BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – When the Region Four American Legion baseball tournament rolls around next weekend in Fredericksburg, Lebanon County will be well represented. In fact, the locale is home to three clubs which are worthy of entry into the tournament.
On a cloudy Saturday evening at Annville-Cleona High School, Annville got a leg up on Campbelltown for Lebanon County’s second berth in regionals with a 5-0 triumph in Game One of their Lebanon County American Legion best-of-three semifinal series. Behind slinging southpaw Mitch Long, Annville scratched out single runs in each of its first three at-bats.
Game Two of the set will go off on Sunday at 5:45 p.m. at Palmyra High School. Third-seeded Annville, now 11-7 on the summer, will look to advance to the circuit’s best-of-five championship series behind Eli Setlock, while second-seeded Campbelltown, now 11-7, will counter with Isaac Blatt.
Campbelltown, which was without the services of six regulars, had knocked off the defending champions twice during the regular season.
“That would be awesome,” said Annville head coach Ken Sauley of the prospect of making it to regionals. “If we won the league, it would be the first time Annville has won it in back-to-back years since (19) 69 and 70. But I want to win this, and then worry about that next.”
“I’d love for this team to get into regionals,” said Palmyra skipper Tim Morgan. “But let’s be honest, if we get there, we’re not going anywhere. I don’t expect anything. I just like these kids.”
Thanks in part to its lead-off batter reaching base in each of its first three at-bats, Annville played with the lead all night.
In the bottom of the first, it was Cameron Hoch who led off with a single. And it was Tyler Schrader who scored him, with a two-out, swinging bunt single.
An inning later, Annville made it 2-0, after Hunter Long’s lead-off double. This time Hoch did the job with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Annville’s third run resulted from a lead-off walk to M. Long in the third. M. Long stole a base, moved to third on a Campbelltown error and scored on Alec Barr’s sacrifice fly.
“There was a little more timely hitting than we had all season,” said Sauley. “It’s hard to turn the switch in baseball. In baseball, guys want to hit, regardless of the situation. I think today it changed a little bit. We did get hits we hadn’t been getting. We’ve just got to take it to the next level tomorrow.
“They (his players) like baseball,” continued Sauley. “They’ve got a lot of games under their belts. Those (Campbelltown’s) guys are young. We had three runs, but we needed more.”
“It’s a great learning experience with all these 15-year-olds,” said Morgan. “It was 3-0 after five innings, and we were in the game. Stuff like that happens. But I feel like we’re in good shape for tomorrow.
“Coming into it, I felt real good,” Morgan continued. “But then the walls came tumbling down.”
M. Long was in command and in control the entire way. He counted 89 pitches in his route-going performance.
He yielded only two hits, and the only real trouble he ran into was in the top of the second, when Griffen Weidler walked and Trevor Binner singled. But no Campbelltown runner reached third base, as M. Long struck out four and walked two.
“What he has to do is change speeds and work the corners, inside and out,” said Sauley of M. Long. “And then the breaking ball, he had a good one tonight. If he does that, he’s tough to hit.”
“We beat them both times we played them during the regular season,” said Morgan. “But we had our team. We were missing six kids today. We’ll have them all back tomorrow, which will make it better.
“We beat Mitch both times,” added Morgan. “You can’t work your magic when you don’t have your players. Tomorrow our first five are going to be back. Our chances are better.”
Annville added a pair of runs to its precarious lead in the bottom of the sixth. Setlock and Iziah Trimble collected RBIs, after Hoch had got things going with a walk and stolen base.
“It’s huge,” said Sauley of winning the opening game in a best-of-three series. “But you never know. You always want to win. Just like the first batter in every inning, you want to get him out. The way Mitch threw tonight, it was tough to get on him. Tonight he was throwing hard.”
“Most of these kids are going to be here four years,” said Morgan of his young club. “Think about how that’s going to be.
“The deal with our field is that the school district puts travel ball first,” continued Morgan. “They (In The Net Sports Complex) let them (Palmyra school district) use the fields in the fall and spring. That’s a lot of money. But at least we have a place to play.”
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Lebanon County American Legion
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