BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – They’ve never not been in first place.
If they would’ve scripted it, the season has followed it to a tee.
There aren’t too many things that could’ve gone too much better for the Fredericksburg American Legion baseball team this summer.
And now, Post 955 is within a win of a goal.
On Monday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, Fredericksburg opened the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league’s best-of-three Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine championship series with a convincing 6-3 triumph over Annville. Fredericksburg took control of the crucial Game One with a three-run bottom of the second inning, right around the same time starter Seth Walmer was settling in.
Walmer worked into the top of the seventh inning, when Annville loaded the bases with the potential tying runs with one out. But Walmer gave way to reliever Hayden Johnson, who wiggled out of the jam with a strikeout and ground-out to preserve the victory.
The result put top-seeded and regular-season champion Fredericksburg, now 16-2, in firm control of a title series which continues Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. at Annville-Cleona High School. Annville, the playoffs’ second seed, dropped to 11-7 on the season.
Fredericksburg has now beaten Annville three times in their four overall meetings this summer.
“I’ve been here for undefeated seasons, and it’s tough,” said Fredericksburg rookie head coach Tim Schaeffer. “To have a loss here and there doesn’t hurt you. It helps keep your focus. Our goal was definitely to go to regionals. And the kids’ goal was to go to states.
“A lot of people associated with the program have won championships,” continued Schaeffer. “That helps, because they can tell the kids what it takes to get to that level. A lot of these kids haven’t been a part of something like this. They’re keeping their heads pretty good. I’m surprised.”
“The first game, you’ve got to win. Now we’ve got our backs against the wall,” said Annville first-year head coach Ken Sauley. “But we didn’t have any pressure on us coming in. In retrospect, on paper, we’re not supposed to win. But I tell my guys it doesn’t matter. I actually had a lot of confidence coming into this game. I thought if we get a few innings out of Tyler (stater, Talhelm) and just somehow got to the seventh inning with a lead, I could bring Mitch (Long) in.
“They’ve (Fredericksburg) got a lot of depth,” Sauley continued. “They’re the only team in this league who has depth. They show up. And they have guys on their bench who could start for other teams. When you have 18 guys on your bench, you can find someone to pitch.”
After the sides traded pairs of first-inning runs, Fredericksburg posted its three-spot in the bottom of the second. Wyatt Beakler knocked in Jaycee Orta, who had tripled, and Isaac Wengert drove home Beakler and Michigan Daub, to make it 5-2.
It was an uphill battle for Annville the rest of the way.
“Over the first couple of innings we did really well with our approach at the plate,” said Schaeffer. “Then we got a little complacent. We didn’t strike out that much, but we put dumb balls in play.
“We played good,” added Schaeffer. “Not spectacular. We had a couple of sloppy plays, but also a couple of nice plays.”
“After the first couple of innings, things settled down, and we couldn’t score,” said Sauley. “They gave us all those chances and we couldn’t take advantage of them. They (Fredericksburg) hit the crap out of the ball. Ending up 6-3, that was much better than I thought it was going to be at one point.
“When you’re playing a team like that, there’s not a lot of margin for error,” Sauley added. “We’re pesky.”
Annville certainly got off on the right foot, with two runs in the top of the opening frame. A Fredericksburg error opened the door for M. Long’s RBI-double and Izaiah Trimble’s run-scoring single.
But F-burg came right back in the home half of the first, to tie the game at two apiece. After Talhelm had retired the first two batters, Daub and Wengert set the stage for Chase Dubendorf’s two-run hit.
“We needed to win tonight,” said Schaeffer, who will go with southpaw Beakler as his Game Two starter. “You don’t want to go down in a series like this. Annville’s tough. They play tough baseball. They always play us tough. They’re always going to battle.
“We need to play our game,” Schaeffer continued. “Whatever comes out of it, it is what it is. We’ve got to play our game, and we’ll be OK.”
“What I was trying to accomplish with Tyler (Talhelm) was a lot of off-speed stuff, hitting corners and letting them (F-burg) make outs,” said Sauley. He had to elevate his ball, and they teed off on him.”
Annville touched Walmer for an unearned run in the top of the third inning to make it 5-3. Long stroked his second RBI-double, to score Alec ‘Gator’ Barr.
But after that, Walmer found his groove. Before being lifted for Johnson, Walmer struck out five, walked one and surrendered five hits.
“Seth needs to keep the ball down to be effective,” said Schaeffer. “We weren’t getting that low call. Every pitcher needs to get his pitch. But a couple of good defensive plays got us out of innings.”
“He did a good job,” said Sauley of Walmer. “He’s a good pitcher. He threw a lot of strikes. They (Fredericksburg) took advantage of our mistakes, but we didn’t take advantage of their mistakes.
“That young man (Johnson) they brought in there was pretty good,” added Sauley. “It was right there. Mitch (Long) was on it all night.”
Fredericksburg’s sixth run, which was scored in the bottom of the third inning, was also of the unearned variety. Beakler made Annville pay with a two-out, RBI safety.
“The key to our success has been pitching and defense,” said Schaeffer. “Our pitching has been phenomenal. Our team ERA is under one. We don’t strike a large amount of guys out. But we get a lot of ground balls. We’re playing really well.”
“I know we can play with them,” said Sauley. “What I don’t know is where I’m going with pitching. I don’t have a lot of pitching. Mitch (Long) says he can go tomorrow. I don’t know. It’s almost like putting names in a hat and pulling one out.
“But I don’t care who throws,” continued Sauley. “You’ve got to make the plays. My boys don’t quit. But we really didn’t do much damage on the scoreboard.”
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2016 Annville Results
|6/30/2016||W||Annville 3 Campbelltown 0|
|6/29/2016||W||Annville 6 Richland 2|
|6/28/2016||PPD||Annville 0 Campbelltown 0|
|6/26/2016||W||Annville 10 Myerstown 3|
|6/23/2016||L||5th Ward 5 Annville 4|
|6/22/2016||W||Annville 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/21/2016||W||Annville 4 Fredericksburg 3|
|6/19/2016||L||Richland 3 Annville 2|
|6/14/2016||W||Annville 17 Myerstown 6|
|6/12/2016||L||5th Ward 4 Annville 3|
|6/9/2016||L||Fredericksburg 8 Annville 1|
|6/6/2016||W||Annville 3 Richland 2|
|6/1/2016||W||Annville 4 Myerstown 3|
|5/31/2016||W||Annville 9 5th Ward 0|
|5/29/2016||L||Fredericksburg 3 Annville 1|
2016 Fredericksburg Results
|7/1/2016||W||Fredericksburg 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/27/2016||L||Myerstown 3 Fredericksburg 2|
|6/26/2016||W||Fredericksburg 5 5th Ward 2|
|6/23/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 Richland 0|
|6/22/2016||W||Fredericksburg 5 Myerstown 4|
|6/21/2016||L||Annville 4 Fredericksburg 3|
|6/19/2016||W||Fredericksburg 4 Campbelltown 3|
|6/15/2016||W||Fredericksburg 1 Campbelltown 0|
|6/13/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 5th Ward 4|
|6/12/2016||W||Fredericksburg 8 Richland 0|
|6/9/2016||W||Fredericksburg 8 Annville 1|
|6/8/2016||W||Fredericksburg 9 Myerstown 1|
|6/1/2016||W||Fredericksburg 13 5th Ward 0|
|5/31/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 Richland 0|
|5/29/2016||W||Fredericksburg 3 Annville 1|
Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League
Final Regular Season Standings