BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Not only did the best team win the championship, but also the team which played the best. And perhaps the one which improved the most.
On a steamy Tuesday night at Palmyra High School, Fredericksburg applied the finishing touches to a highly-anticipated and much-sought-after Lebanon County American Legion baseball championship with a dominant 5-0 victory over Palmyra, in Game Two of the best-of-three Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine final series. Fredericksburg completed the sweep, as seasoned right-hander Seth Walmer checked Campbelltown on three hits.
For Fredericksburg, the title avenged a bitter defeat at the hands of Annville in last year’s championship series. It was Fredericksburg’s league-leading 24th championship overall, but first since 2009.
F-burg outscored Campbelltown by a combined margin of 8-1 in the two championship games, completing a 4-1 run through the playoffs and a 5-0 season sweep of Campbelltown. The result left Fredericksburg, which also wore the regular-season crown, 21-6 on the summer and 18-5 in the league, while C-town fell to 13-9.
Both clubs will compete in the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament hosted by Fredericksburg at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, beginning Saturday.
Despite his pitching performance, Walmer was named as the championship series’ outstanding hitter. The outstanding pitcher award went to teammate Isaac Wengert, the Game One winner.
“After last year, this means a lot,” said Fredericksburg manager Tim Schaeffer. “We left one slip away last year. That was the goal from the beginning. It makes it a little easier from last year. But it’s still not gone.
“Every game, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, I’m fidgety,” continued Schaeffer. “Tonight it was a little more. All day long I was chomping at the bit to play this game.”
“The first time we played them this year, they didn’t make a mistake,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “With my 15-year-olds, it’s like on a different level. But these guys are going to be here three or four years.
“It goes in cycles,” Morgan continued. “We’ve got some good stuff. To get here was an accomplishment. You’ve got to hit the ball. But that’s the way it goes.”
Not unlike Monday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, the first four batters in Fredericksburg’s half of the opening inning reached base. Walks to Noah Gingrich and Wengert, and a single by Michigan Daub loaded the bases for Walmer, who delivered a two-run single.
In the top of the third, Fredericksburg added to its 2-0 advantage. And the top of the order again got the job done for F-burg.
Gingrich reached on an error, Wengert walked and Daub singled, ahead of Walmer’s sacrifice fly to left.
‘We’ve been very consistent,” said Schaeffer. “Our pitching and defense have been solid. When we have made mistakes, we’ve put them behind us. And when you get up, it makes a world of difference. It puts pressure on the other team. We didn’t hit. But everything else, like the pitching, was superb.
“I was really confident because we had all the pitching set up,” added Schaeffer. “We started thinking about it two weeks ago, before the Fourth of July. That’s why we were limiting pitches. The goal was to keep them (his pitchers) in order.”
“In the beginning, when we had the meeting with (league president) Bruce (Kilmoyer), we told him if we beat Annville there’s no sense playing because our pitching would be depleted,” said Morgan. “It’s just like a jinx playing them. We just couldn’t put things together.
“It was all year,” Morgan added. “You give up four or five early against them, it’s tough. But I don’t think any team has crushed the ball this year.”
Walmer cruised from the opening pitch. He retired Campbelltown in order only twice, but didn’t permit a base runner to advance past second.
Walmer made efficient use of his 68 pitches, relying on his defense, striking out one and walking one.
“He pitched a heck of a game,” said Schaeffer of Walmer. “He didn’t throw too many pitches. He’s a workhorse. If I had to pick between him and Isaac, I’d flip a coin.
“The one thing is he’s very confident,” Schaeffer continued. “These guys want the baseball. When a guy says that to me, I know they get it. I want that from all of them.”
“He (Walmer) beat me four times this year,” said Morgan. “He (Schaeffer) has things lined up.”
Fredericksburg was at it again, looking for more, in the top of the fourth inning. Wengert’s two-run double drove home Will Rivera and Cole Felty and pushed F-burg’s lead to five.
“I’m pretty confident,” said Schaeffer of regionals. “We actually played some of those teams, and that’s a good thing.
“They’re (Campbelltown) young this year,” Schaeffer added. “They’re going to be a good team coming up. But they’ve got to commit to play. We haven’t had any problems with that all year. These guys have been a treat to coach.”
“I told them (his players) I never expected to make it to regionals with this team,” said Morgan. “It’s an accomplishment. These little kids are going to be good when they get older. It was all a benefit for them.
“At regionals, I’d like to win a game,” added Morgan. “It’s going to be an experience. I’m glad it’s in Fredericksburg. If we get a win out there, it’ll be sweet.”
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Lebanon County American Legion
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Lebanon County American Legion League