Lebanon Sports Buzz
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 IMG_7304BY JEFF FALK

PALMYRA – With polite apologies to Mark Twain, the reports of the death of twilight baseball in Lebanon County have been greatly exaggerated. Or are at the very least, premature.

There was a time during the golden age of twilight baseball in Lebanon County when it seemed like every community fielded a team. But over the years, participation waned and the locale was left with one remaining franchise – in Palmyra.

But currently there is a movement afoot in ‘Palm’ town – one that bucks that trend and also flies in the face of the conventional thinking that says fewer and fewer athletes are competing in sports, across the board. Not only is twilight baseball alive and well in Palmyra, it’s flourishing and thriving, on and off the field.

IMG_7192Before the start of the season, some 42 interested players – mostly local college kids from Palmyra, Cedar Crest and Annville-Cleona – inquired about spots on Palmyra’s 25-man roster. And first-year head coach John Baker – a positive and boisterous man – has taken that talented group and molded them into a winner.

On Friday night at Palmyra High School, Palmyra wrapped up the regular-season championship in the East Shore Twilight League by dismissing second-place Linglestown 9-3. With the win, Palmyra improved to 20-2 in the league and earned the number-one seed in next week’s playoffs.

Palmyra has now outscored its opposition by an aggregate of 126-51. The loss dropped Linglestown to 17-5-1.

IMG_7203“I had to question that, ‘What’s their commitment?'”, said Baker of his decision to take over the program. “When I started getting all those inquiries, it was like ‘Wow!’. This is incredible. All  of a sudden we were going to away games with 15-16 guys.

“From a talent perspective, I didn’t know some of the players,” continued Baker. “I did land a lot of players with a strong desire to play. You want people to play baseball. The more baseball we play, the better we are. We’re not done yet. I’d say twilight baseball is alive and healthy.”

“That’s what it is, I love the game,” said Travis Risser, the winning pitcher on this particular evening and at 29, one of Palmyra’s elder statesmen. “I played three sports. It’s competition for me. The fear of failure. I’ll be playing until I can’t. I’ve always been a straight sport athlete.

IMG_7250“It’s fun teaching too,” added Risser. “They (his teammates) all come to me. Most of the guys from Palmyra, I coached them.  I think they look up to me. I pitch now. I’m not just a thrower. But it’s fun to see guys come to you.”

During his outing, Risser, a talented and hard-throwing righthander, was especially enlightening for visual learners.

Before giving way to 19-year-old Tanner Fittery in the top of the sixth, Risser had the Linglestown hitters fishing and guessing. Outside of a second inning in which Linglestown tallied three times to tie the score, Risser surrendered one hit.

IMG_7234Risser struck out five and walked one.

“I felt pretty good, for working all day,” said Risser, who pitched professionally for six years. “I hadn’t thrown for a week. It’s like dipping water. I’ve been doing it (pitching) for a while. I think I walked one guy. I’m pretty much throwing all sinkers. I’ve got some sink on my fastballs.

“For me, I’m not conditioning,” Risser added. “I want to throw less than a hundred pitches. We’ve got a good fielding team, so I’m pitching to contact. I’m not going to thrown anything but fastballs until I give something up. I’m just attacking.”

IMG_7166“Travis is an awesome example for our kids,” said Baker. “We have some young guys. He demonstrates well for his teammates. Guys like Travis can help the young guys develop into real pitchers.

“He (Risser) could’ve lost his composure during the game,” Baker continued. “He pitched through it. He adjusted to what he was given. You can’t drop your guard with that team (Linglestown). But I’m happy with what we have on our team. Everybody is contributing, up and down the lineup. Sometimes the top  carries us. Sometimes the middle carries us. Sometimes the bottom carries us. Whatever the team needs that day.”

Palmyra went on the offensive from its opening at-bat. Palmyra loaded the bases with nobody out, on a Mike Wealand single and walks to Dustin Stuck and Matt Walewski.

IMG_7177They all scored, courtesy of Dustin Arnold’s and Tyler Napierella’s RBI-grounders and Trey Baker’s RBI-infield single.

Palmyra took the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the second. After Corey Lamoureux walked and Wealand singled with one out, Arnold brought them both home with a base knock.

“They played awesome,” said Baker of his charges. “They came to play. Only one time during the game did they fall asleep, after we got three runs. I just asked them to pick it up.

“I asked Travis and (pitcher) Tyler Morder at the beginning of the week, ‘What’s good for you, Thursday or Friday,'” added Baker. “I let those guys work it out. They know their bodies.”

IMG_7289“I made two bad pitches, and they made me pay for it,” said Risser. “I didn’t switch it up a lot. I’m going to stay with my game plan. Everything’s off my fastball.

“It’s (the competition) a college level,” continued Risser. “The first five guys are all good hitters. All of these (Linglestown’s) guys are good hitters. They’re guys who swing the bat. It’s pretty good talent out there. And sometimes it’s twilight.”

Palmyra added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth, and again Lamoureux and Wealand were the catalysts. Arnold plated Lamoureux with a sacrifice fly to center and Baker brought home Wealand with a single.

Palmyra opened a six-run advantage in its next at-bat.

IMG_7314After Garrett Getz opened with a single and moved to second on Zach Stuart’s bunt single, Getz scored on two Linglestown throwing errors on the same play. Stuart would later score on another Wealand hit, this one a bunt single.

“We got a lot of phone calls at the beginning of the season,” said Baker. “It’s a lot of kids I coached before. Some of that talent is: Whew!. They want to play very good competition. This is a well-respected league. I don’t hear a lot of ‘I’m not getting enough playing time’. Guys know we’re making a concerted effort. I try to accommodate the kids to help them develop. But I’m as competitive as anyone when the game starts.

“If you’ve been in the league awhile, you get comfortable,” Baker continued. “But good athletes like to compete. You have to bring your game. I don’t care who you are playing. You can’t go through the motions. Fortunately, we’ve been able to keep everybody happy.”

IMG_7306“I’m still enjoying it,” said Risser. “The competition, it still drives me. And then the next thing you know, you’re grinding out there. I’m not in the shape I was at one time. But the arm feels great.

“I’m day to day,” Risser added. “This is the fifth or sixth time I’ve thrown this season. The body still feels good. Until I can’t do it, I’m still going to play. I’m pretty comfortable. Now I’ll be down for a couple of days. If anything (hurts me), it’s the back.”

The game was well-attended on both sides.

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 East Shore Twilight League Standings

Team Won Lost Tied Pct. GB RF RA
Palmyra 20 2 0 .905 126 51
Linglestown 17 5 1 .810 3.5 136 72
Lawnton 8 10 2 .444 10.0 72 55
Hummelstown 8 11 1 .421 10.5 75 89
Middletown 8 13 0 .381 11.5 69 96
Steelton 7 14 1 .333 12.5 86 109
Dauphin 3 16 1 .158 15.5 45 137

 

IMG_7239East Shore Twilight League Past Champions

YEAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEAGUE CHAMPION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLAYOFF CHAMPION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

Lawnton

Lawnton

2012

Linglestown

Linglestown

2011

Middletown

Palmyra

2010

Middletown

Middletown

2009

Linglestown

Linglestown

2008

Linglestown

Linglestown

2007

Lawnton

Linglestown

2005

Mechanicsburg

Mechanicsburg

2004

Penbrook

Mechanicsburg

2003

Mechanicsburg

Mechanicsburg

2002

Mechanicsburg

Mechanicsburg

2001

Penbrook

Penbrook

2000

Penbrook

Penbrook

1999

Lawnton

Lawnton

1998

Steelton

Steelton

1997

Linglestown

Lawnton

1996

Penbrook

Penbrook

1995

North Div: Penbrook

Penbrook

1995

South Div: Hummelstown

Penbrook

1994

North Div: Lawnton

Hummelstown

1994

South Div: Linglestown

Hummelstown

1993

Hummelstown

Hummelstown

1992

Lawnton

Lawnton

1991

Steelton

Linglestown

1990

Lawnton

Hummelstown

1989

Lawnton

Lawnton

1988

Susquehanna

Steelton

1987

Steelton

Steelton

1986

Middletown

Steelton

1985

Penbrook

Penbrook

1984

Penbrook

Penbrook

1983

Penbrook

Hershey

1982

Linglestown

Penbrook

1981

Linglestown

Linglestown

1980

Penbrook

Penbrook

1979

Werners

Linglestown

1978

Lawnton

Linglestown

1977

Linglestown

Linglestown

1976

TriCounty

Linglestown

1975

Werners

Werners

IMG_7272

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_7210

IMG_7200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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