BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – First, they used their legs and feet to apply pressure to the defense. Then with the defense reeling and vulnerable, they sat dead red.
On Monday night, Myerstown used a ‘run and hit’ approach to scoring to overwhelm Annville 14-2, in a Lebanon County American Legion baseball league contest that was shortened to five innings by the 12-run rule. Technically, the outcome was also a walk-off triumph, as M-town’s Jake Stager laced a two-run double to left field with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning to invoke the mercy rule.
In the bottom of the third inning, Myerstown employed four stolen bases to pressure the Annville defense into an error, two wild pitches and four runs. Then in its next at-bat, ‘Big Red’ parlayed some timely hitting into seven runs and an 11-2 lead.
The result lifted Myerstown to 5-3 in the local summer circuit. With its second setback of the season to Myerstown, Annville fell to 3-2.
“By far, this was the best we hit this season,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer. “In the Campbelltown game (a 17-4 loss), we saw glimpses of what we can do. Tonight we hit one through nine. Everybody had good at-bats.
“After getting pounded on Thursday, it was just important to win a ball game,” continued Mentzer. “It’s a big week for us, and it’s nice to start it with a win. You finally saw the potential of this team. On paper, we’re one of the better hitting teams in the league.”
“It was a little bit of everything,” said Annville head coach Steve Hostetter. “We came out a little rusty. This was the first time a lot of our kids played in a while, and it showed.
“(Starting pitcher, Fitting) Tanner struggled with his control,” Hostetter continued. “But give them (Myerstown) credit. They hit the ball hard. It was just an ugly game for us.”
Lost in all that Myerstown offense was another solid outing by starter and winner Mike Wealand. Wealand tossed all five innings, struck out four and walked two.
Wealand yielded only two hits and both came in the top of the fourth, when Annville pulled to within 4-2. Tyler Napierala, who doubled, scored one of Annville’s runs, on Adam Bennett’s sacrifice fly, while Fitting tallied the other on a wild pitch.
“The last time out, he threw 68 pitches in a complete game against Fifth Ward,” said Mentzer of Wealand. “So he came out and pounded the strike zone. He hits spots and keeps people off balance. He throws hard for a little kid. He’s one of the best pitchers we have.”
“I thought he threw pretty hard, but I thought it was something we could handle,” said Hostetter of Wealand. “We didn’t hit his breaking pitch hard either. Sometimes I think we get a little anxious at the plate. He was running some deep counts.”
Myerstown broke open a scoreless game with a four-run bottom of the third. With one out, Ryan Wierback singled ahead of three straight free passes. Chris Kreider made Annville pay with a two-run single, while Kyle Bogdonovich contributed a sacrifice fly to the M-town cause.
“They’re a good baseball team,” said Mentzer of Annville. “We just hit the ball. I’m not trying to run the score up on anyone. What happened to us on Thursday (at Campbelltown), happened to them tonight. They’re a sound baseball team. We just got the better of them tonight.”
“I see them as possibly being in the hunt,” said Hostetter of Myerstown. “They’ve got some good ball players. Other than Campbelltown, we’ve seen everyone in the league. But they’ve beaten us twice. Lucky for us we only play them one more time.”
Myerstown’s fourth at-bat started much like its third, with two walks, a single, an error and a hit batter. It concluded with Bogdonovich’s two-run single, Cody Horst’s two-run triple and John Gettle’s RBI-double.
“We’re sitting pretty,” said Mentzer, whose club reached the halfway point of its schedule. “This week is busy for us, and Annville’s got a lot of games to make up. I think we’re set up, pitching-wise. They’re (Annville) going to be playing a lot of games in a lot of days, which is to our advantage.”
“It’s the only way you can approach it,” said Hostetter of putting the outcome in his club’s rear-view mirror. “You can’t dwell on one game. Our bats are going to get better. We haven’t played in a week. As we start to play more games – five in six days – we’re going to get some at-bats under our belts. This team can hit. We’re going to score runs. And it’s hard to play your game when you’re behind.
“It’s hard for me to say where we’re at, and it shouldn’t be,” Hostetter added. “I don’t think we’ve shown our potential. I’m hoping it’ll show in the next five games. I still like what we’ve got. We’ve got a good bunch of kids, but they’re not rah-rah guys. But they come to play.”
LEBANON COUNTY AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL LEAGUE STANDINGS
W L T Pts
Campbelltown 6 0 0 18
Myerstown 5 3 0 15
Fredericksburg 4 2 0 12
Annville 3 2 0 9
Lebanon Fifth Ward 1 4 0 3
Richland 0 8 0 0