BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – While certainly rare, blowouts of epic proportion do occur from time to time in baseball rivalries as competitive as Northern Lebanon-Elco. But what can aid that frequency is when one side is playing as well as the Vikings are right now.
On Monday afternoon at Elco’s Lyle Krall Field, Northern Lebanon stayed red hot by pounding the Raiders 16-0 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three affair shortened to six innings by the ten-run rule. The Vikings jumped on Elco early, never blinked in the pitching or defensive departments and then broke the outcome wide open with a merciless eight-run top of the sixth inning.
With NL senior Ian Whitman in command throughout, Monday was more about what the Vikings did right than what the Raiders did wrong. Northern Lebanon, which did not commit an error and turned two double plays, out hit Elco 12-2.
In the past, few Northern Lebanon-Elco meetings in May have harbored as much playoff significance.
The win was the Vikings’ 11th in their last 12 outings, and at 13-5 overall and 11-4 in the section, Northern Lebanon is looking for some help to reach the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. The setback dashed any postseason hopes that Elco, now 9-9 on the year and 9-6 in the section, may have been entertaining.
“I think we’ve picked up some confidence along the way,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Daryl Hess. “And confidence can be everything in the world. It’s carried us through. When you get good pitching and good hitting, you can be a good team on any level.
“I think the kids know what’s going on with the section and the postseason,” Hess continued. “The one thing is we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’re going to need some help – and we’ve been getting some help. But we’ve got to keep winning. I’ve seen stranger things happen.”
“They did play well,” said Elco head coach Chris Weidner of the Vikings. “There’s a reason they won ten out of 11. They caught fire, and we spun our wheels. We were in a bind with our pitching. Jack Mays has been our Monday guy, and he was hurt.
“We had a pulse coming into today,” added Weidner. “We told the kids, ‘Let’s win each inning today and we’ll figure things out tomorrow’. Our message was “Win the week, and maybe we can slide into districts.’ Now we’ll play these final two games for pride.”
The Vikings laid the groundwork for Monday’s outcome in their first two at-bats.
In the top of the first, NL’s Darrin Shirk walked, Dave Brooks singled and Drew Bene singled to load the bases with nobody out. Clean-up hitter Wyatt Beakler’s two-run single, a wild pitch and Chase Dubendorf’s bases-jammed walk staked Whitman to a 4-0 cushion.
Then in the second, the Vikings did damage without the benefit of a hit. Shirk led off with a walk, went to second on a ground out, to third on a fly out and scored on a wild pitch, to make it 5-0.
“The key to the game was getting those four runs early,” said Hess. “We started adding on, and then we got good defense and pitching in the mean time.
“It’s the way the game goes sometimes,” Hess continued. “Sometimes you get that snowball effect. They (the Raiders) did the same thing to us last year. I know how that can happen on both sides.”
“It’s huge, because in the games we’ve not played well, it’s been that first inning of walking guys,” said Weidner of the start to yesterday’s game. “That was the first inning. You can preach about grinding through innings, but when you’re talking about 16- and 17-year-olds, it gets in their minds a little bit.
“We’ve been walking way too many batters,” continued Weidner. “That’s been the story of games we lost. Nine and nine, we are what our record is. Should we be better? The second half hasn’t been the same. Those teams in front of us have figured things out.”
Whitman’s resolve was unyielding. He retired the first six batters he faced, before Tyler Starry singled to lead off the bottom of the third.
The only other hit Whitman surrendered was Colton Lawrence’s two-out single in the fourth. He also retired the final seven hitters he encountered.
Whitman finished with six strikeouts and no walks.
“I’m really happy with Ian,” said Hess of his starter. “As a sophomore he really pitched well, but he struggled a little bit for us last year. I felt sorry for him. But he’s come back and thrown really well for us.
“He’s been changing speeds and hitting good spots,” Hess added. “I think he got into a little too much of trying to throw balls by guys. We’ve been telling him to change speeds. When he does it, it sets him up well.”
“You’ve got to tip your hat to him,” said Weidner of Whitman. “We didn’t score any runs against him. We came in with confidence. He pitched well. He had a good breaker.
“He’s not overpowering,” added Weidner. “But he spots his pitches well. He keeps the ball down.”
Northern Lebanon extended its advantage to 8-0 with three runs in the top of the fifth. The big blow was administered by Brett Minnich, who slammed a two-run double, and then later came around to score on a wild pitch.
“No one saw this coming, and neither did I,” said Hess. “That’s a good ball club over there and they always play us tough, especially here. I think what helped was coming out and putting four on the board.
“It’s not been one person,” Hess added. “Everyone has stepped up for us.”
“Why did I throw Cody (Horst) today?,” said Weidner. “I had guys hurt and we had other pitching issues. The games we’ve won we’ve limited our walks and and made quality defensive plays. It did snowball. I don’t want to say we quit, but we had some lifelessness. We didn’t break through against Whitman.
“It’s a county game,” continued Weidner. “When you play within Lebanon County, it’s about pride. A lot of those guys have played against each other for a long time. It does have meaning in that regard.”
The Vikings brought the mercy rule into effect in the sixth.
The first seven Northern Lebanon hitters who came to the plate in the frame reached base. Meanwhile, six straight Viking batters – Luke Sonnen, Nick Reinhart, Minnich, Shirk, Brooks and Bene – contributed RBIs.
“I think the section is even more competitive than it usually is, I really do,” said Hess. “The coaches have talked amongst each other about it. Anybody can come out and beat anybody. It’s been that kind of year. You can’t rest. You’ve got to be ready to go every single night.
“They’re (the Raiders) solid every year, and they hit,” continued Hess. “It’s a good ball team every year. We know that coming in. We expect that from them.”
“I wish Northern Lebanon well,” said Weidner. “I have a lot of respect for Daryl. He has like two years on me (coaching), and he’s a good guy. I wish them well. Whether or not they can sneak into second place or do well in districts, I’m rooting for them. We definitely pull for our Lebanon County brethren there.”
CLASS AAA Power Rankings
RANK SCHOOL NAME POWER RATING
1 West York Area (14-1-0) 0.763248
2 Lampeter Strasburg (15-3-0) 0.722541
3 Susquehannock (13-2-0) 0.714981
4 Greencastle Antrim (11-2-0) 0.703366
5 Manheim Central (13-4-0) 0.687995
6 Northeastern (10-5-0) 0.684973
7 Hamburg Area (15-3-0) 0.684566
8 Donegal (13-5-0) 0.680793 0.769663
9 Northern Lebanon (12-5-0) 0.654009
10 Bishop McDevitt (10-6-0) 0.638651
11 West Perry (13-4-0) 0.632223
12 Oley Valley (14-4-0) 0.631723
13 Eastern York (10-6-0) 0.601532
14 Northern York (10-5-0) 0.592249
15 Fleetwood Area (10-7-0) 0.581627
16 Cocalico (7-10-0) 0.567848
17 Littlestown (10-5-0) 0.565428
18 Bermudian Springs (10-8-0) 0.562073
19 Eastern Lebanon County(ELCO) (9-8-0) 0.556883
20 Middletown Area (6-7-0) 0.5559
21 Boiling Springs (7-7-0) 0.533934
22 Susquehanna Township (6-8-0) 0.530581
23 Conrad Weiser (7-9-0) 0.530234
24 Palmyra Area (5-11-0) 0.503420
25 Twin Valley (7-9-0) 0.501898
26 Lancaster Catholic (8-8-0) 0.497071
27 Shippensburg Area (5-10-0) 0.485374
28 Garden Spot (6-11-0) 0.477084
29 Big Spring (5-12-0) 0.463459
30 James Buchanan (5-10-0) 0.457788
31 Dover Area (4-11-0) 0.456542
32 East Pennsboro (4-8-0) 0.425640
33 Wyomissing Area (5-11-0) 0.391171
34 Milton Hershey (4-9-0) 0.390744
35 York Suburban (3-10-0) 0.386822
36 Pequea Valley (4-12-0) 0.364816
37 Kennard Dale (1-13-0) 0.347841
38 Gettysburg Area (2-13-0) 0.327025