MYERSTOWN – It is fleeting and elusive. But momentum is also unpredictable and resilient.
Momentum possesses the power to transcend boundaries and bridge seasons.
On a pleasant Wednesday night at old Post 55 Field, Myerstown rode a wave of previous success from the spring scholastic baseball season to a 6-0 Lebanon County American Legion League victory over Campbelltown. Myerstown used a three-run rally in the bottom of the third inning to establish a comfortable margin, and right-hander Dakota Smith, one of the key cogs in Elco High School’s run to a District Three title, took care of the rest.
The outcome marked the first final result for a seasoned Myerstown club made up mostly of a handful of college kids, as well as Elco and Cedar Crest student-athletes who both tasted success in the spring. M-town is now 1-0, while Campbelltown slipped to 4-4 on the season.
“Yeah, I think the confidence is still there, at least with the Elco kids,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer. “While they were still playing, the Cedar Crest kids were getting swings and reps, and a lot of them came to the Elco games to cheer their teammates on. I think carrying on that success was a key part of the run at Elco.
“The good part is we’re older,” continued Mentzer. “We’re probably the oldest team in the league, and two years ago, some of these kids played together. We all know each other. They’ve all played together. We have cohesiveness, and if you looked at our bench, you wouldn’t know it’s a combination of Cedar Crest and Elco players.”
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” said Palmyra head coach John Binner. “I thought we played pretty well. But there’s a reason whey they (Elco) were in the state tournament. They’re older and we’re younger.”
Myerstown wasted little time in grabbing a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. With singles from Braden Bohannon and Amani Jones, and a walk to Luke Hostetter, M-town loaded the bases against Campbelltown starter Austin Gussler, before Smith lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
“We’re trying to be aggressive on the fastball, hit the ball up the middle and take what the other team gives us,” said Mentzer. “I thought we had a good approach. We got some cheap hits, but we also had some good hits and some good at-bats. If you take the right approach, you’ll put the ball in play.
“We played a suspended game against Annville on Monday, and we didn’t hit the ball as well as we did tonight,” added Mentzer. “We started all 18-year-olds, and got some other guys from college. The kids expect a lot this summer, so this was a great way to get rolling.”
“Austin threw well. He threw strikes,” said Binner. “The longest outing for us this season had been five innings, and they’re (Myerstown) a legitimate team. If a couple of things go our way, it’s probably a different game.
“Things are going well,” added Binner. “We’re a young team. I have two seniors and a college player, and the rest are underclassmen. We have a good nucleus and we’re playing well together.”
Smith, whose last outing came against Wyoming Area in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs last week, was especially sharp, after working out of a two-on-nobody-out situation in the top of the first inning. He went on to strike out nine and allow three hits, on a total of 88 pitches.
“It (Smith’s outing) was good,” said Mentzer. “He needed some rest (after the high school season). He got it and he felt really good. He wasn’t too happy about 22 pitches in the first inning, but he recovered and got it going. He pounded the zone.
“With six days rest, he was fine,” Mentzer continued. “With so many games to play in a short time, we’re trying to get as many innings out of our pitchers as possible. It was a well-pitched game.”
“He threw strikes,” said Binner of Smith. “He threw really well. He’s a good all-around pitcher. They have a pretty good team.
“I’d like our guys to be a little aggressive,” Binner added. “See what the kid has first, and then go from there. But I want our kids to have fun. That’s the big thing in baseball.”
Myerstown’s three-run rally in the bottom of the third was sparked by Jones’ two-out single. Hostetter followed with a walk, before Smith and Jack Beasley drove home runs with singles, while the third tally resulted from a balk.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, M-town extended its lead to 6-0, courtesy of Wyatt Manzel’s two-out, two-run single.
“From what I’ve heard, they’re (Campbelltown) young,” said Mentzer. “They’ve got some good stuff, including that crafty lefty (Gussler) we saw tonight. They’re a scrappy bunch, and it’s baseball. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night.
“When you’re older, you need to set the tone,” Mentzer added. “That’s what we’re trying to do. The bar is high for us. That’s an honest fact. They (his players) push each other to keep the bar high.”
“My goal is for this season to be a learning experience,” said Binner. “Just to keep the kids playing baseball for the future of Campbelltown and Palmyra High School.
“For the most part, our team is a mixture of Palmyra’s varsity and JV teams,” added Binner. “Most of this year’s seniors are playing twilight. Palmyra had nine or ten seniors this year, and I got two of them. We have a young team and we’re building from there.”