PALMYRA – Fifth Ward has successfully made the transition from doormat to dark horse. So what’s the next step in the evolution? Underdog.
On Monday evening at Palmyra High School, Fifth Ward looked very much like a team that will have to be dealt with when the postseason rolls around, as it took apart a scuffling Campbelltown outfit 6-1. Lebanon opportunistically plated three unearned runs in the top of the opening inning, then pulled away late behind right-handed workhorse Michael DeLeon.
The result kept Fifth Ward very much alive for the second-seed in the upcoming Lebanon County American Legion League playoffs, and the first-round bye that goes with it. Fredericksburg has already sewn up the circuit’s regular-season championship and the top-seed for the postseason.
Fifth Ward is now 6-7, while Campbelltown slipped to 6-6. With the outcome, Lebanon won the regular-season series with Campbelltown 2-1.
After opening the season 4-0, C-town has dropped four of its last six outings.
“I think we’re either the second or third best team, behind Fredericksburg,” said Lebanon head coach Tony McDonnell. “Even they’re (Fredericksburg) get-able. I hope people are starting to respect the fact that Fifth Ward is legitimate again. I think we have enough pitching to be a tough out.
“We have to elevate our game a little bit,” continued McDonnell. “Offensively, I think we still have to elevate. Defensively, when we’re at full strength, I like where we’re at. Offensively, we’re getting better at it. I just think we’ve got to work on the little things. We’ve got to get bunts down.”
“Fredericksburg has the team this year, no question,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. “You have to keep the pieces from that high school (Palmyra) team together. You can’t survive with two or three good players. When you’re not hitting the ball and leaving guys on base, it’s hard to score. I just want to get something going. We hit a lot of balls hard right at them. It’s just having fun right now.
“Fifth Ward is the most improved team in the league, no doubt about it,” Morgan continued. “They hit the ball. (Campbelltown starter Isaac) Blatty had good stuff tonight, and they hit him.”
Campbelltown committed errors on the first two balls Lebanon put into play, and when DeLeon walked, Fifth Ward had the bases-loaded with one out in the top of the first inning. Jorge Garcia immediately proceeded to unload them, with a three-run double to the gap in left center field.
“We saw Blatt last week,” said McDonnell. “We’ve been striking out a lot. But we told our guys to continue to be aggressive at the plate. Tonight, Garcia came up with runners on base, and he was aggressive. Some guys were more selective with the bat.
“This group of kids, they’re a fun group to coach,” added McDonnell. “It’s ten guys, and they come to play. I told them, ‘You can’t assume anything’. And sure enough, that’s what happened with our first two batters. And we’ve got the bases loaded and one out.”
“Tonight, we had one bad inning,” said Morgan. “Three runs, and that shot us in the foot. If you don’t hit, you’re not going to win. It’s not fun right now.”
DeLeon went the distance to get the win, but he had to uncork 122 pitches to do so. The hard-chucking hurler struck out eight, walked seven and surrendered six hits. DeLeon also stranded 11 Campbelltown runners on base.
C-town touched him for its lone run in the bottom of the third to make it a 3-1 game, as Blatt led off with a single and later scored on a wild pitch. But Campbelltown left the bases loaded against DeLeon.
“He finally got into his groove around the fifth inning,” said McDonnell of DeLeon. “They (Campbelltown) weren’t getting around on him. Thank goodness his curve ball was on tonight. It had them mesmerized. I thought his curve ball was just awesome, I thought he should’ve started more batters with it.
“He was over throwing,” McDonnell continued. “It looked like he had more adrenaline than usual. I wonder if those three (first-inning) runs helped him or hurt him.”
“What did he throw, 140 pitches?,” said Morgan of DeLeon. “That’s how bad people want to beat me. I thought he was much better last week. He threw strikes when he had to. These young kids are so mismatched against stuff like that. But if I don’t use them, we can’t play.”
Fifth Ward extended its lead to 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning. Camryn Shaak and Austin Yerger got things going with singles, and Elijah Blauch delivered a run-scoring single.
“We actually played pretty well,” said McDonnell. “The score does indicate how we played. We were feeling pretty good with a 3-0 lead and Michael on the mound.
“He wanted to gut it out,” McDonnell added. “He’s a stud. But he was laboring. His pitch limit was a hundred, but he wanted to go the last inning and a half.”
“Tonight’s game, I think was big,” said Morgan. “Now who knows who we’ll get in the playoffs. Things aren’t working right now. It is what it is. A couple of years ago, we had a machine going here.”
Lebanon added a pair of insurance tallies in the top of the seventh.
Garcia knocked home Robert Ortiz, who had reached on a walk and stole second, for his fourth RBI of the game. Fifth Ward’s other run resulted from Campbelltown’s fifth error of the contest.
“We’re hitting our stride,” said McDonnell. “But we’ve been doing it with nine or ten kids. I think we now have the tiebreaker with Campbelltown and Annville. I think we control our own destinyy at this point. That first-round bye in the playoffs is going to be huge. Maybe we can get our pitchers some rest.”
“Fredericksburg’s got eight pitchers, they’re two deep at every position and those kids are there every night,” said Morgan. “I was shuffling guys around to survive. It’s tough. It’s just the predicament I’m in. I haven’t had a lineup all year. Guys like that (DeLeon) blow it by young guys. But I’m not throwing in the towel.”
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Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League Standings
|6/27/2016||W||5th Ward 6 Campbelltown 1|
|6/26/2016||L||Fredericksburg 5 5th Ward 2|
|6/23/2016||W||5th Ward 5 Annville 4|
|6/20/2016||W||5th Ward 3 Campbelltown 2|
|6/19/2016||FFV||Myerstown 0 5th Ward 0|
|6/13/2016||L||Fredericksburg 7 5th Ward 4|
|6/12/2016||W||5th Ward 4 Annville 3|
|6/9/2016||L||Campbelltown 8 5th Ward 4|
|6/8/2016||L||Richland 10 5th Ward 3|
|6/6/2016||W||5th Ward 1 Myerstown 0|
|6/5/2016||W||5th Ward 5 Richland 3|
|6/1/2016||L||Fredericksburg 13 5th Ward 0|
|5/31/2016||L||Annville 9 5th Ward 0|
|6/27/2016||L||5th Ward 6 Campbelltown 1|
|6/26/2016||L||Richland 5 Campbelltown 4|
|6/24/2016||FFV||Campbelltown 0 Myerstown 0|
|6/22/2016||L||Annville 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/21/2016||W||Campbelltown 9 Richland 0|
|6/20/2016||L||5th Ward 3 Campbelltown 2|
|6/19/2016||L||Fredericksburg 4 Campbelltown 3|
|6/15/2016||L||Fredericksburg 1 Campbelltown 0|
|6/14/2016||W||Campbelltown 4 Richland 1|
|6/13/2016||W||Campbelltown 6 Myerstown 1|
|6/12/2016||W||Campbelltown 10 Myerstown 7|
|6/9/2016||W||Campbelltown 8 5th Ward 4|