SOUTH LEBANON – Cedar Crest-Lebanon baseball.
It’s more meaningful than some sports, and less meaningful than others. And it’s more meaningful in some years, and less meaningful in others.
But when it comes to rivalries, it’s always very meaningful.
On Monday afternoon, the Cedars and Falcons renewed their hostilities – and mutual respects – on the diamond, and it was Cedar Crest which emerged with the bragging rights, thanks to a 3-1 triumph over LHS. The Falcons got yet another strong outing out of emerging ‘bulldog’ Conor Baweic, and did all of their scoring in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Lancaster-Lebanon Section One-Two crossover outcome pushed Cedar Crest to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in Section One. Lebanon High, which was without the services of head coach Robert Nordall due to disciplinary reasons, slipped to 2-6 on the spring and 1-5 in Section Two.
“In years past, when I was younger, there were always battles between Cedar Crest and Lebanon,” said Falcon head coach Ryan White, himself a Cedar Crest grad. “I don’t have the stats as to which school has won more. But for me personally, you can’t take a team like Lebanon lightly. You’ve got to bring your best.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a tough one,” added White. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We threw our number one (Baweic). Their record doesn’t show how good Lebanon is, but the game showed it. We just had the heart to keep going and keep battling.
“They (the Falcons) didn’t touch us when I was in high school,” said LHS grad and acting Cedar manager Freddy Gonzalez. “I don’t remember Cedar Crest beating us. But Coach (Nordall) said it’s been six or seven years since we beat Crest. Hopefully next year we’ll beat them. But we know all of their kids.
As many of the Lebanon-Cedar Crest rivalries do, yesterday’s outcome hinged on one play – or more accurately one bounce. That play occurred in the bottom of the fifth, with the Cedars protecting a 1-0 edge.
After Baweic had reached on an LHS error, Falcon two-hole hitter Gavin Smith smashed a line drive to right that bounced in front of the Cedar fielder, then took a high hop over his head and rolled all the way to the fence. By the time the Cedars got the ball back into the infield, Smith had rounded the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park homer.
Cedar Crest went on to add a third run, courtesy of a walk to Garrett Getz, a single from Josh Hammaker and a wild pitch. But the real damage had been done by Smith.
“The whole game, both teams had chances,” said White. “They (the Cedars) had a key hit early. And Gavin Smith’s hit was a fortunate hit, and that changed the momentum.”
“Orlando Gonzalez pitched a good game,” said Gonzalez of his starter. “This field, even in the infield, the ball was taking crazy hops. We’ve got a lot of youth here, and we’re starting to play baseball. There’s positive progression. Little by little, they’re (the players) starting to buy in.
“Sooner or later, someone’s going to take a whooping,” Gonzalez continued. “It’s a matter of time. I really believe that.”
Lebanon touched Baweic for a hit in every one of its at-bats but the sixth. Three of those Cedar hits were bunched in the top of the fourth, when they assumed a 1-0 lead.
Jose Gonzalez and Orlando Gonzalez singled ahead of nine-hole hitter Heisler Jiminez, who delivered a two-out, two-strike RBI-single.
“I didn’t think he had his best stuff,” said White of Baweic. “But he showed a lot of composure when he didn’t have it. Good ones find a way to get it done.
“He’s (Baweic) learning how to be a leader,” continued White. “We talk about the way he comes across. He’s been throw into a position where he’s the leader of our staff. Hopefully he can continued to become the bulldog type of guy.”
“He throws hard,” said Gonzalez of Baweic. “We took away his curve ball, but we didn’t take away his fastball. He spotted that pretty well. And they (the Falcons) got all the plays done when they needed to.
“We were in a lot of those losses,” Gonzalez added. “We lost two in the bottom of the last inning. And against Lancaster Catholic, we left 12 guys on base.”
“I had him in eighth grade,” said White of Orlando Gonzalez, who at one time attended Cedar Crest before transferring to Lebanon. “I told him after the game, ‘just keeping going, you’re going to be successful.’ The outcome didn’t go his way today, but he threw an excellent game.
“I thought he (Orlando Gonzalez) came inside with his fastball and threw his off-speed pitch well,” White added. “Any time you can change speeds, you’re going to keep high school kids off-balance. You’re going to have them on their front foot.”
“Not only did Orlando pitch well, but Mark (catcher, Pyles) called a good game,” said Gonzalez. “He’s (O. Gonzalez) still not 100 percent conditioned. Next time around he should be able to go the whole game.
“He’s a a great kid to have,” Gonzalez added. “Early, he was hitting all his spots. He’s got great movement on his ball. We’re not going to push that arm too far. But he’s a great young man.”
Falcon Nick Gonzalez stroked two of the hits off Orlando Gonzalez, while Pyles collected a pair of Cedar hits, as did teammate Jose Gonzalez.
“We’re learning. We’re getting better. We’re improving,” said White. “Our at-bats have shown improvement over the last week. And we’ve been making plays. This week (four games) pitching is going to be key, and Conor gave us a good start.
“There’s no moral victories,” said Gonzalez. “There was in the beginning, but it’s got to get done. It’s going to get done. They’re (the players) a tight-knit group and they understand what it takes to get it done. They’ve still playing everyday.
“.500 is a goal,” Gonzalez added. “My goal as an assistant coach, I want ten double plays and I want a .500 season. Those are my personal goals.”