BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Efficient = Effective.
Inefficient = Ineffective.
Halfway through the local summer legion baseball league, Myerstown has made the most of its play. And Richland has not.
On Wednesday evening, Myerstown maximized its opportunities and chances to defeat Richland 7-1. Richland stranded a grand total of 13 runners on base – including leaving the bases loaded in each of its first two at-bats – while Myerstown left only three on the paths.
With the victory, Myerstown improved to 5-4 in the Lebanon County American Legion League. Richland fell to 1-8.
“We played good enough to win,” said Myerstown manager John Mentzer. “We played better. With the inexperience we have on the field, we made the plays and we played good enough to win. Nothing against Richland, but we sort of play to the level of our competition. It seems like the team that makes the most mistakes loses the game. The league is that close.”
“We’re struggling,” said Richland head coach Lyle Krall. “We started out well. But we left the pitcher off the hook the first two innings. Then (Dustin) Habecker began finding the zone a little more, finding the plate. We couldn’t get one big hit to get two or three or four runs.”
The key to the outcome was more a result of what didn’t happen than what did.
After Brian Clements had given Richland a 1-0 lead with no outs in the top of the first inning, Myerstown starter Habecker proceeded to strand the bases jammed. He would do the same in Richland’s second at-bat.
Offensively, Myerstown kept the pressure on by using timely hitting to score in each of its first five at-bats.
“I think that was the key,” said Mentzer. “When you’re struggling, you don’t really have the confidence to get guys in, get the guys home.”
“I’m not sure they’re feeling 100 percent,” said Krall of his team’s overall psyche. “We talked about that in our post game meeting. We have to have some confidence in what we are doing. We’re a little unaggressive in the field.
“We’ve got to be scrappy,” Krall continued. “Play with a little more chips on our shoulders. When you’re on the bottom, it’s tough.”
Myerstown matched Richland’s first-inning run with one of its own, courtesy of Ryan O’Donnell’s lead-off double and a wild pitch. In the bottom of the second, Myerstown established a 2-1 edge on a hit batsman, a wild pitch and Mike Shaak’s RBI-double.
Tyler George’s two-out, two-run single in the third made it 4-1 M-town.
“What we did well was hit deep in the count and put the ball in play,” said Mentzer. “They weren’t hard shots, but they were in play. We were swinging the bats.”
“We started out with low numbers,” said Krall. “We hope we have enough players over the summer. The commitment isn’t there. They sign up to play and then they leave. Two or three players just hung it up.”
Habecker surrendered two hits in the first inning, but only two others over his final four innings of work. But the righthander, who struck out two, was bitten a bit by the six walks he gave up.
“Habecker pitched good,” said Mentzer. “He got out of the innings. He came back. His arm isn’t in pitching shape. He threw 85 pitches and he was tired. It was his first start and we’re going to need him next week. Then come the playoffs.”
“Then he got a little more confident,” said Krall of Habecker. “And he started getting his breaking ball over. And we couldn’t get him in trouble.”
Myerstown’s advantage ballooned to 5-1 on a Pat McCabe RBI in the fourth, before tacking on two more insurance runs in the fifth. For the winners, O’Donnell collected a pair of hits, as did Camden Fullmer and Clements for Richland.
“Yeah, I’m pleased where we’re at,” said Mentzer. “We gave one away at the beginning of the season. We should definitely have one more win. I’d like to see us in third place, if not higher. We have beaten Campbelltown. We have beaten Annville.
“I think we’re very capable of doing it,” Mentzer continued. “I wonder if everyone making the playoffs doesn’t take some meaning out of these games. But that’s when everyone can be here.”
“Sure they matter,” said Krall of the regular-season tilts. “Well yes. I don’t think they’re (his players) saying, ‘It doesn’t matter. We’re in the playoffs.’ I don’t think that’s the mindset. At least we have two meaningful games (in the double-elimination playoffs).”