PALMYRA – Campbelltown is the most improved team in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League. Outside of maybe championships, that’s what local summer baseball is really all about.
In fact, C-town has done so much of the latter, that it’s starting to consider the possibility of the former.
On a hazy Tuesday night at Palmyra High School’s OAL Sports Complex, Campbelltown remained on its late-season surge with a workmanlike 6-0 blanking of Annville, in the second round of the Lebanon County American Legion League’s seven-team, double-elimination playoff tournament. Opportunistic C-town set the tone for the outcome by assuming an early lead, and then fire-balling left-hander Nick Lafoe took care of the rest.
The victory was second-seeded Campbelltown’s sixth straight overall and second consecutive playoff triumph, and lifted it to 10-5 on the summer and into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. undefeated game of the tournament, at top-seeded Myerstown, which edged Fifth Ward 2-0 last night. With the setback, third-seeded Annville slipped to 7-6 overall and into a loser’s bracket do-or-die match-up with fifth-seeded Fredericksburg, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Annville-Cleona High School.
During the regular season, Campbelltown and Annville had spilt their two meetings. Annville prevailed 5-2 at home on May 27, while C-town took the rematch 5-3 in Palmyra on June 9.
“We were surprised coming in as the two-seed,” said Campbelltown head coach John Binner. “At the beginning of the season, we figured we’d be around .500. We had a lot of young players who I had never coached before.
“But as the season went along, we got stronger and the camaraderie grew,” continued Binner. “And I think that showed in the way we played tonight. Thursday’s going to tell how much we’ve improved. Myerstown has had our number all year. But I think we can compete with them.”
Lafoe did a good job of keeping Annville off balance most of the evening. He retired the side in order only twice – in the top of the third and fifth innings – and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth.
In all, Lafoe surrendered five hits, fanned eight and issued a pair of free passes. With 105 total pitches, Lafoe finished what he started.
“We got out of Nick what we needed to,” said Binner. “A complete seven innings. We saved pitching for the rest of the tournament.
“For him to be effective, he’s got to place his fastball,” added Binner. “The curveball was his best pitch. But he has to learn to control and spot his fastball.”
C-town touched Annville ace Isaac Good for a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the opening inning.
Cameron Dubbs, Peter Stoner and Colby Roe all drove in runs, but it was the three walks that Campbelltown coaxed from Good that ignited the rally. It took Good 39 pitches to get out of the bottom of the first inning.
“That was really good,” said Binner. “Good has been a good pitcher for them all year long. For us to come out and be patient like that, it really set the tone. It was up and down the lineup.”
Campbelltown added two runs to its lead in the second, courtesy of Caleb Fisher’s RBI-single and Dubbs’ run-producing grounder. Aiden Davis and Jake Deimling got C-town started with a single and a walk, respectively.
“Any time you get out to a lead like that, it takes pressure off your pitcher and pressure off your hitters,” said Binner. “Our pitcher threw his best game of the season. Offensively, we were working the count, getting key hits and getting on base. We had a lot of base runners tonight.”
It became 6-0 in the fourth, on Roe’s second RBI of the night. Fisher, Austin Gussler and Dubbs set the table with a single and a couple of walks.
“It looked like he (Good) was getting flustered and he tried to over throw a little bit,” said Binner. “I think he got a little frustrated with the strike zone.”