BY JEFF FALK
HANOVER – Richland has always deployed its bats more as tools than weapons. They have served Post 880 well when it has a job to do, when there’s work to be done.
On a sultry Friday afternoon at Hanover’s Diller Field, during the opening day of the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four baseball tournament, Richland’s bats were its main, but not only, tool as the Lebanon County champions posted a very routine, a very business-like 9-1 triumph over Upper Dauphin. In addition to banging out 11 hits, Richland jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, tacked on insurance runs in half of its remaining at-bats, played solid defense and received a steady pitching performance from ace Travis Weaver.
In short, Richland picked up where it left off during the Lebanon County American Legion baseball playoffs.
The triumph was Richland’s sixth in seven playoff outings this postseason, and it pushed Post 880 to 13-9 overall. It also moved Richland into a Saturday semifinal showdown with Waynesboro, at 3 p.m. back at Diller Field.
The result dropped Upper Dauphin to 18-3-1 and into the losers’ bracket of the event.
“The strength of our team is hitting the baseball,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome. “Travis (Weaver) threw a great game. We jumped on them early, tacked on and that’s kind of been our game.
“You don’t know what you’re going to see when you get here,” added Thome. “We’ve been playing our game all year, no matter what’s on the other side. We have our own identity. We’re as good as any team we’re going to see.”
“We know we’re going to face good competition here,” said Weaver. “We’re just looking to have fun. This is my last chance to play with these guys. I want to make the most of it.”
Weaver was solid throughout, but he seemed to gain confidence and momentum after his teammates staked him to some early runs.
A Joey Ginder single and walks to Joseph Carpenter and Weaver preceded the Hunter Bojanic sacrifice fly that produced Richland’s initial run. A subsequent, first-inning RBI-double from Deklan Bressler made Richland’s advantage 2-0.
Richland was at it again in the bottom of the second, when it piled on three more runs to stretch the lead to 5-0. The big blow was Carpenter’s two-out, two-run single, and it came after Ginder had knocked in a run with a double, Clay Hain had walked, Pat Gibble had sacrificed and Jude Anthony had led off with a single.
“We got two in the first and three in the second,” said Thome. “But we didn’t like sitting on five in the middle innings. It felt like it would give their bats a chance to come around. Once we got into their second and third pitcher, I felt like we had them. But our guys didn’t let up at all.
“The guys got together and hit on their own (after winning the County championship on Sunday),” continued Thome. “We had a week off, but we played 15 games in the last two-and-a-half weeks of the season. As long as they keep seeing the ball well, they’re going to do their jobs. Hopefully we’re not peaking.”
“We had a few practices (since Sunday),” said Weaver. “We kept with it. We kept at it. No one wants to stop. No one wants to quit.”
Weaver faced the minimum number of Upper Dauphin batters only twice – in the top of the third and sixth innings. But by keeping the Dauphin County champs off the scoreboard, he allowed his side to build its early cushion.
Upper Dauphin finally got to Weaver in the top of the fourth, when it parlayed a single, a walk, a wild pitch and an error into its only run.
Weaver was lifted in favor of Hunter Bojanic with one out in the top of the seventh, after he had reached his pitch limit of 105 tosses. His work included seven strikeouts, four walks and five hits allowed.
“He commanded,” said Thome of Weaver. “It looked like their batters were uncomfortable the whole game. He attacked them and didn’t let up. He has a lively fastball. He got ahead of them and he had better command of his off-speed.
“His last three outings he’s only given up two or three runs,” Thome continued. “He just needs to throw strikes. When he gets ahead and pounds strikes, it gets him in a groove.”
“Coach Thome walks me through every game,” said Weaver. “He tells me not to show them (opponents) what I have early. I didn’t have to show too much today.
“I just pitch until they tell me to get out of there,” added Weaver. “I usually get in trouble one or two innings per game.”
Richland engaged in a little station-to-station offense in the bottom of the fifth, using five straight singles – off the bats of Carpenter, Weaver, Bojanic, Bressler and Nate Trovinger – to open the frame and plate the two runs that made it 7-1. Bressler’s and Trovinger’s safeties drove home Ginder and Carpenter.
“When you come here you expect to see better baseball,” said Thome. “You’re playing the best teams from the surrounding counties. We’re going to see better pitching, better hitting, better defense. It allows us to get out and show that Lebanon County can play.
“We didn’t know anything about that team (Upper Dauphin),” Thome added. “We were watching infield practice and outfield practice and their players were solid and smooth. We saw their pitcher warming up and it was nothing we hadn’t seen before. But we were hitting the pitches we like.”
“I felt confident,” said Weaver. “I felt like everybody had my back. I feel like we can win games with our bats.”
Richland’s persistent offensive pressure may have gotten to Upper Dauphin in the bottom of the sixth.
Post 880 notched two more runs on two balks, a wild pitch and an error. During the at-bat, Carpenter stroked his third single of the game.
“Our goal is to win today. Our goal is to win tomorrow,” said Thome. “That’s it. It’s a one-game-a-day tournament. We’re not going to look ahead to Day Three, Day Four or Day Five. We’ve got to control tomorrow.
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Eight-Team, Double-Elimination Region Four Tournament
(at Hanover’s Diller Field)
Richland 9, Upper Dauphin 1
Upper Dauphin 000 100 0 – 1 5 1
Richland 230 022 x – 9 11 1
WP: Weaver. LP: Lower.
KK-BB: UD – Lower (2 IP, 0 K, 3 BB), Stiely (2+ IP, 1 K, 1 BB), Bingaman (2 IP, 4 K, 1 BB); R – Weaver (6 1/3 IP, 9 K, 4 BB), Bojanic (2/3 IP, 0 K, 0 BB).
2B: UD – Grow; R – Bressler, Ginder.