BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – On paper, man-for-man, it’s difficult to distinguish between Campbelltown and Fredericksburg. But whether it’s moxie, chemistry or continuity, there’s something that Campbelltown has that Fredericksburg doesn’t.
And those things emanate from within.
Those internal intangibles were very evident amid a steady drizzle Friday night at Palmyra High School, where Campbelltown edged Fredericksburg 4-3 to win a Lebanon County American Legion baseball semifinal series 2-1. After jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, Campbelltown stepped up and made the plays required to hold off Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth, before 19-year-old southpaw Josh Sollenberger came on to close the door for C-town. Sollenberger recorded the last four outs in relief of winner Trey Baker, allowing but a single walk.
After being backed into a corner by Fredericksburg’s 9-1 opening-game win on Wednesday, the defending league champions responded with clutch, back-to-back, one-run wins. The series victory earned Campbelltown, now 14-3, a date with second-seeded and 12-5 Myerstown, in the best-of-five Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine championship series.
That set will open Saturday at 2 p.m., back at Palmyra High School, with Tyler Morder getting the call for the regular-season champs. The winner of the Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine championship series will represent the Lebanon County American Legion baseball league at the Region Four tournament in Fayetteville, beginning July 20.
Fredericksburg ended its campaign 8-9-1 overall.
“Guys like Baker and Sollenberger and Mitch Sauley reach down deep when they have to,” said Campbelltown manager Tim Morgan. “We didn’t have all of our guys, so to win with what you have means a lot. When kids have the opportunity to step up, they seem to do that.
“When we got embarrassed 9-1 in the first game, we had our best possible lineup,” Morgan added. “Today we had a good lineup, but not one as good as that one. But you see how our kids performed today, that tells you something. A lot of it has to do with these kids playing together. That’s what I’m trying to do more of in this town.
“It’s hard to say because we never had the same kids all year,” said Fredericksburg skipper Jim McKinney. “We didn’t have the continuity. Blame me for not being strict, but it definitely hurt us. I would say our biggest failure was not playing as a team all year. We have a lot of talent at a lot of different places.”
“I think they (Campbelltown) seemed a little more up than we were,” added McKinney. “We’re not a crazy, up-and-up team. That’s not our personality. It hasn’t been for a number of years.”
Campbelltown touched F-burg starter Brad Kreiser for a run in the top of the first inning on Sauley’s run-scoring single. Trent Filter and Baker set Sauley’s table with a walk and a double, respectively.
In the second, Kreiser walked the first two C-town hitters he faced, and Bryce Betz made him pay with a two-run double that made it 3-0. Then in the fourth, Campbelltown tacked on again, after Griffin Mitchell walked, stole second and scored on Zach Miller’s two-out safety.
“After the 9-1 loss, we were in trouble,” said Morgan. “But Coach (John) Baker challenged them (his players) and said, ‘You’re either going to show up and represent your town and yourselves, or you’re going to go home with your tail between your legs.’ We made the fewest mistakes and that was the difference.
“After they (his players) started out slow last night (Thursday) we got our act together,” Morgan continued. “Now they’re believing in themselves. They’re so used to winning and they were getting big heads. But you have to earn it. This league is progressively getting better and I like the competition.”
“The guys were getting down early,” said McKinney. “We’re a team that needs to get up early and stay up. It’s (coming back) something we don’t do well.
“We didn’t play bad today,” McKinney added. “We let them (Campbelltown) get a few free bases, too many steals. We didn’t stop that. That was the difference. It cost us a good chance at winning.”
Fredericksburg had been stymied by Baker for the better part of five innings, before the hard-throwing right-hander walked the bases loaded with one out in the top of the sixth. Jordan Seltzer picked up an RBI-grounder and Drew Bene laced a two-run single to pull the F-burg side to within 4-3, but Sollenberger came on to do his thing.
“Four-to-nothing disappeared in a hurry,” said Morgan. “Josh (Sollenberger) said he had one inning in him, max. And he came in and did the job. I asked Josh, ‘Are you good to go?’ And he said, ‘Coach, I got it.'”
“Both teams are pretty evenly matched, man-for-man,” said McKinney. “They have a little more pitching than us. And they probably have a little more hitting than us. It’s not an excuse. Their pitching helped them throughout the year.
“The first day, we played very well,” added McKinney. “The second day we played well defensively, but didn’t hit well. Here, our bats didn’t ever get started.”
After navigating a two-on, one-out dilema in the first inning, Baker at one point retired 12 F-burg batters in-a-row. He finished with a two-hitter, two strikeouts and five walks.
“Today I felt a little out of place. They (his players) had confidence in themselves,” said Morgan. “Baker hasn’t thrown in a while, and today he throws a gem. We didn’t have any errors. Some players stepped up today.
“The last time he (Baker) threw at Annville, he was decent,” Morgan continued. “Before that, it was 3-0, 3-1 (counts) and five or six walks. Tonight I didn’t know what I was getting. He did well tonight. He kept it down.”
“I’d say, ‘nay’ because we didn’t make the championship series for the first time in a long time,” said McKinney when asked about the success of his club’s season. “My expectations were a little higher. I wouldn’t say we underachieved, but we could’ve done better.
“I told them (his players) we had a pretty good season,” McKinney added. “It jut didn’t end up the way we wanted it to.”
During the regular season, Campbelltown took two out of its three games with Myerstown.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Morgan. “I’m expecting a good series. He’s (Myerstown head coach Johnny Mentzer) loaded for bear. He hasn’t played in four days. Morder’s finally ready (after an injury). If he throws the way I expect, I’m going to be loving life.”