BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – What’s the point of having a little early season success without being able to take it out for a spin? How can you tell it’s genunine without seeing what it can do?
On Wednesday afternoon, the Elco baseball team’s 3-0 start stood up to pressure and performed well. And despite the fact that they didn’t emerge victorious, the young Raiders discovered their success was indeed real.
At Lyle Krall Field, Elco’s first setback of the season was an 8-6 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg, annually the class of Section Three in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Although moral victories simply don’t exist for Elco, ultimately the Raiders did too many good things to see the loss as anything but a positive.
After surrendering four first-inning runs, Elco responded with six of its own in the bottom of the opening frame. Though they would not score the rest of the way, they never went away.
The result made Elco 3-1 overall and 1-1 in Section Three. Lampeter-Strasburg, which has won ten of the last 12 section championships, improved to 5-1 on the year and 2-0 in the circuit.
“I’m ecstatic about our start,” said Elco head man Chris Weidner. “I look back to Monday’s game (a 3-1 triumph over Manheim Central), which we expected to win. But being as young as we are, it was a huge confidence boost. It helped us be confident that we could be able to compete with Lampeter-Strasburg. We’re going to have peaks and valleys, but this group has a tremendous upside.
“We’re going to build on this,” Weidner continued. “They (the Pioneers) really are the kingpins of the section. If you’re looking for that silver lining, sure you can’t ask for more than the opportunity to win. But I’d rather lose and have an opprtunity to win than be blown out. I’m going to stew on this tonight.”
After Lampeter-Strasburg batted around and scored four runs after two outs had been recorded in the first, the Raiders answered in kind in their half of the frame. Elco’s first nine hitters in the bottom of the first reached base and the first six scored.
Highlighting the rally were Adam Shoemaker’s two-run double, Ryan Weirback’s bases-loaded walk and John Gettle’s run-scoring single. But by leaving the bases full with no outs, the Raiders missed out on an opportunity to tack on even more insurance runs, and ultimately that squandered chance came back to bite them.
“I was proud of the fact that we got ourselves in a hole and battled back,” said Weider. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen us fall behind like that and jump right back into it. But I knew we were going to have to score more runs.
“The fact that it’s 8-6,” continued Weidner, “and they are the standard bearer in the section and we’re so young, it’s definitely a positive. But we’re not going to make any excuses.”
The Pioneers pulled to within 6-5 in the second and scored three times in the third to go up 8-6 for good. But that would be all the mighty Pioneers would score, thanks to the effort of Elco reliever Andrew Superdock.
“I thought he threw pretty well,” said Weidner of Superdock. “He came in and kept it 8-6. Andrew gave us a shot to tie the game and win the game.”
Elco was retired in order in four of its last six at-bats.
The Raiders most serious threat to tie the game came in the sixth when a Chris Kreider double put runners on second and third with two outs. But L-S used a strike out to wiggle out of the jam.
“I give credit to their kid,” said Weidner of L-S reliever Cameron Enck. “In hindsight, I actually considered laying down a bunt with the bases loaded in the first, but didn’t. Their other kid (Enck) did a nice job of holding us at bay.”
“Last year we missed getting into districts by seven-tenths of a point,” said Weidner, who has guided the Raiders to the playoffs in nine of his 14 seasons. “We want to set the bar high and get to the postseason, whether we’re young or not. That 3-0 start was helpful in building that mindset. What we’re preaching is we want to keep it going.
“For the sophomores watching the approach of an Lampeter-Strasburg was a positive,” Weidner continued. “They’re still learning. That’s what we can take from today. They’re still feeling their way. It’s that growing curve, knowing what it takes to compete on the varsity level.”