BY JEFF FALK
ELIZABETHVILLE – Complete game (kuh m-pleet, geym)
1. Excelling in all facets of an athletic competition; Performing well in every aspect of a contest. As in: Annville-Cleona played a complete game.
2. Exhibiting a certain behavior throughout an event in relation to time. Consistent showing from the beginning through the middle to the end. As in: The Little Dutchmen played a complete game.
3. Baseball outing when only one player pitches. No relief pitchers are necessary, because starter finishes what he begins. As in: Mitch Rodkey pitched a complete game.
On Monday evening, in the opening round of the District Three Class AA playoffs, the Annville-Cleona baseball team redefined – or perhaps simply put its own spin on an old concept – the term ‘complete game’, during a 7-2 triumph over Upper Dauphin on the Trojans’ historic and quirky diamond. The Little Dutchmen performed well in all three facets of the game, from start to finish and rode a strong route-going effort from senior stopper Mitch Rodkey.
With the win, the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four champions improved to 16-7 on the campaign and roared into Thursday’s semifinal round opposite top-seeded Susquenita, which dispatched Biglerville 10-0. Annville-Cleona, the fifth seed in the tournament, was coming off a 9-0 loss to Hempfield in Saturday’s L-L League championship game.
Fourth-seeded Upper Dauphin ‘completed’ its year at 17-4.
“I’m sure you could always play better,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda. “But I’m very pleased with the way we played, in all three aspects of the game.
“I thought the kids, coming off Saturday’s loss, were doubly determined to start fast,” continued Shyda. “But we kept the pedal down, and we needed to. At no point did we think the game was over.”
Annville-Cleona set the tone and set the stage in the top of the first inning, plating a pair of runs for a 2-0 lead it would never relinquish. Rodkey laced an RBI-single and Robbie Beidler lifted a sacrifice fly.
Then in the top of the fourth, the Little Dutchmen put a little distance between themselves and Upper Dauphin, scoring twice more to make it a 4-1 game. Rodkey was credited with an RBI on a ground-out, while sliding Zach Southall scored the other on a wild pitch.
“That’s what we were hoping for. We were hoping to pull the positives from Saturday’s game,” said Shyda. “Hempfield is a great team. But we weren’t going to let that (a loss in the L-L title tilt) affect us. I’m happy. We got a win in districts against a quality team.
“I was actually hoping to get more in the first inning,” Shyda added. “I was hoping to get about four. Mitch is a tough competitor. He’s our go-to guy.I think we’re confident with all of our pitchers, but when he’s had the season he’s had, you certainly have the feeling that things are going to work out when you have him pitching for you.”
After experiencing some difficulties in the bottom of the first, Rodkey really settled in during the middle frames. He retired the Trojans in order in the second, fifth and sixth innings, while his teammates were providing him with a working margin with their bats.
The sturdy righthander whiffed three, walked three and scattered six hits.
“Mitch gave us what we expect from Mitch, which is a complete game,” said Shyda. “He’s 6-1, and he had a 1.02 era coming into today, with 48 strikeouts, and he doesn’t have a lot of innings pitched. Those stats are pretty impressive.
“When you look at the competition we’ve faced the last few weeks, the guys are confident,” Shyda continued. “If we come out and play our game, we’re going to be OK.”
With its confidence high, Annville-Cleona remained focused and tacked on two more runs in the fifth, to extend its lead to 6-1. Justin Ulrich doubled, Robbie Beidler was hit by a pitch and Caleb Setlock singled to load the bases, ahead of Braden Elliott’s two-out, two-run single.
“We didn’t know a lot about these guys,” said Shyda of the Trojans. “But you don’t get to 17-3 without good pitching. But the guys were able to put the bat on the ball. We hit pretty well. We didn’t strike out a lot.
“If you’ve been at our games, he’s (Ulrich) been doing it defensively all season long,” added Shyda. “We almost expect that out of him.”
Beidler’s RBI-safety to left field in the top of the sixth pushed the Little Dutchmen’s advantage to 7-1. Colton Long had ignited the mini-rally with a one-out walk.
“This has been our goal from the beginning of the year,” said Shyda. “Getting the section championship was nice. Getting to the league championship game was nice. But this is a step in the right direction.
“You’ve got to win districts to get to states,” Shyda concluded. “One loss and you’re done. You’ve got to win every game. But it’s fun, and the kids are enjoying it. That’s what matters.”
Colton Long is expected to get the ball when Annville-Cleona takes on Susquenita on Thursday.
Class AA Quarterfinal Round
Annville-Cleona 7, Upper Dauphin 2
W — Mitch Rodkey; L — Mack Ney
SO-BB — AC: Rodkey (7IP, 3K, 3BB). UD: Ney (5IP, 2K, 2BB), Kyle Glouner (2IP, 3K, 1BB)
2B — AC: Braden Elliott, Justin Ulrich