BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – It would seem that the Annville-Cleona baseball team is rounding into shape. The Little Dutchmen picked a great time to piece together their most complete team victory to date.
In more ways than one.
On a special senior night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field on Thursday, all the Little Dutchmen stars aligned during a 6-1 non-league triumph over Tulpehocken. Right smack dab in the middle of one of their best performances of the season, Annville-Cleona recognized the 30th anniversary of the program’s only state championship, by re-introducing its members to the diamond.
Then, the Little Dutchmen honored the 1986 team with its play.
Behind a route-going, three-hit performance by slinging southpaw Mitch Long, Annville-Cleona put up a pair of runs during three separate at-bats. Meanwhile, four different Little Dutchmen hitters drove home runs.
The outcome lifted Annville-Cleona to 9-5 overall. The setback evened Tulpehocken’s slate to 8-8.
In the latest District Three Class AA power rankings, the Little Dutchmen were seated seventh, and the Trojans eighth.
“All of these kids, and us coaches, dream about winning a state championship,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Scott Shyda. “How cool is that? It was neat for the kids to see – an Annville-Cleona team that won a state championship. It’s always good to recognize good things that happened in the past.
“Being with Cap (Mike Capriotti, head coach of the state championship team), I’ve heard a ton of stories about that year,” continued Shyda. “I think it was a neat team, where everything fell together. I’m glad we played a good game in front of them. We did Annville-Cleona proud tonight.”
And the Little Dutchmen channeled those pre-game emotions into an early advantage. The key hit during Annville-Cleona’s two-run top-of-the-second was Tyler Schrader’s double.
Brad Balmer got things started for A-C with a walk, then later scored on the back end of a double steal. Jordan Seyfert drove in Schrader with a grounder.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Shyda, who assisted Capriotti prior to his retirement. “We played defense behind Mitch. Mitch pitched great. We hit the ball well. We ran the bases well. It was definitely a team win. That’s the kind of momentum we need to build at the end of the season.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating waiting for everything to come together,” Shyda continued. “We haven’t been on a field in eight days (because of the weather). Our field is a mess. If we had to play this game on our field, we couldn’t have done it. But it’s nice to be going home with a win.”
Working ahead in the count, M. Long simply refused to give into the Tulpehocken hitters all night. He whiffed five and didn’t issue a free pass.
M. Long didn’t yield a hit through the first three frames, until the Trojans opened the fourth with back-to-back singles. But he retired the next three batters he faced, then sat Tulpehocken down one-two-three in the bottom of the fifth.
Tulpy touched M. Long for their only run in the sixth, in the midst of a double play, following a single and a wild pitch by Mitch. But by that time, the Little Dutchmen were sitting on a 4-0 cushion.
“At some point, we started going to just the fastball,” said Shyda of M. Long. “He was able to do well with just the fastball. There was no reason to go away from it. And there was no reason to speed up their bats by going off-speed.
“He definitely had an off day in the Cocalico game, but other than that he’s been spot-on, every start,” added Shyda. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. I like his demeanor. He’s tough out there. He doesn’t get frustrated.”
Annville-Cleona had established that four-run lead in the top of the fifth inning.
Seyfert and Cole Waldhausen tripped the switch with a safety and a walk. Then after a Tyler Talheim sacrifice, Alec Barr and Eli Setlock came through with Little Dutchmen RBIs.
“It was real big,” said Shyda. “They (the Trojans) were ranked right behind us. I’m 99 percent sure we got their number-one pitcher tonight. Given that, it was an important win.
“We were in there hitting the ball, one through nine,” Shyda added. “And we made some nice defensive plays.”
The Little Dutchmen posted a pair of ‘just to be sure’ runs in the top of the seventh. It began with a Trojan error and continued with singles from Barr and Setlock.
Setlock’s hit knocked in a mate, as did Hunter Long’s ground-out.
“If you look at these last two games, we’re playing well right now,” said Shyda. “We have Pequea Valley tomorrow and a big game against Lancaster Catholic on Monday. We’ve been hoping to get on a roll. I know we need to get them (his players) going.”
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