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BY JEFF FALK

FREDERICKSBURG – In no other sport is grinding as much of a thing as it is in baseball. In baseball, grinding means muscle memory, repetition and consistency.

Now, some might say that grinding is performed primarily in the regular season, that it’s a tool to be used to reach the postseason, and that once there, grinding is replaced by adrenaline. But others would contend that grinding increases in the playoffs, that it becomes even more intense.

On a sticky Monday evening at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, the Elco baseball team opened play in the PIAA Class AAAA tournament with a very routine, business-like 15-0, four-inning triumph over Science Leadership Academy. It was a similar formula of success for Elco, one that included another shut-down pitching outing from Dakota Smith and an unrelenting offensive approach.

After placing the Rockets squarely on their heels, the Raiders tallied nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, with just one hit. Elco plated the mercy-rule invoking run on an error, after seven of its first eight batters in the frame reached base without the benefit of a hit.

The only hit during the winning rally was Riley Peiffer’s two-run single, but teammates Ryan Daub, Lance Weidman, Ethan Ritchie and Jeremy Eck all drove in Raider runs. Elco scored in each of its four at-bats, extending its postseason streak of scoring at least one run to nine straight innings.

With the result, the District Three champion Raiders extended their overall mark to 17-7 and barged into Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs, against District Two champion Wyoming Area, a 5-1 winner over Midd-West, at a site and time to be determined. The loss ended the season for Science Leadership Academy, the runner-up out of District 12.

“They just start early and they keep going,” said Elco head coach Roger Hehnly of his squad’s approach to hitting. “They’re like a well-oiled machine. There’s not much coaching going on right now.

“It’s a group of seniors who don’t want to see it end,” added Hehnly. “They don’t worry about the game. They come out and get it done. I say let’s just keep this train rolling.”

“Grinding is just staying mentally focused all the time,” said Peiffer, Elco’s senior clean-up batter. “It’s coming out here to work, not messing around. It’s taking everything seriously.

“I feel like our grinding is even more intense now,” Peiffer continued. “Since we’ve never made it this far in the postseason, it’s even more intense. We want it even more.”

Smith simply picked up where he left on Friday, when he shut out Wyomissing for the District Three championship. This time, the senior righthander hurled four score-less frames on 43 pitches, to push his shutout inning streak to 17-plus.

Smith surrendered a lead-off single in the top of the first inning and a lead-off double in the top of the fourth, but nothing else. He whiffed five and did not issue a walk.

“Dakota threw great,” said Hehnly. “He hit his spots. Defensively, we did everything well. Offensively, we stayed in our zone. But we had to make some adjustments early.

“At the beginning, we wanted to keep him (Smith) at 25 (pitches), and that would’ve been great, 50 would’ve been OK,” continued Hehnly. “The plan was to start Dakota, and keep Riley (Blatt) as the closer. I always say they’re 1A and 1B, they both succeed. It doesn’t matter if they start or relieve. With Dakota, we were just riding the hot hand.”

The Raiders grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Wyatt Menzel’s clutch two-out, two-run single. Smith had ignited the uprising with a single, Peiffer followed with another hit and Blatt was hit by a pitch.

“They just put together at-bats,” said Hehnly of his hitters. “They hustle. They just grind runs. If they get a chance, they just pour it on.”

“It wasn’t as intense as the other game (on Friday against Wyomissing), but we came out with the same strategy,” said Peiffer. “Early in the game, I thought we could do better. But as the game went on, we picked it up. We started taking walks.”

Elco pieced together a similar two-run rally in the bottom of the second to double its lead. Walks to Daub, Weidman and Ritchie preceded Braden Bohannon’s RBI-walk.

“I thought we played great,” said Hehnly. “Again, we stayed in the zone with our approach.”

“I just try to play for the guy next to me,” said Peiffer. “My job is to help us win. If we win, that’s all that matter.”

The Raiders made it a 6-0 game in the third, on Ritchie’s two-out, two-run safety. Peiffer had opened the frame with a single, ahead of Menzel’s walk.

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

2021 Elco Baseball Results

DateOpponentsOutcomes
3/26
4:15 pm
Elco
at Donegal
7
1

League
3/29
4:15 pm
Lebanon
at Elco
2
6

Nonleague
4/05
4:15 pm
Elco
at Manheim Central
0
5

League
4/06
4:15 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco
8
6

League
4/07
4:15 pm
Garden Spot
at Elco
2
6

League
4/09
4:15 pm
Elco
at Octorara
4
1

League
4/13
4:15 pm
Cocalico
at Elco
4
3

League
4/14
4:15 pm
Elco
at Lancaster Catholic
6
0

Nonleague
4/21
4:15 pm
Lancaster Mennonite
at Elco
0
15

Nonleague
4/26
4:15 pm
Donegal
at Elco
1
10

League
4/29
4:15 pm
Elco
at Columbia

Nonleague
4/30
7:00 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon
11
1

League
5/03
4:15 pm
Manheim Central
at Elco
6
1

League
5/07
4:15 pm
Octorara
at Elco
4
5

League
5/08
1:00 pm
Elco
at Tulpehocken
12
2

Nonleague
5/10
4:15 pm
Elco
at Cocalico
0
1

League
5/11
4:15 pm
Schuylkill Valley
at Elco
6
10

Nonleague
5/12
4:15 pm
Elco
at Garden Spot
4
6

League
5/17
4:15 pm
Pequea Valley
at Elco
0
1

Nonleague
5/18
4:15 pm
Wyomissing
at Elco
2
12

Nonleague
5/27
2:30 pm
Bishop McDevitt
Elco
at Lebanon Valley College
0
6

Playoff
6/01
4:30 pm
Elco
at Eastern York
3
2

Playoff
6/04
12:30 pm
Elco
Wyomissing
at Wenger Field
10
0

Playoff

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