PALMYRA – Campbelltown is the reigning champion of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League. Any challenges to that crown must go through Campbelltown.
But the way Myerstown looks at it, Campbelltown simply has what it wants.
On Monday night at Palmyra High School, Myerstown served notice that it is a very serious contender for Campbelltown’s kingdom by pounding the defending champs 8-1. Myerstown used a five-run top of the first inning to jump on C-town early, and then turned things over to the capable left arm of starter Chris Kreider.
The meeting was the first of the summer between the two clubs which played for last season’s county legion championship. Not only was last night’s outcome different than that one, it left Myerstown 7-1 in 2014 and Campbelltown 2-3.
“Campbelltown is the defending champ,” said Myerstown manager Johnny Mentzer. “Of course we always want that (the title). We’re never happy until we get it. We lost to them (Campbelltown) last year in the final Yeah, there’s a little chip on our shoulder. My goal is to make a statement every time out.”
“That would be us,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan of his club’s status in the league. “I love that. I love getting everybody’s best. There’s no excuses. We got beat tonight.
“I know they (Myerstown) want what we’ve got,” continued Morgan. “I told my boys that. That’s what’s unique about Campbelltown legion baseball. It’s like the Yankees in the majors. Everybody wants to beat the best.”
Myerstown didn’t win yesterday’s game in the first inning. But given the way Kreider threw, it went a long way towards the result.
It started ominously for Campbelltown, with an error and singles from M-town’s Conor Bawiec and Jake Stager. Though Stager’s hit gave Myerstown a 1-0 lead, Campbelltown seemed poised to wiggle out of the jam when it retired the next two batters.
But it was at that point that Kyle Bogdonovich stepped up for Myerstown, stroking a two-run single. A third run scored on the play thanks to a C-town throwing error, before Ryan Weirbach capped the rally with a run-scoring single.
“Scoring five runs in the first inning, that was key,” said Mentzer of his team’s fourth straight win. “On paper, we’re probably the best team in the league. But we haven’t showed it until the last two games. It (the first inning) sets the tone. It takes the wind out of the other team’s sails.
“What I remember about the first inning was having two outs and the bases loaded,” added Mentzer. “I thought to myself, ‘if we only come out of this with one run, I’m going to light into them (his players)’. But Kyle came up with a big hit. We’re balanced all the way through. There’s no let-up in our lineup. That’s what makes us dangerous.”
“It was 5-0, but we had our chances,” said Morgan. “I’m thinking; ‘when are we going to get some breaks?’ When we’re down five, I can’t work my magic. I can’t bunt. I can’t steal.
“We left 15-20 guys on base yesterday (in a doubleheader split with Richland),” Morgan added. “We left guys on base today. We did have a couple errors early. Right now, I’m just doing what I can to survive. My goal is to beat Fifth Ward and Richland. Then I’ll have my team.”
Throwing three-quarters, side-armed and submarine-style, Kreider was just unpredictable enough to be effective. He yielded seven hits, whiffed five and walked three.
Kreider carried an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, when Campbelltown erased his shutout bid courtesy of an error, a walk and Tyler Julian’s two-out RBI-single.
“Him doing what he did was big for us,” said Mentzer of Kreider. “He comes in and throws from different arm slots. He does what lefties should do. But the most important thing he does is throw strikes.
“Effortless is a good word,” continued Mentzer. “But I would also say ‘goofy’. He works fast. He works slow. He throws from up here. He throws from down there. He’s awkward, and does everything I ask of a lefty.”
“Their pitcher, Kreider pitched awesome,” said Morgan. “He’s improved greatly this year. That sneaky, sidearm delivery is almost unhittable. They’ve got 12 seniors and they can hit. I’ll play my kids on the warning track and give them a hit.
“I’ll tell you right now, I don’t see anyone beating Myerstown,” Morgan continued. “They look like our championship teams. They hit one through none. They just mash. That’s good. But we need to rebound.”
Myerstown upped its advantage to 7-0 in the top of the third inning. Bogdonovich walked, Wierbach singled and Tyler Starry brought them both home with a ringing triple to the right-centerfield gap.
“It’s always gap to gap,” said Mentzer of his club’s approach in the batter’s box. “I want them to hit the ball up the middle. I don’t think we want them to pull the ball. If you make a mistake inside, then we’ll pull the ball. I tell our guys, ‘Be patient. Get into a hitter’s count. And drive the ball.'”
“We play 12 games in 13 days,” said Morgan. “I’m never doing that again. This year, senior week really messed us up.”
In the top of the sixth inning, catcher Cody Horst turned walks to Grant Fisher and Chris Kreider, and a wild pitch, into Myerstown’s eighth run, with a sacrifice fly.
“It’s tough for Coach Morgan coming off a doubleheader,” said Mentzer. “They’re definitely a good baseball team. I think they have some pitchers hurt. But they have talent. They’re going to be there, but we have a job to do.”
“It’s whoever shows up,” said Morgan. “Our guys sit. They don’t chatter. It’s like a funeral parlor. They’re (Myerstown) different. They want it.
“I consider between those lines to be sacred,” continued Morgan. “When you get out of your car, you better be ready to do what we do.”