BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – It’s not about the question. It’s about the answer.
It’s not about the thrust. It’s about the parry.
It’s not about the jab. It’s about the counter-punch.
It’s not about the charge. It’s about the counter-attack.
It’s not about the trial. It’s about the response.
On Monday afternoon, the Annville-Cleona baseball’s resiliency was the key to its 6-2 Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three-Four crossover victory over Manheim Central. When the Barons seized the Little Dutchmen’s momentum with a two-run top of the fifth, Annville-Cleona’s response was decisive and immediate – in the form of senior catcher Hunter Long’s two-run home run in the bottom of the frame.
But just as resilient was the result. The positive outcome interrupted the Little Dutchmen’s modest two-game losing skein and pushed them to 7-2 on the year and 5-2 in Section Four.
Manheim Central slipped to 5-2 in Section Three and 5-6 on the season.
“It’s the same as this game being important after those two losses,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda of the Little Dutchmen’s fifth at-bat. “We didn’t like giving those games away. We gave away those two runs and Hunter comes back with that key home run. That’s exactly what we needed, when we needed it. And those two extra runs (in the sixth) were just as important. Manheim Central has a good program and they always seem to have a good team. It’s nice to beat a program of that caliber.
“This was absolutely essential for us, coming off those two losses,” continued Shyda. “We started 6-0 and had that little stumble. I’m really happy with the kids. It’s a good team win for us.”
Annville-Cleona starter Eli Setlock was cruising along with a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning when his pitch count began to add up. But Setlock would’ve exited the frame unscathed if his defense hadn’t betrayed him.
A pair of two-out errors by the Dutchmen opened the door for the two Manheim Central runs that tied the score.
But senior shortstop Alec Barr got things going for the Little Dutchmen in the bottom of the fifth, with a lead-off single and a stolen base. Then two outs later, Long drove the first offering he saw – a belt-high fastball – over the left-field fence to give Annville-Cleona a 4-2 lead.
“I thought we did OK with our plate approach,” said Shyda. “There were a couple of instances where we could’ve moved runners, especially with the bunt, and didn’t. We talked about having productive at-bats, even on our outs. We’ve been emphasizing putting the ball in play.
“The importance comes from winning after losing the last two games,” Shyda continued. “The last two (losses to Lebanon and Lancaster Catholic) were tough, they were hard to swallow. It is just baseball. But it’s hard to look at it that way when you’re on the other side of it. This was important for us.”
The Little Dutchmen rode the wave of their rediscovered momentum to two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Setlock and Brad Balmer set the table with singles. Nine-hole hitter Tyler Talhelm plated Setock with an RBI-single, while Barr drove home Balmer with a sacrifice fly.
“Every single game is important,” said Shyda. “We’re certainly happy to be 7-2, but we can never be satisfied. We think we can be competitive in all six crossover games. We think we have a chance in all of them.
“I think we’re on track,” added Shyda. “Our goals are to make the (Lancaster-Lebanon) league playoffs and the district (Three Class AA) playoffs. But I don’t like to look to0 far down the road. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s one game at a time. We’ve got to string some wins together.”
Before giving way to Tyler Schrader to start the sixth, Setlock went five innings, surrendered four hits, fanned seven and walked three. Setlock was credited with the pitching victory and Schrader picked up the save.
“His pitch count started getting a little high,” said Shyda of Setlock. “I was really happy he finished the fifth. Eli gutted it out. He did what he had to do. Those two runs were unearned. I’ll take that performance any day.
“When he pitched against Lancaster Mennonite, he was one strike from a no-hitter,” Shyda added. “He pitched a shutout against Pequea Valley. He’s put together three great games in-a-row. This is the first game he didn’t finish.”
Annville-Cleona grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Setlock singled, went to second on a Baron error and scored on another Manheim Central miscue. The Little Dutchmen upped their advantage to 2-0 with a single tally in the third, courtesy of back-to-back doubles from Mitch Long and Hunter Long.
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Section Three Standings
Section Four Standings