BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSUBURG – After parity ruled the regular season, the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball postseason figured to be a shoot-out. It also seemed logical to assume that the club which would emerge with the trophy would be the one which stepped up.
While it certainly was a process, the cream did eventually rise to the top.
On a humid Sunday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, hard-hitting Richland captured the championship of the local summer legion league with a thrilling, 6-5, come-from behind, extra-inning triumph over Fredericksburg, in the second championship game of the circuit’s six-team, double-elmination tournament. It was somehow fitting that the most valuable hitter in the tournament, Richland’s Joseph Carpenter, knocked in Joey Ginder with the eventual winning run in the top of the eighth inning.
Trailing 5-2 entering the top of the seventh inning, Richland rallied for three runs off Fredericksburg star reliever Michigan Daub.
Deklan Bressler, who earned the pitching victory in relief, knocked in the tying run with a two-out single, after Nate Trovinger’s RBI had pulled Richland to within 5-4. There was also the matter of Carpenter’s lead-off double in the frame, as well as his stolen base, a couple of wild pitches and a Post 915 error.
The comeback capped an amazing run to the title by fifth-seeded Richland, one which saw it go 5-1 over a period of seven days, all on the road. Now 12-9 overall, Richland had forced the ‘If Necessary’ game in the tournament with a 12-3 blasting of Fredericksburg in the first championship game on Saturday evening.
Richland plated a total of 54 runs over its six games in the playoffs. It was Richland’s first Lebanon County American Legion League title since 2007 and tenth overall.
Richland will now represent Lebanon County at the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. at Hanover’s Diller Field, versus the Dauphin County champion.
Fredericksburg, the reigning Region Four title holder, conluded its season at 10-9 in the league. Fredericksburg starting pitcher Brandon Breidegan was tabbed as the Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine most vaulable pitcher for his performance in the local playoffs.
“We have an older group of guys who have played some baseball in high school,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome, himself a one-time player in the program. “They’re starting to realize we have the make-up of a pretty good team. We have some vocal guys. We have some guys filling roles. Fortunately our pitching staff stayed healthy and the hitters in our lineup kept putting together better and better at-bats. We scored at least six runs in every single playoff game. Whenever you’re playing on the road, you’ve got to score runs.
“I think the league all-around has been much more competitive, espcially with Fifth Ward and Annville,” continued Thome. “When we had all of our guys here, you could see what we can do. We played six games and won the championship. If we weren’t good enough to win the championship, we wouldn’t have gone 5-1. It can be a competitive league when the kids come. You saw some good players too.”
“I tip my cap to them,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer of Richland. “They’re pitching came through. They played great. We did OK.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Schaeffer continued. “We started 1-7, got here and didn’t close the door. They’re (Richland) a very good hitting team.”
Running on fumes, Bressler picked up the win by hurling the final three and two-thirds inning for Richland. He benefitted from a slick 6-4-3 double play in the seventh, then stranded the potential tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the eighth.
“Deklan had a little bit of an arm injury,” said Thome. “But he said he was ready to go. We first got him up in the third inning. Hunter (Bojanic), for not being a pitcher, he threw a heck of a game. We had Deklan ready because we thought they’d eventually get to Hunter.
“We scored more runs than them before the last out,” Thome continued. “That’s what we had to do. I don’t know if they (his players) realized they did it. I told them to relax. We have good hitters. They seemed very calm. They loosened up.”
“He’s the one who wanted the ball,” said Schaeffer of Daub’s late-inning appearance. “He didn’t throw too bad. He just got behind in the count. You know he’s a competitior.
“We’ve got to throw strikes,” Schaeffer added. “I don’t care who you are. They are a good hitting team if you get behind in the count. But we got beat by a better team.”
Protecting a 3-2 edge, Fredericksburg widened its margin with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Brock Eisenhour came through with a two-run double for Post 915, after Eli Ritter singled and Hayden Johnson and Austin Barry walked.
“I think the better team won tonight,” said Thome. “Fredericksburg is a heck of a ball club. You can’t take anything away from them. This is baseball. There’s a reason you play the game. They were the number-two seed for good reason. But I think our guys figured out some things.
“It does mean a lot to me,” added Thome. “I’m here helping Lyle (Krall) keep the program going. The kids are putting the time in. They’re the ones working hard.”
“No matter what happens on the field, when I have my boys, the season is always a success,” said Schaeffer. “I want them to have success. This helps with that. You’re accountable to your teammates every day you’re here.”
Fredericksburg gained an early advantage with a two-run, top of the second inning. Seth Daubert knocked home Cole Felty with a double, then came around himself on a Richland error.
Richland made it a 3-2 game in the top of the fourth, courtesy of an F-burg throwing error. Nate Trovinger scored the R-land run, after opening the frame with a two-bagger.
“I think it helped us out playing every day, getting more at-bats and seeing more pitches,” said Thome. “Guys were able to feed off each other. The extra games helped us. We don’t have to rest hitters.
“I thought if we played solid defense we’d have a chance,” added Thome. “We only ask our pitchers to throw strikes. We’re confident our bats are going to come around eventually.”
“Brandon played really well,” said Schaeffer of the 16-year-old Breidegan. “He was nervous tonight. I think that’s why he got behind in counts. But I thought he handled it well. He worked hard.
“He’s (Carpenter) a real good hitter,” continued Schaeffer. “You can’t get behind him. If you’ve got to throw the ball right down the middle, he’s going to hit it. Everything he got, he deserved.”
The sides traded first-inning runs.
Richland touched Breidegan for Clay Hain and Carpenter singles, ahead of Jonathan LaBarbera’s sacrifice fly. Fredericksburg’s response came in the form of a Breidegan RBI, one which scored lead-off batter Hayden Johnson, who walked and stole second.
“Every time he comes up, we expect him to hit the ball hard, somehwere,” said Thome of Carpenter. “And he does. We expect him to barrel up the baseball. If he has a bad at-bat, he comes back with a good one the next time up.”
“We really need to figure out ways to straighten the league out,” said Schaeffer. “We need to have more opportunities for our kids. We need to keep them here. We need to find a way to make it stronger. Lancaster (County) is down to four team, down from 16 teams.”
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Lebanon County American Legion
Baseball League Playoff Standings
Team W L
Richland 5 1
x-Fredericksburg 2 2
x-Campbelltow 2 1
x-Fifth Ward 1 2
x-Annville 1 2
x-Conrad Weiser 0 2
Regular Season Standings