MYERSTOWN – Say what you want about the Elco Raiders. Good, bad or indifferent, they finish what they start – hard.
Elco is headed down the homestretch of a disappointing baseball season, but the Raiders haven’t stopped competing and playing hard. And perhaps had there been more outcomes similar to yesterday’s, the spring would’ve taken on a different complexion for Elco.
On Friday afternoon at Lyle Krall Field, the Raiders edged Garden Spot 3-2 behind a gutsy, complete-game effort from senior Adam Shoemaker. Performing for the last time at home, Shoemaker got the job done more with his heart than his arm.
After opening the campaign with six straight losses, Elco improved to 8-10 overall and 7-8 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Garden Spot slipped to 9-9 on the year and 8-7 in the section.
“Shoe didn’t have much left at the end,” said Elco head coach Chris Weidner of his starter. “But I looked at it this way: this was his last game on this field. I had (Steven) Rhoades warming up, but there was no way I was taking him out.
“I probably would’ve taken a lot of grief for it (had the Raiders lost),” added Weidner. “I’ve taken a lot of grief from parents this year. But I’m used to it. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve seen a lot of it.”
Prompting Weidner’s concern about Shoemaker was the fact that the righthander loaded the bases with one out, in each of his final two innings. But thanks to his heart and the Raider defense, Shoemkaer only yielded a single run from all that trouble.
That run came in the bottom of the seventh, on a sacrifice fly that pulled the Spartans to within 3-2. In all, Garden Spot stranded 13 runners on base, thanks in part to Elco committing just one error behind Shoemaker.
“It was typical Shoe,” said Weidner. “He works himself into jams, and today he worked his way out of them. But he’s a warrior.
“To scrape out a 3-2, it’s a nice win,” Weidner continued. “I want to finish strong and take this bad taste out of our mouths. I have a bunch of juniors coming back. Hopefully it’s been a learning experience.”
After the Spartans cut their 2-0 deficit in half in the top of the fifth, Elco got its insurance margin back in the bottom of the inning. Chris Kreider led it off with a walk and stole second, and then with two outs, Cody Horst brought him around with a safety.
“As tough as this season’s been, we’ve shown glimpses of what it could’ve been,” said Weidner. “But except for one or two games, we haven’t been embarrassed. If I could rewind this season and take away the first six games, I would.”
RBIs from Shoemaker and Rhoades staked Elco to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Jake Stager and Kreider had gotten the Raiders rolling with a double and a walk, respectively.
“When things weren’t going our way early, they were obviously down,” said Weidner of his troops. “But we definitely found a way to grind through it. Practices have been very productive. There was a lot of teaching going on, and it wasn’t just baseball teaching.
“I truly, truly believe there’s a lot of teaching going on, on every playing field,” Weidner continued. “The ‘life road of adversity’ lessons. So I’m really proud of that.”
Shoemaker yielded seven hits, five walks and struck out two.
“The one that really hurt was the last time we played Garden Spot,” said Weidner. “We were up 9-3 and lost 11-10. It was after that that we really did some soul-searching. We hit the ball a ton that day. But that was the one.
“The injury factor didn’t help, with Stager not being healthy, and also losing (Andrew) Superdock (in the season-opener against Lebanon),” Weidner added. “But there was a lot of learning that occurred.”