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BY JEFF FALK

MYERSTOWN – It’s a dangerous, dangerous game to play. But it’s one you can get away with if you’re the better team.

Clearly, Myerstown was the best team.

On a damp Monday evening at Myerstown Legion Field, the home team used a familiar comeback formula to edge Annville 6-5 and capture the championship of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League. After falling into an early 4-0 hole, Myerstown knotted the game at five in the bottom of the sixth inning, then pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

Braden Boyd knocked in the decisive run for Myerstown, on a long single to center field, after the home side had loaded the bases with nobody out on a lead-off triple by Jeremy Eck and intentional walks to Wyatt Manzel and Morgan Shanaman. The way the game unfolded was eerily similar to Myerstown’s 6-5 triumph over Campbelltown on Wednesday, in the undefeated game of the seven-team, double-elimination local summer baseball playoff tournament.

With the result, Myerstown, the top seed and regular season champion, improved to 13-1 on the season. As the Lebanon County titlist, Myerstown advanced to the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament, where they will play the host team Mechanicsburg, at Memorial Field at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

Third-seeded Annville, which had fought back through the loser’s bracket to reach the championship game, closed out its season at 10-7.

Dakota Smith, who pitched a 1-2-3 top of the seventh inning and picked up the win for Myerstown, was the recipient of the Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine award as the tournament’s top pitcher. Meanwhile, teammate Luke Hostetter claimed the Jack Bicher award as the playoff’s top hitter.

“Coming into the season, we knew we had the best team on paper,” said Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer. “We hit the ball early. But then we had guys go on vacation around the holiday, and we’re still trying to get back to that. Our expectation was to win the league, and we accomplished that tonight.

“I would like to think we’re the best team,” added Mentzer. “I think if you talked to the coaches around the league they would probably tell you that physically we’re the best team. Our maturity shows in clutch situations. These guys have roles and jobs, and they know them.”

“We didn’t talk about the game,” said Annville head coach Mitch Long. “I told my guys that I was very proud of them, and to not hang their heads for losing to a team like that. They’re (Myerstown) a very good legion baseball team. They deserved to win.”

Trailing 5-2, Myerstown got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth inning on a run manufactured by Amani Jones. With one out, Jones stole second and then eventually came around to score on a pair of wild pitches.

In the bottom of the sixth, M-town pulled even, on Hostetter’s key two-out, two-run single. The inning had started with an Annville error and a walk to Jack Beasley.

“That was the conversation we had after the game,” said Mentzer. “We’d love to stop starting slow. I kind of ripped them (his players) in the fifth inning to get them motivated. Against older and seasoned teams, we can’t do that.

“I just think we had some better at-bats,” Mentzer added. “We started taking pitches outside the zone. We drew some walks, and once the guys got on base, it sort of had a snow-ball effect. I thought early in the game we were getting ourselves out. We became more selective.”

“I was kind of watching their players, and the way I felt, they (Myerstown) weren’t worried,” said Long. “They were down 4-1 and 5-2, but they knew they were eventually going to put the bat on the ball and that the ball was going to fall. They had great approaches at the plate.”

Following a 40-minute rain delay, Annville used four free passes to score four runs in the top of the opening inning. The big blow was Jeremy Seyfert’s two-run double, while teammate Josh Speraw contributed an RBI-single.

Myerstown answered with a run of its own in the bottom half of the first, on Hostetter’s sacrifice fly, after Lance Hains had walked and Jones had singled.

“The elements were tough, Luke (Hostetter) warmed up, and then had to warm up again,” said Mentzer of his starting pitcher. “He struggled to find the zone. They (Annville) really didn’t make hard contact, but we brought Wyatt (Manzel) in and he threw strikes. That wasn’t Luke’s best performance, but that’s baseball.

“When you get down like that early, the game plan doesn’t really change,” continued Mentzer. “You’ve got to get runners on base, manufacture runs and chip away. At that point, we don’t need a five-run homer in the second inning.”

“I didn’t think that was enough,” said Long. “I knew they (Myerstown) were going to hit the ball, and that we were out of pitching. I knew four wasn’t going to be enough, and we couldn’t tack enough on.”

In the bottom of the third inning, Myerstown made it a 4-2 game. Hains singled and Jones doubled, ahead of Hostetter’s run-producing grounder.

But in the top of the fifth, Annville regained its three-run cushion courtesy of Yadiel Cruz’s two-out, RBI-single.

“We want to go win it,” said Mentzer of the Region Four tournament in Mechanicsburg. “We want to try to win it. We want to represent the county and the league the best we can. Our goal is to win regionals and to keep playing.”

“At the beginning of the season, I thought we’d be competitive,” said Long. “I knew we had solid pitchers and they pitched well. I knew it was going to come down to hitting the baseball.

“We improved a lot,” Long added. “Towards the end of the year, we started to hit the baseball better. We put up a lot of runs against good pitchers.”

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League Past Champions

Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League Past Champions

2021 – Myerstown

2020 – COVID-19

2019- Campbelltown

2018 – Richland

2017 – Fredericksburg

2016 – Annville

2015 – Myerstown

2014 – Myerstown

2013 – Campbelltown

2012 – Campbelltown

2011 – Annville

2010 – Campbelltown
2009 — Fredericksburg
2008 — Fredericksburg
2007 — Richland
2006 — Richland
2005 — Richland
2004 — Annville
2003 — Fredericksburg
2002 — Richland
2001 — Fredericksburg
2000 — Fredericksburg
1999 — Fredericksburg
1998 — Palmyra
1997 — Fredericksburg
1996 — Fredericksburg
1995 — Fredericksburg
1994 — Fredericksburg
1993 — Fredericksburg*
1992 — Palmyra
1991 — Palmyra
1990 — Fredericksburg
1989 — Fredericksburg
1988 — Palmyra
1987 — Fredericksburg
1986 — Fredericksburg*
1985 — Myerstown
1984 — Richland
1983 — Lebanon
1982 — Lebanon
1981 — Fredericksburg*
1980 — Richland
1979 — Fredericksburg
1978 — Myerstown
1977 — Fredericksburg
1976 — Fredericksburg
1975 — Myerstown
1974 — Lebanon
1973 — Fredericksburg
1972 — Myerstown*
1971 — Myerstown*
1970 — Annville*
1969 — Annville*
1968 — Myerstown
1967 — Myerstown
1966 — Myerstown
1965 — Myerstown
1964 — Richland
1963 — Lebanon
1962 — Richland
1961 — Richland*
1960 — Not Contested
1959 — Fredericksburg
1958 — Fredericksburg
1957 — Fredericksburg
1956 — Lebanon
1955 — Myerstown
1954 — Jonestown*
1953 — Myerstown
1952 — Palmyra*
1951 — Palmyra
1950 — Palmyra
1949 — Annville
1948 — Myerstown*
1947 — Lebanon
1946 — Myerstown
1945 — Not Contested (World War II)
1944 — Not Contested (World War II)
1943 — Not Contested (World War II)
1942 — Not Contested (World War II)
1941 — Lebanon*
1940 — Myerstown
1939 — Myerstown
1938 — Myerstown*
1937 — Lebanon*
1936 — Lebanon
1935 — Annville
1934 — Annville
1933 — Myerstown
1932 — Lebanon*
1931 — Orioles*
1930 — Fifth Ward
1929 — Progressive
* Denotes regional champions
Note — The 1937 Lebanon squad was the only team from the county to win a state title. The 1981 Fredericksburg, the
1948 Myerstown and the 1938 Myerstown clubs were all state runners-up.

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