BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – The margins for error for the Elco and Lebanon baseball teams are running down. Truth be told, both’s might have been a little small to begin with.
On Monday afternoon, during a meeting of two teams facing similar struggles to reach the postseason, the Raiders edged the Cedars 1-0, in a contest that had all the feel of its implications. Elco starter Tyler Price out dueled his Cedar counterpart, Cody Kissinger, thanks in part to the Raiders’ single tally in the top of the sixth inning.
The result made Elco’s rest-of-the-season road a bit more manageable, and made Lebanon’s a little more treacherous.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 9-5 on the year, and jumped to 8-4 and into a tie for second place in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. In the latest PIAA District Three Class AAA power rankings, Elco was sitting in the 23rd position.
The loss dropped the Cedars to 9-7 overall and 7-5 in Section Three. The latest District Three Class AAAA power rankings had Lebanon High in the 24th spot.
Elco had defeated Lebanon 6-2 at Lyle Krall Field in Myerstown, back on April 6.
“Sometimes less is better. I’m known for being overly-wordy,” said Elco head coach Chris Weidner of the post-game address to his troops. “That’s been our M.O. this season. That’s our fifth shutout this season. We did our job today, and it keeps us in the section hunt and in the district hunt. We kept wriggling out of jams, and we scratched out that one run. Nate Hostetter gets that one big hit. That’s what we do – pitching, defense and hopefully scratch out a run. When we do that, we’re a pretty good club.
“(Lebanon) Coach (Mike) Toomey and I spoke about that (the similar situations) before the game,” added Weidner. “What a great job he’s done here. I’ve been impressed by how they’ve turned things around.”
“Everybody’s in it,” said Toomey. “The section race is so close. Every game’s going to count. You almost have to treat it like a playoff game. We still feel like we control our own destiny.
“We have a very strong section,” Toomey added. “Every game is a battle. Every game is a dogfight. You know you’ve got to gut out every run you can, because you know every game is going to be close.”
The Raiders bunched three of their six hits off Kissinger in the top of the sixth inning – back-to-back-back singles, with one out.
Travis Zimmerman got it started with a safety, and teammate Aaron Dietz moved him along with a single of his own. Then Hostetter, the seventh-place hitter, flared an outside offering from Kissinger down the right-field line that landed safely in front of the Lebanon outfielder to bring home T.Z..
“We’ve done some mental training this year, and one of the things we talk about is being in the moment, and locking into that moment,” said Weidner, who recently picked up career coaching victory number 200. “Nate did a real nice job with it. He didn’t try to do too much. He went with the pitch, and had a big moment as a senior.
“I said going into the season that we’re going to have to win with pitching and defense,” continued Weidner. “We made one stand up. I give a lot of credit to Tyler Price.”
“I thought we made a little too good of a pitch 0-2 with the guy (Zimmerman) who started the inning,” said Toomey of the Raider half of the sixth. “They (the Raiders) did a great job of putting the ball in play. Unfortunately, they were able to scratch out a run.
“We did not play well,” Toomey continued. “Cody pitched extremely well, He pitched his butt off. The defense did OK, but we failed to execute the little things today. We failed to execute the bunt, and it came back to bite us. You can’t do that against a team as good as Elco.”
In going the distance, Price, a straight-shooting right-hander, scattered five hits, struck out three and walked one. But he didn’t surrender more than one hit in any inning, and Elco made just one error, and turned one double play, behind him.
The Cedars got a runner as far as third base once, in the bottom of the third, when Andy Ortiz singled, went to second on a wild pitch and then advanced on a ground-out.
“The key is he really does a good job with that slider,” said Weidner of Price. “He threw three innings of relief on Saturday. But I looked at it as a tune-up. We worked his way out of situations with that slider. That’s his bread and butter.
“Our kids know where we are,” Weidner added. “They know our section is a logjam. Everybody’s been beating everybody. But we had to win today. This keeps us alive.”
“He (Price) was very consistent,” said Toomey. “He located both pitches very well. He did a very good job of moving the ball around, and making pitches when we had guys on base.
“We continue to have those season-ending goals,” added Toomey. “These guys understand they’ve got to focus on one game at a time, and focus on one pitch at a time. That’s always going to be the goal. We keep focusing on the process, and the other things will take care of themselves.”
Kissinger’s pitching was on a par with Price’s.
Over his seven innings of work, Kissinger whiffed four and issued four free passes. But he only retired the Raiders in order once, in the top of the opening frame.
“He’s such a competitor,” said Weidner of Kissinger. “From last year, he’s picked up some velocity. He spots those three pitches very well. But what I noticed was his increase in velocity.
“We have nine wins, and a couple of years ago we had 13 and didn’t get into districts,” Weidner continued. “We’ve got six games left, and in my mind, we’ve got to win five of those games. Cane we do it? Yes. Will we do it? Yes. That’s their (his players’) goal. That’s what they want. We have an opportunity. Opportunity is knocking. But I can’t complain at all. Every inning and every game, from here on out means something. What else can you ask for?”
“He (Kissinger) moved the ball around well,” said Toomey. “He located well. When kids got on base, he got even tougher. He was a bulldog on the mound for us today. I feel like we’ve made some progress. We’ve definitely battled every game. There were certain games we had opportunities to come out with a win and didn’t. But we’re nowhere close to being satisfied.
“I think where we’ve improved is just the overall grasp of the game,” continued Toomey. “Plays we weren’t able to make last year we’ve done a great job of making this year. But I think the biggest improvement has been with our pitching staff. Our overall ERA is around 2.50, and that is with some high relief ERAs, Our pitching has been very strong.”
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Section Three Standings
Class AAA Power Rankings
|23||Eastern Lebanon County||8-||5-||0||0.557655||0.614173||0.488578|
Class AAAA Power Rankings
|27||Central Dauphin East||6-||9-||0||0.550178||0.503311||0.607461|
|33||J P McCaskey||1-||14-||0||0.366663||0.099099||0.693685|
|35||York County School Of Technology||4-||10-||0||0.333779||0.279412||0.400228|