PALMYRA – It’s way too early to start placing extra significance on outcomes. But as time goes on when expectations are high, each successive result takes on additional importance.
On a gorgeous Monday evening at Palmyra High School’s OAL Sports Complex, the Cougar baseballers earned a crucial early-season triumph by dominating C.D.East 15-0, in a Mid-Penn Keystone Division contest shortened to three innings by the 15-run mercy rule. Evan Siegrfied’s ground-rule double with two outs in the bottom of the third inning scored teammate Nick Lafoe with the winning run.
The victory was the first of the spring for a Palmyra club entertaining high hopes, and it pushed the Cougars to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the Keystone division. The contest was also the first home tilt played by Palmyra at its new home field, and the first on-campus home baseball game ever played on artificial turf in Lebanon County.
The result left C.D. East 0-2 on the year.
“I don’t think there was any panic, but you want to go out and get that first win, and get the boys playing better,” said Palmyra skipper Neil Weber. “We didn’t play our best during the first week of the season. It was just important to start playing well.
“For us, the goal is to get a berth in the state playoffs,” Weber added. “That always starts by playing well in your league. But we have to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season. I really like this team. We have a lot of senior talent. We have high hopes for this ball club.”
The Cougars set the stage for the blow-out by scoring nine times in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, eight straight Palmyra batters reached base.
The big blow was a three-run triple struck by five-hole hitter Thomas Zeigler, while sophomore Bronson Coburn contributed a two-run single to the Cougar cause and teammates Jacob Deimling and Gage Miller also provided RBI safeties. In all, 13 hungry Palmyra hitters came to the dish.
“I thought the guys were disciplined at the plate,” said Weber. “They were working the count and getting a pitch they can hit. They weren’t trying to do too much. Balls dropped in and we got some runners on base.
“I thought the boys played really well today,” Weber continued. “They came in with a lot of intensity, with a purpose. They know it’s one game. We played three innings of really good baseball.”
Backed by a nine-run cushion, Palmyra starter Isaac Kleinfelter performed liked he had little margin for error. Kleinfelter picked up the win by fanning five, surrendering two singles and walking none.
The sturdy righthander allowed just a single runner to reach second base.
“I thought it was a solid start for Isaac,” said Weber. “He didn’t pitch his best (last time out) at (Bishop) McDevitt. He worked hard to establish himself, and he was around the plate. The key for him is to keep the ball down, and move it in and out. He’s truly a pitcher. For him, it’s about not trying to overthrow.”
The Cougars replicated their opening at-bat in the third inning. This time, the first seven Palmyra hitters in the frame reached base, and six of them scored.
Ziegler and Caleb Fisher each stroked two-run singles for ‘the Cats’, and Lafoe added a run-producing hit, ahead of Siegfried’s game-ender.
“It’s so early,” said Weber. “I really want our guys taking advantage of every at-bat and getting confidence. I want our guys to have quality at-bats, and I want them putting those quality at-bats together.
“I can see the mercy rule from both sides,” continued Weber. “I think it’s important to have something in place. We’re student-athletes first. If a game gets out of hand, you’ve got to consider the other side’s pitching. They’ve got another game in two days.”
Palmyra amassed a total of 12 hits in its three at-bats, three of which went for extra bases.
“The first week was disappointing,” said Weber. “We were really hyped up for the start of the season. The boys have been away from the game for awhile (because of COVID-19). It was a little different. It was disappointing to drop the first couple of games, but we played good teams. These guys are resilient. We were focused on getting that first win under our belts, now we’re ready to move forward.”