BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
The Fredericksburg American Legion baseball team is currently exuding the distinct impression that the disappointing end to last season is still with it. Fredericksburg is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
On a cloudy Friday evening at Palmyra High School, F-burg further distanced itself from the rest of the Lebanon County American Legion League with a 3-0 whitewashing of Cambelltown. The visitors broke out on top with two runs in the top of the first inning then turned the outcome over to right-hander Seth Walmer and his solid – and sometimes spectacular – defense.
Nearing the midway point of the summer season, Fredericksburg is now 7-1 in the circuit and owns a solid two-game margin atop the standings. A young Campbelltown outfit saw its league mark slip to 4-2.
“That’s always in the back of my mind,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer. “I thought I let the kids down. I didn’t do some things I should have. (Major League manger) Joe Maddon once said those one-run games are on the coach. You’ve just got to make the right move at the right time.
“We’re pretty consistent,” added Schaeffer. “We’ve been doing a good job. But we’re not at that next plateau yet.”
“We told these kids ‘This (Fredericksburg) is a team that’s going to go through regionals,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “It’s a well-seasoned team and we have a lot of 15-year-olds. (Isaac) Blatty pitched a heck of a game. But we hit the ball right at them. I’ll take that.
“No, I’ve never been this young,” continued Morgan. “I’m going to wait a couple of years and we’ll be OK. We’re going to take our lumps. But maybe in two years we’ll be kind of kicking rear-end again. I’m very satisfied with what we did today.”
The top of the first proved to be the decisive frame.
With one out, Frederirkcsburg’s Isaac Wengert reached on an error and promptly stole second. Michigan Daub followed with a single that scored Wengert, and Walmer also singled.
Then after Cole Felty walked, Hayden Johnson singled, and when the ball was bobbled in center field it allowed Walmer to scurry home with the run that made it 2-0.
“It’s a 50-50 in my head,” said Schaeffer. “Sometimes we have good approaches and sometimes we don’t. We try to get them to have good approaches every time. They’re beginning to understand.
“They’re all (games) important,” continued Schaeffer. “There’s a lot of good teams in this league. You can’t take a night off. If you do you’re going to lose. We tend to see everyone’s best pitcher, and that’s the way we like it.”
“Blatty had two walks,” said Morgan. “It was average for him. He pitched a great game against Annville. It’s just the way it goes.
“I don’t know what to think of the league,” Morgan continued. “Richland beat them (Fredericksburg). They just didn’t hit that game.”
With singles by Dylan Spagnolo and Sam Zeigler, and a walk to Blatt, Campbelltown mounted a response in the bottom of the first. But Walmer wiggled off the hook with a strike out and a ground out.
Walmer also navigated a two-on, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the fourth, thanks in part to Wengert’s outfield assist at home, which completed an inning-ending double play.
Walmer finished what he started. He scattered five hits, walked one and struck out one.
“That was a good baseball game,” said Schaeffer. “The difference was my guy on the mound. First-pitch strikes. Low pitch count. Our pitcher pitched a great game today.
“The key for him is getting ahead of hitters,” Schaeffer added. “He threw something like 18 of 25 first-pitch strikes, and that’s incredible. We’ve been pretty steady with defense all year. We’re there with pitching and defense, and hopefully the hits will come.”
“He threw a good game,” said Morgan of Walmer. “They’re strong defensively. They’re all seasoned players. You’ve got to try it (sending the runner from third in the fourth), but the throw was right there on the dot.
“Before the game, I got them (his players) together,” added Morgan, “and told them, ‘He’s (Walmer) going to pound the strike zone, but we’ve got to put the ball in play.’”
Fredericksburg added a little insurance in the top of the sixth. Walmer reached on an error, was balked to second and scored on Cole Felty’s run-producing safety.
“It was typical Isaac Blatt,” said Schaeffer. “He’s a fighter out there. You always expect that from him. He’s a good pitcher.
“We’re getting there as a team,” continued Schaeffer. “The kids are starting to understand each other as teammates. They’re starting to jell. Things are going the way I want them to go. I want them (his players) to play as a team and to have fun.”
At one point, from the third inning into the sixth, Blatt retired ten Fredericksburg hitters in-a-row. He finished with three strikeouts and two walks.
“That’s our plan,” said Morgan of securing the league’s second entry into the Region Four Tournament hosted by Fredericksburg. “If we get in, it’ll be a bonus. We have trouble with travel players, just like everybody else. I realize we’ve got a lot of youth and I’ve got to take it easy on them.
“It’s (the second entry to regionals) a toss-up,” Morgan continued. “Anybody can get in. Annville’s got a good team. But you never know what’s going to happen.”
“They’re (Campbelltown) young,” said Schaeffer. “Tim will have some growing pains. But they play well. I like the closer games. These are good.”
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