BY JEFF FALK
EPHRATA – It certainly was a long strange trip, complete with ups and downs, agony and ecstasy, the predictable and the unknown. And like most journeys, it was more about the process than the destination.
Along the way, perhaps the most important thing that happened was that 15 young men discovered something about themselves that they previously hadn’t known.
On a steamy Monday afternoon at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field, Myerstown’s 2015 American Legion summer baseball odyssey came to an end in the loser’s bracket of the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four Tournament, with a 9-1 loss to Linglestown. After surrendering a two-spot in the opening frame, Myerstown trailed the entire way, and eventually fell into a 9-0 hole, thanks to Linglestown’s four-run, top-of-the-seventh.
Myerstown did avoid the shutout in its final at-bat, courtesy of Vinnie Vitelli’s RBI-grounder that scored Kyle Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich had singled with one out, moved to second on Brett Baweic’s single and then to third when Cody Horst was hit by a pitch.
Myerstown surprised many on-lookers by reaching the Region Four event, defeating every other team and going 6-1 in the Lebanon County American Legion playoffs. Myerstown surrendered a total of ten runs in those seven local playoff contests, but was outscored by a combined margin of 17-5 at the Region Four tournament.
Myerstown concluded its summer 14-10.
“I’m happy with the year. Happy with the effort,” said Mentzer. “We competed in these games. We didn’t roll over. I can’t complain about anything. In the big picture, getting here is what matters, and playing our best baseball when it matters. I think we were getting a little tired, and it showed in these last two games.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought we had a shot to get to regionals. I thought we had a chance,” continued Mentzer. “During the regular season, we went 7-8 and we lost five games by one run. That’s the difference between 12-3 and 7-8. I knew we had a shot if we could get some breaks. To go on the streak we went on in the playoffs, I’ll take that any time. I knew we just had to play at the right time, and we did.”
With Myerstown down 5-0 and teetering on the brink of elimination, Linglestown applied the knock-out blow in its seventh at-bat against M-town starter Tyler Price. The Dauphin County champions batted around and scored four times to extend their lead to nine runs.
In the form of four singles, an error and a walk, Linglestown’s first six hitters in the frame reached base.
“That was pretty much lights out,” said Mentzer. “Once we got down 9-0, we’re just trying to salvage. When it’s 5-0, you can chip away with one or two and make it a different ball game.
“That big inning, they (Linglestown) hit the ball,” Mentzer continued. “That was all about them hitting the ball. Errors didn’t kill us as much as them getting bleeders. They scored nine runs on 14 hits, and we scored one run on nine hits.”
Linglestown set the tone for the contest by reaching Price for three hits and two runs in the top of the first inning. Linglestown’s margin reached 3-0 in the third, on a walk, a stolen base and a single.
The score became 5-0 in the fourth, as Linglestown parlayed an outfield error by Myerstown into Aaron Gress’ two-out, two-run double.
“You don’t play into that too much,” said Mentzer of the carry-over from Sunday’s 8-3 loss to Red Land. “They (Linglestown) got two bloop hits in the first inning and got two runs. They (Linglestown) had 14 hits and maybe four were solid. The rest were balls that found holes. We had nine hits and didn’t string them together.
“Pricey didn’t have his best stuff,” added Mentzer. “He was up in the zone. He never really got the ball down. It was just unfortunate for him. He didn’t throw extremely bad.”
Despite its nine singles off of Linglestown starter J.T. Fredericks, Myerstown didn’t get a runner past second base until the ninth inning. Fredericks finished what he started, stuck out none, walked one and benefited from three double plays.
Linglestown did not commit an error behind him.
“It wasn’t anything overpowering,” said Mentzer of Fredericks. “We had some good at-bats. We hit the ball. We put the ball in play. Basically what Pricey did to Campbelltown in our playoffs, he did to us today.”
Brett Bawiec continued his hot playoff hitting with a three-for-four day at the plate, while brother Conor Bawie added a pair of safeties.
“During the playoffs, we talked to all of our guys and that’s when our offense got going,” said Mentzer. “We told them ‘We have to be aggressive early on the fastball.’ It helped Brett and K-Bog (Kyle Bogdanovich) and Conor and Kyle Knight when they were aggressive on the first fastball. But Brett really connected with that. He took a lot of pitches early. They’ve (B. Bawiec and K. Bogdanovich been hot forever. As a team, we’ve pretty much hit the ball hard the last two weeks.”
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Eight-team, Double-Elimination Region Four
American Legion Baseball Tournament
(at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field)
SATURDAY, JULY 18
GAME 1: Myerstown 1, Pleasureville 0
GAME 2: Shippensburg 7, Linglestown 4
GAME 3: Red Land 2, Penn Manor 1
GAME 4: Ephrata 21, Northeastern 4 (7 innings)
SUNDAY, JULY 19
GAME 5: Penn Manor 6, Pleasureville 3 (Pleasureville eliminated)
GAME 6: Linglestown 5 Northeastern 3 (Northeastern eliminated)
GAME 7: Red Land 8, Shippensburg 3
GAME 8: Shippensburg 5, Ephrata 4 (10 innings)
MONDAY, JULY 20
GAME 9: Linglestown 9, Myerstown 1 (Myerstown eliminated)
GAME 10: Penn Manor vs. Ephrata, 3:30 (loser eliminated)
GAME 11: Red Land vs. Shippensburg, 7
TUESDAY, JULY 21
GAME 12: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Loser Game 11, 3:30* (loser eliminated)
GAME 13: Winner Game 9 or 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 7* (Winner Game 9 or 10 eliminated with loss)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22
GAME 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 11:30 a.m. (Winner Game 12 eliminated with loss; Winner Game 13 possibly eliminated with loss)
GAME 15: Winner Game 14 vs. Winner Game 11, 2 (if necessary, loser eliminated)