NEFFSVILLE – The Annville-Cleona baseball team had very little interest in ‘representing itself well’. The way the Little Dutchmen had it figure, there was really only one way to do that.
In fact, the only thing Annville-Cleona cherishes more than winning is the opportunity to compete.
On Monday night at Manheim Township High School, in the opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, the Little Dutchmen didn’t come away with the result it was looking for, but it sure beat the alternative. The Little Dutchmen were a little shaky at the outset, fell behind 5-0 and couldn’t make it up in a 6-1 loss to powerful Hempfield.
The loss dropped Annville-Cleona, the runner-up from Section Four, to 12-9 overall. The Little Dutchmen will see its next action on Monday, at a site and time to be determined, as the sixth seed in a different type of postseason, the District Three Class AA playoffs.
“I’ve been here before and you can’t beat the atmosphere,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda of the league playoffs. “It’s an intense atmosphere. We were hoping to play tomorrow (in the semifinals). The kids were excited. We knew it was going to be a tough assignment. We were very glad to make the league playoffs.
“It’s going to be all positives when we talk to them (his players),” continued Shyda. “There were some things we didn’t do well. But there were lots more positive things that went well.”
The first three batters Hempfield sent to the plate in the bottom of the first inning against A-C ace Tanner Fitting all scored. The Black Knights’ 3-0 lead came courtesy of an error, a single and a lazy fly ball off the bat of Nick Yarnell that hugged the right field line, just barely cleared the fence and struck the fair/foul pole.
“That was a tough start for us,” said Shyda. “An error, a single, a 300-foot home run and we’re down 3-0. That’s not taking anything away from them (the Black Knights). They’re a good team.
“To their (the Black Knights’) credit, if they had gotten a couple more hits, it would’ve been a lot worse,” added Shyda. “But we’re going to take a lot of positives from losing 6-1 to Hempfield.”
Hempfield sent seven more batters to the dish and tacked on two more runs in the second. A one-out single, a stolen base, a wild pitch, an RBI-double and a run-scoring grounder made it 5-0 Black Knights.
It was a deficit that would be difficult to overcome, but not impossible.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Shyda. “We’ve been preaching confidence, being aggressive and not being timid. And we bought into it.
“We hit the ball,” Shyda added. “There was a time when we were hitting the ball as hard as they were. I thought we had to play error-less ball two win, and we didn’t. Tanner (Fitting) kept us in it.”
Annville-Cleona didn’t enjoy a ton of success against Black Knight starter and winner Camden Hess, but it did uncover a chink in his armor in the top of the fourth.
With one away, Daultyn Kline singled, moved to second on a walk to Fitting and then scored on a throwing error. At the time, the run pulled the Little Dutchmen to within 5-1 and seemed to provide them with a spark.
“He’s tough,” said Shyda of Hess. “I didn’t think he had his curve-ball going and we were able to get to his fastball. We’re going to see quality pitching like that in districts.
“We saw the (pitching) numbers before the game,” Shyda continued. “They (the Black Knights) have three or four guys with excellent stats. We knew we were going to see a quality pitcher no matter what.”
Annville-Cleona managed four singles off Hess, who struck out nine and walked three in his route-going effort. Before giving way to Mitch Rodkey in the sixth, Fitting yielded nine hits, struck out three and walked one.
Seven of Hempfield’s nine hits came in its first two at-bats.
“That was a tough assignment for Tanner, and he came through,” said Shyda. “I think Tanner’s been throwing real well. You’ve got to keep in mind who we were playing. This is one of the best teams in the state. I was hoping to do a little more offensively. It just didn’t happen when we needed it to.
“He (Fitting) is certainly one of our senior leaders and he wanted to pitch this game,” continued Shyda. “It’s been pretty much once a week for our pitchers. He’ll like start that first district game.”
And what should be very interesting is exactly how the Little Dutchmen fare in that tournament.
“We feel pretty good about our chances in districts,” said Shyda. “We’re confident moving forward. I know if we play our game and don’t give much away, we’re going to be right there with everyone.”