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BY JEFF FALK

MYERSTOWN – You can think about it. You can visualize it. You can even practice it.

But sometimes, it’s just better to go out and simply do it. It’s called ‘baptism by fire’ or ‘growing up under duress’.

On a picture-perfect Tuesday evening at Elco High School’s Lyle Krall Field, a green Northern Lebanon baseball club took a small maturation step forward, during an 8-6 victory over the home-standing Raiders. The Vikings jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, and every time Elco made a push, Northern Lebanon came up with an answer.

The triumph was the first of the season for Northern Lebanon, and because of COVID-19, the Vikings’ first win in almost two years. The Vikings are now 1-2 overall and 1-1 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, while the Raiders slipped to 2-2 on the spring and 1-2 in the section, after opening the campaign 2-0.

“I think we did a lot of growing today,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Daryl Hess. “It was the first time we had a little lead. They (the Raiders) came at us, but we held our ground. I thought our two guys (starter Bryce McFeaters, reliever Levi Matlosz) did a great job on the mound.

“I have to keep reminding myself that some of these kids haven’t played baseball for a year-and-a-half,” continued Hess. “You’ve got to keep things in perspective. But everybody’s in the same boat. It’s just a matter of staying sharp and making plays, and facing live pitching is different. It’s a combination of all kinds of things. But we have a younger team. We’re doing a lot of teaching.”

“They’re scrappy,” said Elco head coach Roger Hehnly of the Vikings. “Tip your cap to them. They played a good game. But we could’ve played better.”

Northern Lebanon scored four unearned runs in the top of the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Mitch Hetrick, Ben Bomberger and Jaron Williams all drove home Viking runs.

In the home half of the opening frame, the Raiders responded with Dakota Smith’s two-run triple and R.J. Peiffer’s RBI-grounder to make it a 4-3 game. It was as close as the Vikings would come to relinquishing the lead.

“I like the way our guys battled,” said Hess. “We’ve been putting the ball in play lately. That’s a very good team over there. To play well against a team like that is nice.

“You always want to keep adding on,” added Hess. “I told our guys that they made the plays they needed to. We were in jams that we got out of. We seemed to find our way out of them. It’s nice to see that from a young club.”

“We did not play the way I expected,” said Hehnly. “We’re better than that. We could’ve played a lot better.

“In my opinion, they’re (the Vikings) a good young team,” Hehnly added. “But we played down. That’s not taking anything away from Northern Lebanon. In the end, we’ll get it. It’s baseball.”

By the top of the third inning, Northern Lebanon was back at it again.

An error and a walk opened the door for the Vikings, and Williams, Matlosz and Brian Lowan walked through it with RBIs. Northern Lebanon carried a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning.

But the Raiders answered with two runs of their own to pull within 7-5 of the lead. Jeremy Eck’s two-run single plated teammates Andrew Tracy and Ethan Ritchie.

“We did give them extra outs,” said Hess. “With a young club, sometimes you give some things up. But I was proud of the way we stopped it. We definitely have some things to sure up.

“They’ve (the Raiders) got guys who can hit,” Hess added. “They’ve got guys who can field. They have strong pitching. They’re a quality team. We got the lead and held it against a quality team.”

“We hit well, good enough to get back in it,” said Hehnly. “But clutch hitting was the key. We didn’t come up with the big hits. It just wasn’t our day. It was one of those games you wish you could go back and start it over again.”

The Raiders notched a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to close to within 7-6 of the lead. But in the top of the sixth, Vikings Dylan Byerly and Ian Herman singled and Hetrick followed with a sacrifice fly.

Matlosz did not surrender a hit over his two innings of relief.

“You try to do the best you can,” said Hess. “Win as many games as you can. The first goal is to do the best you can in the section. You do that with a young team or an older team. Now, there were a lot more question marks this year. But things are starting to fill in.”

“We’re not a team. We’re not the team I thought we were,” said Hehnly. “If we come together, we’re fine. We have the hitting, We have the pitching. We have the defense. We have to become a team. We’re being a bunch of ‘me’s. That doesn’t work in this world.”

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

2021 Northern Lebanon Baseball Schedule

DateOpponentsOutcomes
3/20
1:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Tulpehocken

Nonleague
3/26
4:15 pm
East Pennsboro
at Northern Lebanon
12
0

Nonleague
4/05
4:15 pm
Cocalico
at Northern Lebanon
11
7

League
4/06
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco

League
4/07
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Donegal

League
4/09
4:15 pm
Manheim Central
at Northern Lebanon

League
4/12
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Garden Spot

League
4/16
4:15 pm
Columbia
at Northern Lebanon

League
4/19
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Mennonite

League
4/22
4:15 pm
Octorara
at Northern Lebanon

League
4/23
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Annville-Cleona

League
4/28
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Octorara

League
4/30
7:00 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon

League
5/03
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Cocalico

League
5/05
4:15 pm
Donegal
at Northern Lebanon

League
5/07
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Manheim Central

League
5/10
4:15 pm
Garden Spot
at Northern Lebanon

League

2021 Elco Baseball Schedule

DateOpponentsOutcomes
3/26
4:15 pm
Elco
at Donegal
7
1

League
3/29
4:15 pm
Lebanon
at Elco
2
6

Nonleague
4/05
4:15 pm
Elco
at Manheim Central
0
5

League
4/06
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco

League
4/07
4:15 pm
Garden Spot
at Elco

League
4/09
4:15 pm
Elco
at Octorara

League
4/12
4:15 pm
Cocalico
at Elco

League
4/14
4:15 pm
Elco
at Lancaster Catholic

League
4/16
4:15 pm
Pequea Valley
at Elco

League
4/19
4:15 pm
Elco
at Columbia

League
4/20
4:15 pm
Schuylkill Valley
at Elco

Nonleague
4/21
4:15 pm
Lancaster Mennonite
at Elco

League
4/26
4:15 pm
Donegal
at Elco

League
4/27
4:15 pm
Wyomissing
at Elco

Nonleague
4/30
7:00 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon

League
5/03
4:15 pm
Manheim Central
at Elco

League
5/05
4:15 pm
Elco
at Garden Spot

League
5/07
4:15 pm
Octorara
at Elco

League
5/08
1:00 pm
Elco
at Tulpehocken

Nonleague
5/10
4:15 pm
Elco
at Cocalico

League

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