BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Right now, the Fredericksburg Legion baseball club is coming together, as a team. It’s something that’s much easier to do when everybody’s present and accounted for.
On a picturesque Tuesday night at Elco High School’s Lyle Krall Field, Fredericksburg remained hot with a 9-4 Lebanon County American Legion League drubbing of Richland. After spotting the home side a 2-0 head start, the defending champions scored nine times over their last four at-bats in support of starter and winner Brandon Breidegan.
The triumph has Fredericksburg’s fourth straight overall and third in-a-row in the local summer legion circuit. Post 915 is now 6-8 overall and more importantly 4-7 in the Lebanon County American Legion League.
Richland, which had entered the fray winners of four of its last five outings, saw its league mark leveled to 5-5.
The integrity of the contest was marred by an ugly, emotional incident in the seventh inning, one that seemed to begin with words from adult assistant coaches on each side. Although no punches were thrown, the incident became heated, as both benches cleared and umpires, fans and eventually players became involved.
Two players were ejected before order was restored.
“I just think they’re starting to mesh together,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer of his troops. “With the Cedar Crest kids and the Northern Lebanon kids, we have a little bit more of a split squad. We know how to win again. They’re working at the extras, and we finally have our whole team. But when Richland has all their players, they have a fantastic team too.
“When everybody’s here, you’re a team then,” added Schaeffer. “You can’t win this game by yourself.”
“When we have our full roster here, we have the best lineup in the league,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome. “When we have all of our guys here, we have the best pitching staff in the league. I hate the word ‘but’, but I’m going to use it right here. We should be one of the best teams in the league, but where we are, we’re a middle-of-the-road team.
“I couldn’t even tell you how many times we’ve had all of our guys here,” continued Thome. “We didn’t have it tonight. It’s irrelevant because each night we’re worrying about having nine guys. Tonight we had our ninth guy at 5:45 (p.m.).”
Down 2-0 and with just one hit off Richland starter Clay Hain, Fredericksburg erupted for four runs in the top of the fourth inning, to take the lead for good.
Brock Eisenhour started it with a walk and a stolen base, and Breidegan, Cole Felty and Cameron Sieger followed with back-to-back-to-back RBI knocks. Pat Finley capped the F-burg rally with a two-out, RBI-single.
Fredericksburg upped its advantage to 6-3 in the top of the fifth, after Hayden Johnson and Michigan Daub both walked and stole bases. Breidegan knocked in another run, while the other F-burg score came on a Richland error.
“We’re working on that,” said Schaeffer of his team’s offense. “We’re doing tee-work. We’re shortening our swings.
“Clay’s (Hain) a great kid,” added Schaeffer. “He ususally pounds the strike zone. He didn’t throw bad tonight. We just hit the baseball. We need to get a little better at doing that.”
“We jumped out and scored two early, and after that, they went on a 9-1 run, and that was it,” said Thome. “We had three innings of pretty spectacular pitching, then it unravelled. Once they put that four-spot up we were down and they had all the momentum.
“He (Hain) had three good innings, where he threw seven or eight pitches each inning,” continued Thome. “In the fourth, he started the lead-off guy 0-2, walked him and then he kind of unravelled. It looked like they put some things together and we hung our heads a little bit.”
Fredericksburg kept applying the pressure in the top of the sixth, when Bailey Keefer made it 7-3 with a sacrifice fly. Finley started it with a hustle double and Barry kept it going with a single.
“They were getting themselves too deep in the hole with counts,” said Schaeffer of his hitters’ early at-bats. “You can’t wait. You’ve got to get ahead of the pitcher. We need to force the issue.
“We’re playing better,” Schaeffer added. “We’re starting to jell at the right time. We’re hitting the ball really hard now.”
“They’re one of the teams that always seems to be there,” said Thome of Fredericksburg. “They have a good group of players. They seem to be a little more scrappy this year. And they really didn’t throw the ball around on defense.
“It’s (the league standings) pretty wide open yet,” Thome continued. “We have eight more games and anything can happen. We can go 8-0 and go to the top, or we can go 0-8 and go to the bottom. The last bit of the season is very important.”
Fredericksburg further padded its lead with two more runs in the top of the seventh inning. F-burg did its damage with two outs and nobody on, as Finley walked, Johnson ripped a long RBI-triple to center field and Barry came through with a safety.
“He threw strikes,” said Schaeffer of Breidegan. “He’s our first pitcher to throw a complete game this season. We had a couple of boo-boos, or we would’ve gotten out sooner. But our mistakes really didn’t cost us.
“Right now, we want to get back to .500, and go from there,” added Schaeffer. “We’ve got to be one of those top three teams (in the regular season, going into the playoffs). I can see it. They (his players) look like a totally different team. I don’t have a bad team. I have good players.”
“He beat us with fastballs,” said Thome of Breidegan. “He had two pitches. He had a little curveball, and he didn’t throw it all that much. He was throwing a straight ball. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before.”
Richland touched Breidegan for a pair of first-inning runs, on Joey Ginder’s two-out, two-run single. Nate Trovinger and Hain had set the table with a single and a walk.
But after that, Breidegan really settled in. He did surrender Trovinger’s RBI-single in the bottom of the fourth and Joe Carpenter’s solo homer leading off the bottom of the seventh, but in between Breidegan struck out four and walked three.
“I don’t think there’s any bad blood between the teams,” said Schaeffer. “These kids all know each other. That’s not what it’s all about. We’re here to play baseball.”
“I have no idea what stared it,” said Thome of the swearing and threats that came from the heated exchange in the seventh inning. “It was kind of compounded when their third-base coach asked one of our players to take off a bracelet. It took our guys’ focus and I think it escalated things. None of it was handled the right way.
“As coaches, we’ve got to do a better job, because ultimately it leads to players’ actions,” continued Thome. “If guys want to settle things they should exchange phone numbers and go do it somewhere else. We’re here to play baseball. That’s why I’m here.”
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