BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – It was a heck of a way to win. It was a heck of a first win.
And it was a heck of a way to get a first win.
On a pleasant Tuesday night at old Post 55 Field, a new crew from Myerstown shocked powerhouse Fredericksburg, with a wild 12-11 walk-off victory, in Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League action. With darkness desecending, Myerstown won it with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning when Alex Shutter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in teammate Hunter Churnich with the winning run.
Shutter’s decisive RBI capped Myerstown’s three-run rally against fire-balling Fredericksburg closer Nate Cavic in the final frame, one that also included a score-tying single by Bryce Coletti over a drawn-in infield, three walks, a costly F-burg error and a wild pitch.
An inning earlier – down four runs – Myerstown had closed to within 11-9 of the lead on Shutter’s clutch, two-out, two-run double. Before that, Myerstown had squandered an early 6-0 advantage, thanks in part to a monsterous nine-run rally by Fredericksburg in the top of the third inning.
“We got men on,” said Myerstown rookie head coach Greg Petruska. “When we got one (run) in, I liked our chances. Our last guy (Shutter) was hit by a pitch. That’s how we got it.
“This was our first time facing Fredericksburg,” continued Petruska. “We knew he (Cavic) had a strong arm. He was throwing hard, but it got away from him a little bit.”
“I don’t know if he was feeling well,” said Fredericksburg manager Tim Shaeffer of Cavic. “I was out of pitching. We were without four guys, and that hurts. We’ve given up more unearned runs than earned runs this season, by far.
“We need to catch and field and throw a baseball,” Shaeffer added. “We can’t have these errors all the time. That’s frustrating.”
The result left both sides with 1-3 marks in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League.
Fredericksburg is the defending league champ and the reigning Region Four champion. Myerstown is made up of a group of youngters who graduated to legion ball after enjoying much success on the junior- legion level.
The contest featured six different pitchers, 23 runs, 20 hits and a total of 25 runners left on base.
“It’s a young team,” said Petruska. “We’re just getting that cohesion. The coaching staff and most of the players moved up from junior legion. We went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a smaller fish in a bigger pond. Some of our games might have looked lopsided, but we’re taking steps forward. I like where we stand.
“We talked about it as a staff,” added Petruska. “We know what we have player-wise. We wanted to build excitement. I think we’ve put together a young team. We want to win every small battle and compete everyday. We’ll go from there and see what happens.”
It was some aggressive baserunning by Shutter which allowed Myerstown to make it a 9-7 game in the bottom of the third. After M-town loaded the bases with nobody out, Shutter raced home from second when Fredericksburg just missed turning a 6-2-3 double play.
But Fredericksburg responded with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to open what appeared to be a comfortable 11-7 advantage. Cavic and Brock Eisenhouer drove home runs, after Hayden Johnson led off with a walk and a stolen base.
“Being our first win, now we want to get our second,” said Petruska. “We’ve been in situations where we’ve been overpowered. But I like the fight in our guys.
“We always preach ‘controlled aggression’,” Petruska added. “You want to make the pitcher throw strikes. It’s tough for us. We have some guys who are like deer in headlights. But a young team’s got to have a short memory.”
“Our approach at the plate wasn’t bad,” said Shaeffer. “I wouldn’t give it an ‘A’. Maybe a ‘B-minus’. We run the bases well. The kids ended up getting hits anyway. They’re still that clay to be molded.
“It is early,” added Shaeffer. “I do have a good team, we’re just not playing like it. We might have more work to do this year. Our fielding is what’s hurting us.”
After going quietly in its first two at-bats, Fredericksburg broke out the whooping sticks and chased Myerstown starter Dane Miller in the top of the third. Post 915 sent 15 batters to the dish and scored nine times to take a 9-6 lead.
Eli Ritter sand Mike Marlow both stroked two-run doubles for F-burg during the rally, while Cavic also drove home a couple of runs, and Logan Rhoads and Brody Arnick each picked up an RBI.
“This was our most productive output of the year,” said Petruska. “They put up that nine-spot and I probably left Dane Miller in there a little too long. You’ve got to respect Fredericksburg’s bats. We had to minimize the damage.”
“I had a talk with them,” said Shaeffer, of a pre-third-inning team meeting. “Maybe I put it in a simple context. We can hit. We’re a good hitting team.
“I have no idea what’s going on with the defense,” Shaeffer continued. “It’s not like we never played the positions before. We’re not making the simple plays. Five throwing errors hurt us.”
Myerstown plated a trio of runs in each of its first two at-bats to build a 6-0 cushion.
In the bottom of the first inning, D. Miller and Jason Gattens drove in M-town runs, after a Shutter double and a Fredericksburg error. Then in the home half of the second, D. Miller and Jason Gattens collected RBIs.
“We’re approaching the season like it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Petruska. “This was a great step foward for our young team.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Shaeffer,” Petruska added. “I realize they were a couple of guys short, but they still had a good team tonight. They have a deep lineup.”
“They’re (Myerstown) a young team. They’ll have their struggles,” said Shaeffer. “They beat us. When we scored those nine runs, they hung in there. I think we’re alright. We have good kids. We have more errors this year than we did all of last year. I think we’re averaging five a game.
“I think some of our guys are pressing,” continued Shaeffer. “We’re still tight. As a coach, you want to tell them to loosen up. It’s tough to correct. They’ll come around. They’re my boys. I’ve got to have confidence in them.”
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