BY JEFF FALK
HANOVER- Richland has fallen into a hole. It is a murky, muddy, dark hole.
But it is not a hole that Richland can’t see its way out of.
On a damp Sunday afternoon at Hanover’s Diller Field, Richland was trailing Waynesboro 5-0 when its semifinal contest on the third day of the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four American Legion baseball tournament was suspended by rain. The game will be picked up at the spot where it was interrupted- with one out in the top of the fifth inning, Waynesboro batting, runners on first and second base and five runs in.
After about an additional inch of rain fell, the game was halted for an hour, as tournament officials mulled the possibility of continuing play and the fate of the remaining seven games in the event. Richland’s second-round game had already been pushed back a day because of heavy rains on Saturday.
The suspended game will be resumed at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, back at Hanover’s Diller Field.
Should Richland lose, the 13-9 Lebanon County champions would play again in the middle of Monday’s afternoon – Game 9 of the bracket for those of you following along at home. If Post 880 would rebound and come back to win, it would play in the Undefeated Game on Tuesday.
All of those scenarios are weather pending, of course.
Region Four officials are under pressure to determine which of the eight clubs will represent the area at the upcoming State American Legion baseball tournament at Boyertown.
“You can’t control the weather,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome. “We’re playing on natural surfaces. The field got really saturated yesterday. They (tournament officials) tell us when we’re playing, and that’s when we play.
“You’ve just got to forget about it (the five-run deficit),” continued Thome. “If it eats you up, you’re going to be even tighter. It’s baseball. We’ve got to score runs. Maybe this is a good thing. It shows we haven’t arrived. Hopefully this will humble them (his players) and help them realize these are good teams here.”
Richland certainly didn’t have the same bounce in its step ahead of Sunday’s rains.
Following a quick first inning in which both sides turned double plays, Waynesboro reached Richland starter Clay Hain for a two-out, unearned run in the top of the second frame. Thanks to a throwing error following a dropped third strike of the apparent third out, Owen McCleaf, who had singled, raced all the way home to make it 1-0 Waynesboro.
“Today had a different feel,” said Thome. “We didn’t look ready to play. Maybe this can be a positive.
“Clay got through the first inning pretty good,” Thome continued. “But then they tagged him and hit him pretty hard.”
With the skies darkening, Waynesboro, the champions of Franklin County, loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third inning – on two walks and a Richland error. Hunter Clever’s two-run single to left pushed Waynesboro’s lead to 3-0, and a batter later teammate Paul Steiger cracked an almost identical two-run safety.
“If we take care of ourselves in the first game, we’re OK,” said Thome. “If we don’t, we’ve got to play a win-or-go-home game later in the day. Unfortunately, we’re down. We’re starting tomorrow down 5-0. But we’ve still got five innings to come back.”
But before it does, Post 880 must first stop the bleeding.
Through its two at-bats on Sunday, Richland had gone without a hit.
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