ANNVILLE – There’s certainly something to be said for the cohesiveness created by the same group of boys playing the game of baseball together for an extended period of time. And there’s a lot to be said for the continuity that that cohesiveness can inspire.
Apparently the Annville American Legion baseball team is still riding the same momentum the Annville-Cleona high school team generated this spring.
On Monday evening at Annville-Cleona High School, the Annville American Legion baseball team used pitching and defense to stymie an improved Richland club 2-1. Annville got an outstanding performance out of southpaw starter Jordan Gohn, key plays when it needed it most and single runs in each of the second and third innings.
Annville, which is made up of many of the same players who helped Annville-Cleona to a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four crown this spring, improved to 3-1 in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League. Richland, which endured an 11-4 setback to Annville in its season opener, dropped to 2-3 in the local circuit and 2-6 overall.
“I’m sure there is some carry over from the high school season,” said Annville head coach Steve Hostetter. “The one thing I noticed about this team, they all get along. No one gets down on anyone. We’ve got some quiet kids and a couple of jokers. They play, and get along well, as a team. That’s so important today. When you have a team that gets along you have a team that plays well.
“I looked at it and told them (his players) a win is a win,” continued Hostetter. “I think the rust showed a little bit. With the rain, we hadn’t played or practiced in a week and a half. I told them we’re going to be playing a lot of games over the next two weeks, so we’re not going to be able to use that as an excuse.”
“They’re a good ball club,” said Richland head coach Travis Thome of Annville. “Their starting pitcher (Travis Gohn) kept us off balance. We started making contact as the game went on. They’re a decent ball team. I thought we were the better ball club. We just made some mistakes.”
Employing a lively heater, Annville starter Gohn had Richland batters guessing most of the evening, or at least until he ran out of stuff in the top of the sixth. After Gohn issued a lead-off single to Travis Zimmerman and a walk to Steven Rhoades, Hostetter replaced Gohn with Mitch Rodkey, who promptly walked Jake Mays.
Rodkey also walked Wes Wentling to force in the run that made it 2-1, before settling down and getting out of the inning, thanks in part to a double play. Gohn got the win, striking out eight, walking three and yielding a mere two safeties.
Rodkey was credited with a save.
“I thought he threw real well,” said Hostetter of Gohn. “He threw hard. My biggest concern with him is throwing strikes and I thought he did that tonight. That’s two weeks since he’s pitched. I’m sure his arm felt good, but there again there may have been some rust. I thought it was the right time to bring Mitch in.
“Watching him warm up, Jordan has a nasty breaking ball, and I mean nasty,” Hostetter continued. “If he can throw it where he wants, he can feed off that. I love left-handed pitching. And besides Tanner Fitting, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been blessed with a lot of left-handed pitchers.”
Annville opened the scoring with an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Adam Bennett singled with two outs.
On a ball hit pretty well to deep right field off the bat of Adam Connor, the Richland centerfielder and rightfielder appeared to have a miscommunication. Although the ball drew leather, it fell between the two fielders, allowing Bennett to score all the way from first base.
“He threw strikes,” said Hostetter of Richland starter Tyler Brubaker. “He seemed to keep us off balance a little bit. I don’t know how many runners we left on base. We didn’t get key hits. He didn’t overpower us, but he kept us off stride enough that we couldn’t string hits together. They played great defense behind him.”
“One or two key hits, catch a fly ball in the outfield, get a bunt down and we played well enough to get a win,” said Thome. “Bru (Brubaker) threw well enough to win. A pitcher’s job is to keep us in the ball game, and that’s what he did. And we played well defensively.”
“It’s a little different for me this year,” said Hostetter. “I’ve 16 kids rostered, and they’re showing up. We’re here to win. We’re not here to get everybody in the game. But I am aware of kids juggling schedules to get here.
“There ain’t no doubt they’re (Richland) improved,” added Hostetter. “They’re a much better team. What impresses me is their defense. My hat’s off to them. I told our guys before the game that we can’t take them lightly, and we didn’t. Their boys are playing well. They’ve been down the last couple of years, and it’s nice to see the competitiveness back.
Gohn surrendered a lead-off single to Post 880’s Phil Kline in the top of the first, and then proceeded to pick him off. Though he pitched in and out of trouble, Gohn did not yield another hit until Zimmerman’s leading off the top of the sixth.
“I don’t think you’ll see it so much in the middle of the season,” said Hostetter of the decreased run production around the league. “A lot of people have been able to throw their top pitchers, and haven’t played a lot of games. Myerstown has a nice team. They’re the team to beat, but I like our chances, and it’s because we have good pitching depth. I feel like I have five kids who can come in and get the job done. I don’t think the other teams in the league have fourth or fifth pitchers as good as our’s, or a third pitcher as good as our’s.”
“You saw it in college, the runs dropped,” said Thome of the Lebanon County American Legion league’s use of wooden bats. “That’s what you have here, and you get a lot closer games. And the talent is a lot closer this year.
“Early in the game, we dropped a fly ball,” added Thome. “That’s a 2-1 ball game. That’s the difference. You can have a good game, and one mistake makes the difference.”