PALMYRA – It was the type of setback which sticks with you. It was also the kind of setback that, when everything shakes out, can be looked back upon as one that got away.
And the fact that it came at the hands of Lower Dauphin made it sting even more.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Palmyra baseball team endured a disheartening 10-9 loss to LD. After squandering an early 6-0 advantage, the Cougars’ late-inning rally fell short.
But it may have been that the outcome was lost in the middle innings. For the Falcons, that meant the decisive frame was the top of the sixth, when they sent 13 batters to the dish and scored eight times to erase a 6-2 deficit.
The result dropped Palmyra to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Lower Dauphin improved to 7-4 on the season and 5-1 in the division.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Palmyra rookie head coach John Karavage. “You’ve got to want it. They (the Falcons) wanted it a little more than we did. Errors kill. And it’s a game of inches.
“It’s tough,” added Karavage. “Day after day, it’s the fundamental things that are killing us. They’re teenagers, and it’s high school baseball.”
Palmyra ace and starter Tyler Morder was seemingly sailing along, up four runs, when he ran into trouble in the top of the sixth. Morder walked the first hitter he saw in the frame, and then proceeded to surrender back-to-back singles.
At that point, Morder was lifted for Trey Baker, but he proved to be very little relief. In all seven of the first eight Lower Dauphin batters in the inning reached base, and all seven came around to score, as the Cougars fueled the flames with a huge, ill-advised throwing error.
The Falcons emerged from the rally with a 10-6 advantage.
“That sixth inning, they had the momentum,” said Karavage of the Falcons. “And they just didn’t let down. We didn’t overcome adversity. That’s been our downfall this year.
“I thought Tyler threw great,” continued Karavage. “All of our pitchers threw great. But he (Morder) was up there in pitches. My pitching coach and I had a little bit of a discussion about taking him out. But I feel like we did what we had to do with our decision.”
The Cougars came within an eyelash of reversing that momentum.
Down four runs in the bottom of the sixth, Baker plated a pair of runs with a booming two-out triple to center, and when Mitchell Sulley followed with a run-producing single, it was a 10-9 ball game.
But LD reliever Luke Lingle wiggled out of the predicament with a ground ball to shortstop, then set the Cougars down in order in the seventh.
“It’s huge,” said Karavage of the rivalry with Lower Dauphin. “This is a game that was really big. Lower Dauphin is a dynasty. It’s always great to beat a great program. Unfortunately, that great program got us today. The good news is that we get another shot at them.
“When there’s an easy throw, we’ve got to take it,” added Karavage. “This game is very mental, and if you let it get to you, it can affect you physically.”
Palmyra opened up a 6-0 lead by scoring three runs in each of its first two at-bats.
A walk to Trent Filter and an error on Morder’s sacrifice bunt opened the Palmyra floodgates in the bottom of the opening inning. And Baker, Mitchell Sulley and Mike Rothermel played along with run-scoring singles.
In the second, Zach Miller’s lead-off single and Morder’s hit paved the way for three more Palmyra tallies. Baker knocked home a run with a ground-out, ahead of Colin Gurt’s ringing triple to center field.
“We’re growing,” said Karavage. “Everyday there’s certain things to work on. Nobody’s perfect.
“We’ve definitely been up and down,” Karavage continued. “We played outstanding on Saturday (in a 9-3 win over Muhlenberg). I thought we played a great game. But it’s one game at a time. Mechanicsburg is another game on Thursday. We want to come ready to play.”
Lower Dauphin got on the scoreboard thanks to an error in the top of the third inning. And a passed ball and a sacrifice fly helped the Falcons pull to within 6-2 in the fifth.