BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – That’s not a monkey on the Campbelltown American Legion baseball team’s back. It’s an over-sized chip on its shoulder.
On Thursday evening at Palmyra High School, Campbelltown continued to play like it had something to prove, as it rubbed out Fifth Ward 13-2. C-town jumped on Lebanon early, took advantage of seven Fifth Ward errors and rode the complete-game pitching effort of lanky righthander Tyler Carberry.
Campbelltown, which is made up mostly of players from a Palmyra High School team that under-achieved this spring, improved to 5-1 in the Lebanon County American Legion League. The loss put Lebanon, now 0-7, in the position of having to win out to just to sniff the circuit’s four-team playoff format.
“Absolutely they have something to prove,” said Campbelltown manager Tim Morgan, who doubles as a Cougar assistant coach in the spring. “I talked to them about that as well. It’s like we didn’t do anything close to what we wanted to in high school, and now they’ve got another chance. They (his players) made an agreement with each other. They want to do this and they want to do damage.
“The whole deal is that these kids, they’re all (graduated) seniors,” Morgan continued. “If we play all together as seniors we’ve got a chance to go to regionals. We have a good lineup, and we have good pitching, and that’s huge.”
“Things are going well,” said Palmyra centerfielder Preston Bare. “This week, we had everybody together. Most of the guys were at the beach last week. It’s crunch time coming up. We definitely want to win our league. We definitely want to go to regionals.”
“They’re very good,” said Lebanon head coach Tony McDonnell of Campbelltown. “They don’t have a weakness. They hit the ball and they’ve got good pitching. Them and Fredericksburg. They’re 1 and 1-A in my book.”
Campbelltown prevented frail Fifth Ward from gaining any sort of confidence by jumping on it early. Bare’s two-out, two-run single on a 3-0 offering was the big blow in C-town’s three-run bottom of the first, while Carberry followed wtih a single that brought Bare home.
“Getting a lead was very important, and they (Lebanon) came right back and got one,” said Morgan. “Preston was struggling in high school, and I had to get him out of the three-hole. I moved him to the fifth spot in the batting order so he would see more fastballs. I knew the kid had to throw him a strike. Since I moved him down he’s been hitting the ball hard.”
“He said I can go ahead and hit,” said Bare of his 3-0 green light. “I went for it. It was a curve ball and I just took it up the middle. He’ll (Morgan) usually give us the take sign in that situation.”
“Six or seven errors, that’s really frustrating,” said McDonnell. “But we’re going to keep plugging away. We were out of an inning, but dropped a ball at second. There’s certain guys on this team who play too hard. It was a loss of concentration and I think we have a lack of confidence right now.
“That’s what concerns me,” McDonnell added. “If we keep losing like this, I think some kids are going to stop showing up. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Carberry was pretty much in control the whole way. By throwing strikes, the big righty conserved pitches, scattered four hits, issued two walks and whiffed six.
He was touched for a Juni Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the third that pulled Lebanon to within 3-1. And the other run Carberry gave up – in the fourth – was unearned, and came after his mates had posted a five-spot a half-inning earlier.
“That was really our plus for the whole game, Tyler,” said Morgan. “It was only his second outing and I planned on getting him out of there after four innings. But he only had 50 pitches in the fifth and he said, ‘I want to finish this.’ He did well. He had good control.”
“It’s important if you can jump on a team,” said Bare. “It can keep them down, and you don’t have to play from behind. We did really well, especially because we struggled against them last time. I thought our hitting carried over from (Wednesday) night.”
“He always throws good,” said McDonnell of Carberry. “I thought he’d be over-powering, but he threw strikes. The kids were on him. But I think he only had a couple walks. He’s very intimidating. He’s a big kid.”
Campbelltown’s third at-bat all but settled the outcome. C-town made it an 8-1 game, with the benefit of only one hit.
Campbelltown did its damage courtesy of three Lebanon errors, two walks and a hit-batsmen. Carberry and Sully Bortner were credited with RBIs during the rally.
“We haven’t had the whole team together yet,” said Morgan. “We had four or five players who weren’t here tonight. We’re getting by with 11 or 12 right now. Hopefully we’ll have everybody back for Fredericksburg on Tuesday. That’s a big game.”
“The thing is the bloops for other teams are falling in,” said McDonnell. “Our bloops aren’t. We’ve got to get a break. We’ve got to get a jump on somebody.
“I would say if we don’t win tomorrow (Friday) we’re not going to make the playoffs,” McDonnell added. “Annville is starting to get hot. We almost have to win out. Eight losses got in last year, but we’re not going to let the kids know that. They have to have some reason to come out.”
Two more Lebanon errors in the bottom of the fifth pushed Campbelltown’s advantage to 10-2. Then in the sixth, a two-run double off the bat of Campbelltown’s Bryce Betz made it an 11-run lead and threatened the league’s 12-run mercy rule.
“For some of these kids it’s huge just to be able to play,” said McDonnell. “A lot of it is to get out and get experience. It’s huge for a lot of these kids.”