last year know how to jell as a team,” continued Schaeffer. “There’s no other feeling like it in the world. When you know your teammates have your back, that’s when you don’t make those errors.”
“Other than the one Campbelltown game, our two other losses were one-run games,” said Sauley. “We’re competitive. Everybody’s doing their jobs. They do exactly what I ask of them. Everybody contributes. When you put the ball in play, a lot of times good things are going to happen.
“Anybody could win this,” Sauley continued. “Let’s face it. It’s just the way it is. There’s no clear-cut favorite.”
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