BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – ‘Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air, you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
Then you’ll find your servant is your master.’
Rivalries are measuring sticks. If you respect yourself, then you’ll respect your opponent.
And if you’re a true competitor, you’re always exploring ways to get better.
The rivalry that exists between Fredericksburg and Annville is the best thing going in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League right now. On Tuesday night at Annville-Cleona High School, the two sides did nothing but enhance it.
In a battle of two of the summer circuit’s top hurlers, Isaac Wengert and Fredericksburg edged Alec Barr and Annville 1-0. The game was well-played, hard-fought, intense and had a feel that went well beyond its true identity of an early regular-season match-up.
With Annville unable to get much of anything going against Wengert, the only run of the contest was of the unearned variety, plated in the top of the fourth inning.
The meeting was the first of the season between the two clubs which played for last year’s Lebanon County American Legion championship, won by Annville in upset fashion, two hotly-contest games to one. Back to this year where Fredericksburg is now 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the local circuit, and Annville is 3-2 in the league.
“I think it is a budding rivalry,” said Fredericksburg head coach Tim Schaeffer. “It’s good. The kids know each other. It’s good for the league. They’re (Annville) good kids.
“I left the games (in last year’s championship series) get out of control,” continued Schaeffer. “I wasn’t on top of my game. Of all the times we decided to stop hitting the baseball. Tonight, that was a real good game. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of good games this year.”
“Every game with them last year was close, except one game here,” said Annville head coach Ken Sauley. “I think we have a lot of talent. I think they lost more than we did. Theoretically, on paper, we should be better than last year. This is the kind of game you want to be involved with. It was a nail-biter. But you’ve got to execute in one-run games.
“We pretty much played the way we did then,” Sauley continued. “Pitching, defense and pretty much the same outcome. We weren’t expected to win (last year). But there’s a lot of coaches who expect us to win this year. We’ll figure it out and get back on the horse.”
Wengert allowed just one hit and went the distance to get the win. That lone hit was Izaiah Trimble’s double to open the bottom of the second.
On three other occasions, Annville got runners as far as second base – in the fifth when Cameron Hoch was hit by a pitch and stole second, in the sixth when Fredericksburg was guilty of an error in the outfield and in the seventh when Mitch Long walked and stole second. But each time Wengert slammed the door.
The talented right-hander struck out six and walked one.
“He pitched a heck of a game,” said Schaeffer of Wengert. “About a 90 mile-per-hour fastball, that didn’t hurt, and location. We’ve seen these (Annville) guys a lot. We knew them, and he (Wengert) executed.
“I was hoping not,” added Schaeffer. “But I knew it was going to be a close game. We came out on the positive side tonight.”
“He threw strikes,” said Sauley of Wengert. “And we swung and missed too much. We need to put the ball in play. You can’t win unless you put the ball in play.
“It was an even game,” Sauley added. “Both pitchers pitched well. We didn’t execute when we did get on base. By now, they (his players) should know the signs. They’re the same as last year. But it was a good game.”
Fredericksburg touched Barr for the decisive run on its second time through the lineup against him.
It began with a one-out error and a passed ball. It was six-hole hitter Austin Barry who delivered for F-burg, in the form of an RBI-single.
“Michigan (Daub) yelled ‘switch places’,” said Schaeffer. “And they did. Austin switched places with Seth (Walmer). It was typical Gator (Barr) pitching. Good pitching. Around the zone all night. They (Annville) have good pitching. They have a real good pitching staff.
“I think we’re getting better,” continued Schaeffer. “We’re not quite where we want to be. We have smacked the ball around.”
“He looked good,” said Sauley of Barr. “I thought he threw really well. It wasn’t his fault.
“It always happens that way with them,” Sauley continued. “He (Barr) pitched pretty much the same game last year. I think they (Fredericksburg) got better. They’re a good bunch of kids. But we have too much talent on this team.”
For his part, Barr scattered four hits, fanned seven and issued two free passes. He benefited from a pair of twin killings turned behind him.
“I don’t know if these are the two best teams. I haven’t seen everybody yet,” said Schaeffer. “There was a lot of revenge on our minds. But the kids did a great job tonight.
“For us, I want to win the league,” Schaeffer added. “We host regionals, so we’re already in. But I want to go in the front door. That was the kids’ goal from last year.”
“Our goal is the same as last year,” said Sauley. “It’s year to year. This is a veteran team now. They need to step it up a little bit. They’ve just got to execute, and they’ve got to have their heads in the game.
“We lost to Campbelltown, and they’re a bunch of young guys,” added Sauley. “I don’t want to say that (Annville and Fredericksburg are the two best teams in the league). We’re solid pitching. We’re solid defensively. Our hitting needs to pick it up. At some point you’ve got to hit the ball better. I think things will get better.”
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Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League