BY JEFF FALK
EPHRATA – A storied tradition. A not-too-distant past. And a recent past. There were a lot of things pointing in the Cedar Crest baseball team’s direction.
But this time, history was not a predictor of the future.
On Saturday night, under the lights of Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, the Falcons suffered a disappointing 2-0 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg in the opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. Disappointing because of the way it unfolded and disappointing because it bucked a couple of trends.
Lampeter-Strasburg scored both of its runs in the bottom of the first inning and the Cedar Crest bats fell silent in the wake of Pioneer left-hander Peter Darrenkamp. Outside of a shaky opening inning, Falcon starter Logan Fullmer also pitched well.
Saturday marked the third straight year in which Cedar Crest and the Pioneers had met in the league playoffs. Last year against Lampeter-Strasburg, Fullmer struck out 15 in a 2-0 Falcon win that ultimately propelled them to the Lancaster-Lebanon championship.
And if that wasn’t enough, Cedar Crest, the runner-up from Section One, came in riding an eight-game win streak. The now 17-4 Falcons will be the number two seed in the District Three Class AAAA playoffs that open May 21.
Lampeter-Strasburg, the champions from Section Three, moved to 16-5 and into the circuit’s semifinal round.
“They’re really disappointed,” said Cedar Crest head coach Chris Groff of his charges. “This is the third straight year we played Lampeter. We know what they do. We know what they’re about. And we know how good they are. They (the Pioneers) didn’t want to go 0-3 against us. They came out with a lot of emotion. You could feel it. And they got us in that first inning.”
“It’s kind of ironic isn’t it,” said Fullmer of the reversal of 2-0 fortunes. “I remember that game. I was hitting spots well. From the first inning on, tonight I felt the same way.
“Obviously we’re down right now,” Fullmer added. “We weren’t expecting to go down in the first round of leagues.”
The Pioneers touched Fullmer for two two-out runs in the bottom of the first. L-S clean-up hitter Matt McCrudden dumped an RBI-single into center field and Darrenkamp followed with a ringing triple down the right-field line.
“We wanted to go 1-0 tonight,” said Groff, “move on and do the same thing on Tuesday. The goal was to go 1-0 three times, and defend our championship.”
“At times, our hitting has been a little inconsistent,” Groff continued. “During the eight-game winning streak, we got some clutch hits. That’s the way it goes. Sometimes you get the hits and sometimes you don’t.”
“There were a couple of little hits they got,” said Fullmer. “They (the Pioneers) came out with some fire in the first inning. They put together a couple of hits and a couple of runs. That’s baseball.”
The Falcons experienced difficulties stringing together hits and getting anything at all going against Darrenkamp. Cedar Crest managed just three safeties and was short-circuited by a double play and a key pick-off at first base.
Cedar Crest did threaten in its final two at-bats, but couldn’t come up with a clutch hit. In the seventh, the Falcons’ first two batters reached base via walks, but Darrenkamp retired the next three without incident.
“They (the Pioneers) just keep coming at you,” Groff continued. “He (Darrenkamp) had some success on the inside, and that allowed him to set up some stuff outside. He’s not overpowering.”
Fullmer certainly pitched better over the final five frames than he did in the opening one. But to a degree, he worked in and out of trouble.
Fullmer allowed a total of nine hits, but he did not issue a walk and fanned eight.
“He really settled in nicely,” said Groff of Fullmer. “He’s always been a big game pitcher. He just needed help from the offense.
“We had everybody (pitcher) ready to go,” Groff added. “We’ve always gone with Logan as our ‘one’ and Dan (Black) as our ‘one-A’. The decision was to go with Logan because the last time he faced them he struck out 15 and we won 2-0.”
“I felt well,” said Fullmer. “Obviously the first inning was shaky. Once I got that out of the way, I calmed down and threw better. My location at the beginning wasn’t where it should’ve been.”