BY JEFF FALK
FAYETTEVILLE – What a difference a day made at the Region Four American Legion baseball tournament. In 24 hours, Campbelltown went from the driver’s seat to having its back against the wall.
It went from riding a wave of confidence to searching for answers, and questioning itself.
On Sunday afternoon at the eight-team, double-elimination event, Campbelltown endured a momentum-shifting 11-7 loss to Spring Grove, in a second-day, winner’s bracket contest at Greene Township Park. While the Lebanon County champions were certainly deserted by its pitching, they were also let down by an offense that collected 14 hits, but stranded 13 runners on the base paths.
After falling behind 5-2 early, C-town rallied to take a 7-5 lead and appeared to have momentum squarely in its corner. But when Spring Grove responded with six unanswered run, Campbelltown could not draw from an emotional tank that was empty.
Cambpelltown, now 18-6, will look to regroup and avoid elimination on Monday at 12:30 p.m. back at Greene Township Park, against Lancaster County champion Ephrata. Spring Grove moved into the undefeated game of the tournament with a 19-2 mark.
A Lebanon County entrant has not won the Region Four regional tournament for 20 years.
“No, I’m not concerned at all,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan, whose club open the tournament with a 12-1 mercy-rule win over Fayetteville on Saturday. “To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if we came back and won this thing. If we win today, we’re in the driver’s seat.
“It’s only one loss,” Morgan continued. “We’ll come back. These kids, they’re too good not to respond. They want to win. That’s what this team is – competitive. Tomorrow we’ll see what happens. Hopefully they’ll show up.”
“We were definitely confident coming in,” said Campbelltown second baseman Mike Fuhrman. “We got the host team in the opener and that was a break. But we knew the other teams were going to be better. These teams are definitely good. They’re winners of their counties. We knew the games would be closer than our league games, but we thought we’d come out on top. That’s why it’s a double-elimination tournament. We’ll get a second chance tomorrow.”
Campbelltown had apparently put a slow start behind it by scoring four times in the top of the third to take a 6-5 lead. The key blow – a two-run double – was struck by Tyler Morder, while Dom Faiola followed it up with a run-scoring single.
Then an inning later, Post 831 upped its lead to two runs on back-to-back doubles from Tyler Carberry and Sully Bortner.
“Do you know what happened? We had no pitching,” said Morgan. “Our pitchers couldn’t get it done. You can’t be 3-2 (in the count) and have to throw a fastball down the middle. That’s (Spring Grove) a good team. But I’d like to play them again. It would be different. But we have no excuses.”
“We hit the ball well,” said Fuhrman. “We had 16 hits. But they hit better, and more when runners were in scoring position. We didn’t have many key hits at all, which is different from what we usually do. And our pitchers didn’t pitch as good as they usually do.”
Spring Grove tied the game at seven in the bottom of the fourth, went ahead 8-7 in the fifth and piled on three insurance tallies in sixth. That flurry appeared to take the wind out of Campbelltown’s sails and forced some heads to droop.
Campbelltown failed to score in its five final at-bats against Spring Grove reliever Nick Spangler, and managed a combined five hits in those innings, compared to nine in its first four.
“Our pitching changed the whole picture,” said Morgan. “That (not being able to hold the lead) was the turning point of the game. He (starter Josh Sollenberger) had nothing going today. We left 14 runners on base. We out hit them. But we didn’t have any pitching.
“Josh (Sollenberger) was 8-0 or 9-0,” Morgan added. “It was his worst outing. He had nothing. That’s why I took him out (to start the third). He was rested and ready to go. We expected a completely opposite outcome.”
“It was a really long game,” said Fuhrman of the three-hour-and-ten minute affair. “Kids were getting tired. We had the lead, and gave it right back. We put our heads down at the end, and it hurt us.”
After surrendering two Spring Grove runs in the bottom of the first, Campbelltown matched that output in the top of the second. Trey Baker and Morder got C-town started with singles, and teammates Sollenberger and Fuhrman drove them home.
“This team here is not happy,” said Morgan of his charges. “(Emotional leader and catcher, Conway) Colby gets down on himself so bad. They’ll show up tomorrow. You’ve got to let it go down the toilet, and come back.
“We just need to stay the same,” said Fuhrman. “It’s not like we’re playing awful. It just didn’t work out today. I think we’ll still win the tournament.”
Morder, who will start on Monday against Ephrata, smacked three safeties, while Faiola, Carberry and Bortner each had a pair. Every Campbelltown starter collected at least one hit.
But Post 831 burned through four pitchers, making it vulnerable in that area for the rest of the event.
“Coming in, I wasn’t concerned at all with our pitching,” said Morgan. “It’s part of life. Josh hasn’t given up more than four runs in eight months.
“Morder’s been throwing really good lately,” added Morgan. “He’s my number two. But we’ve got to get a win tomorrow.”