BY JEFF FALK
NEFFSVILLE – Silver lings? The insides of expensive jackets.
Underdog? An old-school television cartoon.
David versus Goliath? A story from the Bible.
The Annville-Cleona baseball team has no interest in consolation or pity or excuses. The Little Dutchmen just want to play well and win – in that order – no matter the venue or the level of competition.
On Monday evening at Manheim Township High School, in the quarterfinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, Annville-Cleona derived satisfaction from the fact that it played pretty well, not that it was beaten 3-0 by defending league champion Ephrata. Throw out three throwing errors in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Little Dutchmen were a hit here, a pitch there and a break somewhere, from springing what would be considered an upset, everywhere but Annville.
The setback dropped the Section Four runner-up Little Dutchmen to 13-8 overall. Currently seated sixth in the power rankings, the Little Dutchmen will compete in the District Three Class AAA postseason that begins next week, at a site, against an opponent and at a time, yet to be determined.
With the outcome, Class AAAA Ephrata, the Section Two champions, upped their overall record to 18-4 and barged into Tuesday’s semifinal round of the league tournament.
“I’m very proud of the kids, that they were able to take a challenge like this and be competitive,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda. “And I’m also proud we were able to keep ourselves in the game. But I don’t want to make it sound like it’s OK to lose. I’m not OK with losing.
“Two years ago, we were in the championship game of these playoffs,” Shyda continued. ‘What I am extremely proud of Annville-Cleona is that we come down here, we’re never the favorites, we’re never given much chance, but we’re consistently competitive.”
And on this day, part of what made the Little Dutchmen extremely competitive was the pitching of southpaw Mitch Long. Though Long held the potent Mountaineers in check most of the way, his counterpart, Ephrata righty Dillon Good, refused to yield a thing.
Ephrata delivered Good the only run he would need in the bottom of the opening frame, thanks to a ringing triple to center field off the bat of two-hole hitter Nate Fasssnacht. It was Good who helped himself, with the sacrifice fly that made it 1-0.
“My message after the game was that we have no shame losing to a team like that,” said Shyda. “We knew that was going to be tough. But I’m proud of the way we played. We’re going to get a lot of positives out of this for districts.
“That’s (offensive approach) probably an area where we can improved,” continued Shyda. “We could be hitting better. But today I considered the quality of the pitcher. I thought we did a good job of putting the ball in play. But give them (the Mounts) credit.”
After the opening frame, M. Long really settled into a nice groove. He allowed just two singles over the Mountaineers’ next four at-bats, didn’t permit a runner to venture past first base and kept the score at 1-0.
In the end, M. Long completed what he started, yielded a total of five hits, struck out six and walked one.
“He had his curve ball working pretty well,” said Shyda of M. Long. “And he was mixing it pretty well. What did he give up, five hits? I’ll take that any day. That’s exactly what we wanted out of Mitch.
“We were hoping to get through last week without using him,” added Shyda. “He was available, but he was on rest. That put us in the best position.”
Annville-Cleona surrendered two uncharacteristic, unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth. The three throwing errors might have made it look worse than it really was, while Good contributed his second RBI of the game.
“Going into that last inning, playing for one run, its much more difficult needing three,” said Shyda. “It certainly takes some wind out of your sails.
“We are feeling good,” added Shyda. “We have a lot to build on. There’s a lot of positives to be taken from this. We will be prepared for districts. We will be ready to go. We’re anxious.”
The Little Dutchmen got two runners on base against Good, in three separate at-bats.
A walk to M. Long and a single from Hunter Long gave Annville-Cleona a first-and-third situation, with two outs in the first. A free pass to Eli Setlock, an Ephrata error and a wild pitch set the Little Dutchmen up with runners at second and third with two outs in the third. And then in the sixth, Hunter Long singled ahead of a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Ben Rita.
“He also had his curve ball working,” said Shyda of Good. “We couldn’t sit fastball. He’s tough. He has ridiculous stats. We hit the ball hard a couple of times at guys. They didn’t give us anything. I thought we hit the ball fairly well.
“In most of those situations, we didn’t go down swinging or looking,” continued Shyda. “We made contact. They (the Mountaineers) certainly earned their win.”
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Final Section Four Standings
Class AA Power Rankings