ANNVILLE – There have been some positives that have emerged from this on-going pandemic. One of them being our enhanced level of patience.
The Annville-Cleona baseball team had been anticipating yesterday for nearly two years. So, the fact that the Little Dutchmen’s period of anticipation was extended by one more day was really no big deal.
Despite the outcome, it was well worth the wait.
On a brilliant Saturday afternoon at Annville-Cleona High School, the Little Dutchmen opened the much-anticipated spring scholastic baseball season with an 8-0, non-league loss to Oley Valley. The rust from nearly two years away from the game was certainly apparent for the home team.
The visiting Lynx jumped on some early Annville-Cleona miscues to plate four runs in their initial at-bat, then methodically added on as the contest unfolded. At the plate, the Little Dutchmen were no-hit by the combination of Oley Valley starter Eddie Standhardt and reliever Luke Macdonald.
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the outing was the first organized baseball game played by the Little Dutchmen since the summer of 2019. Originally, Annville-Cleona was scheduled to open its season on Friday at Lebanon, but that game was postponed by – you guessed it – COVID-19.
“For most of them, their last games were two years ago,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller. “For some of them, it was probably in teeners. But today was perfect. Look at this weather. I really don’t like practicing in the gym.
“We’ve got to take care of the little things,” added Miller. “You certainly can’t give extra outs. For every single one of these guys, it was their first varsity game. It’s a learning experience. Oley Valley’s a good team. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge.”
While the Little Dutchmen were held without a hit, they did manage to put the ball in play. Annville-Cleona batters struck out a total of four times, and drew two free passes.
Thanks to an Oley Valley error and a hit-batsman, Annville-Cleona did get runners on base in three of their first four at-bats, but none advanced past second. Standhardt and Macdonald combined to retire the last ten Little Dutchmen batters they faced.
“We have room for improvement there,” said Miller of his side’s approach at the plate. “I thought we left too many good pitches go by. I was constantly telling them (his players), ‘Don’t get cheated.’ We never made their pitcher (Standhardt) uncomfortable. He was in his comfort zone the whole time.
“He was a good pitcher,” Miller continued. “He hit his spots. But we didn’t put any pressure on him. We just need to get better.”
Oley Valley’s first batter of the game reached base on an error, and it pretty much all went down hill from there for the Little Dutchmen. The Lynx finished the top of the first inning with four unearned runs, on three hits and a pair of Annville-Cleona errors.
Little Dutchmen starter Jake Mills needed 31 pitches to get through the opening frame.
“We just gave them extra outs,” said Miller. “There were a few plays where we should’ve gotten outs and didn’t. Maybe the pitcher (Mills) didn’t hit a spot. We didn’t get a full spring training to refine those things. This was our first live action.
“It was a matter of getting through that inning,” Miller added. “Limiting the damage would’ve helped as well.”
The Lynx tacked on to their 4-0 lead with another unearned run in the top of the third inning. Mills struck out three and didn’t walk a batter, before giving way to teammate Cash Anspach to start the top of the sixth.
“I thought he pitched a good game,” said Miller of Mills. “He was making the pitches. We just had to get out of that first inning. We didn’t give him the support for the effort he gave.”
Oley Valley used a single run in the top of the sixth inning to expand its lead to 6-0, before adding two more in the top of the seventh.
“We’re not depressed, or had our weekend wrecked, or anything like that,” said Miller. “We’ve just got to get better each game. We’ve also got to get some guys back who weren’t with us. I really don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what anybody else has.
“Last year, these guys were going to find out what it takes,” added Miller. “This year, they’re being thrown right into it.”