You know, Elco’s a pretty good scholastic baseball club. If win-loss records speak for themselves, then the Raiders are who they are.
On a clear Wednesday afternoon, Elco extended one of the best starts in school history by downing Lebanon High 6-4 at Lyle Krall Field. After the Cedars erased two separate Raider leads, Elco pushed across the decisive run in the bottom of the fourth inning, then tacked on an insurance tally in the fifth.
The result snapped Elco’s modest two-game losing skein – a pair of lop-sided setbacks that came on the heels of the Raiders’ hot 5-0 start. Elco is now 6-2 overall and 3-2 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
The loss was the Cedars’ fifth straight and left them 1-6 on the season and 0-5 in Section Three.
“It’s been a little while,” said head coach Chris Weidner of Elco’s last 6-2 start. “A lot of times we’ve started slow and then picked it up. But any time you can start off with a winning streak it’s good. It builds confidence. I do believe we can compete with the top teams in the section.
“We’re right there,” added Weidner. “But the margin for error is small. The one thing we don’t have is depth. Kyle Knight is a competitor, and it’s been a key having him back (from injury). The other guys are competitive between the lines. It’s a good mix of kids.”
“Losing hurts,” said Lebanon head coach Mike Toomey. “They (his players) don’t like it. But they also know their focus has got to be on the next game, the next team. We can’t look behind us. We’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of us.
“It (turning things around) absolutely has to happen soon,” Toomey added. “There should be a sense of urgency every time you step on the field. If we can keep our focus, we’re going to get on a winning streak.”
With the score tied at four, Dane Miller led off the Elco half of the fourth inning with a double. An out later, D. Miller scored the eventual winning run on a Cedar throwing error.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Raiders created a little breathing room out of two more Lebanon errors. Hunter Witters drove home the Raider run with a ground-out.
“It wasn’t pretty baseball,” said Weidner. “We had a great start. We hit a bump in the road the last two games. But a win is a win and we’ll take it any way we can get it. We’re fighting through a little adversity right now. But good teams find out who they are when they’re going through adversity. Lebanon helped us a little bit, but we didn’t stop hustling.
“We did some little things that helped us out,” continued Weidner. “We have to play clean baseball. We can’t give extra outs. You’re going to make errors, but I was glad we were able to get through it. We left the door open for them.”
“We gave them some runs early in the game,” said Toomey. “As my guys always do, they did not lay down. We did what we needed to do to fight. They made more plays than us. Mistakes were the difference in the game.
“I told them (his players) I was extremely proud of their effort,” Toomey continued. “They did a great job of staying in the game. Once we clean up our mistakes, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Elco plated a run in the third to assume a 4-3 edge. Travis Weaver drove home Cole Miller, who had singled, advanced to second on an error and moved to third on a wild pitch.
But the Cedars responded in the top of the fourth, with a run off Elco starter Clay Hain, to re-tie the game. Francis Nunez led off with a single, was sacrificed by Elijah Blauch, made it to third on Raylin Pena’s safety and scored on an RBI-grounder by Joseph Medina.
But Hain retired nine of the next ten hitters and completed what he started, despite flirting with the 100-pitch limit. The right-hander struck out six and walked two.
“Clay has been solid here early with hitting his spots,” said Weidner. “He had to grind against Northern Lebanon. Today it was back and forth. He looked sharp, and then other times he wasn’t hitting his spots. When you’re not hitting your spots guys are going to hit it. Last year as a sophomore, he got his feet wet a little bit. But his upside is tremendous.
“Manheim Central is front running,” added Weidner. “But in my 19 years here, I haven’t seen anyone run the table. You don’t want to say to the boys at this point that it was a must-win. But I had that in the back of my mind.”
“He moved the ball around,” said Toomey of Hain. “He located his fastball. He did a good job of keeping us off balance. He trusted his fielders. He put the ball in play.
“I think the section is as tough as any in our league, or in any league around us” Toomey added. “I see a lot of these teams beating up on each other. We are, by no means, out of the race.”
The Raiders grabbed a 3-0 cushion in the bottom of the opening frame, thanks to RBI-singles from Weaver and Joey Ginder. A lead-off walk to Knight and a single by C. Miller set the table for Elco.
Due to an apparent shoulder injury, Lebanon starter Camryn Shaak was relieved by fellow senior Cody Kissinger, after facing just one batter. Kissinger went the rest of the way, surrendered six hits, fanned two and walked one.
“The word on the street is that Cody is a little nicked up,” said Weidner. “He had a lot of guile today. He was throwing a lot of off speed. I give him a lot of credit. He had a lot of guts.
“I have a lot of good things to say about Cody and Camryn,” Weidner added. “I hope Camryn’s OK. They (the Cedars) look a little mentally down. But they have some decent young players.”
“He felt great in warm-ups,” said Toomey of Shaak. “He threw one pitch, felt some discomfort and we went to Cody. When you lose Camryn you know you’re losing a big key to your success, but it makes it easier when you’re going to Cody. But the biggest thing was Camryn’s attitude coming off the field. When he did that, he became another coach. He did what a leader and a captain is supposed to do.
‘I thought he (Kissinger) did an outstanding job,” added Toomey. “We pulled him out of right field. His mindset was he was pitching tomorrow. There were a lot of plays behind him that we didn’t make. And he didn’t let it bother him. That’s the kind of kid he is. We just didn’t make enough plays behind him.”
Lebanon knotted the score with three runs in the top of the third. Andy Ortiz, Dharlim Vasquez and Antonio Collazo all collected RBIs for the Cedars.
“We got off to a 5-0 start and that was key for us,” said Weidner. “I think people were annoyed at me when I said we weren’t the front-runners in the section. We knew there was going to be adversity. Coming in, you knew there was going to be parity in the section. There always is. There’s no cupcakes. I truly believe it. I still believe it.
“We want to keep ourselves in striking distance, so when that last week of the season comes around we have a shot,” continued Weidner. “That’s my mindset. That’s what I’m trying to instill in the team. We have a couple of pitchers, and we scratch and claw.”
“We need to develop and improve in all areas of the game,” said Toomey. “We’re very young, but that’s not an excuse. We’re going to continue to get better.”
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