BY JEFF FALK
FEDERICKSBURG – Substance versus style.
Cohesiveness versus talent.
Finding a way to win versus expecting to win.
Causing players to want to show up versus compelling them to.
More than just one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League, this year’s Warren ‘Lefty Grumbine’ championship series evolved into a contrast in ideologies. beliefs and approaches to doing business.
On Wednesday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, Annville upset Fredericksburg 1-0 in the decisive Game Three of the final set, to capture the circuit’s championship, two games to one. Annville received another incredible pitching performance on short rest – this one from Alec ‘Gator’ Barr – and scratched out the game’s only run in the top of the sixth inning.
In short, tenacious Annville found a way to win. After Fredericksburg had opened the best-of-three series with a 6-3 triumph on Monday, Annville responded with a pair of intense, scrappy, heart-stopping one-run victories in Games Two and Three.
Now 13-7 overall, second-seeded Annville had entered the championship series as a decided underdog. Fredericksburg, the top seed, the regular-season champion and prohibitive favorite, concluded its campaign at 13-4.
The two clubs split their six overall meetings this summer. It was Annville’s first Lebanon County American Legion championship since 2011, and its eighth overall.
So it is Annville which will represent Lebanon County at the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament, which gets underway on Saturday in Fayetteville.
Additionally, Barr earned the Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine memorial award as the title series’ best pitcher, only because the Lebanon County American Legion League doesn’t recognize the best player on the field overall. Barr’s teammate and battery mate, Hunter Long, garnered the Jack Bicher hitting award, given to the championship set’s top batter.
“It could be one of the biggest upsets in this league,” said Ken Sauley, Annville’s first-year head coach. “It just shows that anything can happen in baseball. I don’t think they’re (Fredericksburg) any more talented than us. They played hard. We just matched their intensity. That’s what did it.
“It (Fredericksburg’s approach to the game) wouldn’t work in Annville,” continued Sauley. “We wouldn’t have a team. That goes back to Marlin Spangler. It’s the players. It’s how you play the game. We play the game hard. We’re just limited in our pitching.”
“They (Annville) scrapped harder than we did,” said Tim Schaeffer, Fredericksburg’s first-year head coach. “They fought tooth and nail. But after the fourth inning of the first game, we didn’t hit the ball.
“They have a good team,” Schaeffer continued. “Talent doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play together as a team. They have some very talented players.”
Working on two days rest, Barr got through seven innings with just 58 pitches. The fiery right-hander surrendered four hits – but never more than one in any inning – struck out two, walked none and pitched to contact. And his defense made just about every play behind him.
But while he enjoyed only two one-two-three innings, Barr only allowed a Fredericksburg runner to advance as far as second base just twice – in the bottoms of the sixth and seventh innings. But each time, Barr rose the occasion.
“He’s a gamer that kid,” said Sauley of Barr. “He gets upset, but he doesn’t let anything rattle him. He had plenty of gas left. He was hitting his spots, hitting the outside corners. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, as long as you hit your spots.
“No one would’ve ever thought it,” added Sauley. “After the way Mitch pitched (on Tuesday night), I thought anything was possible. Unbelievable. I guess we should go on two days rest more often. We only gave up one run in the last 14 innings on two days rest.”
“I thought I did really well, pitching-wise,” said Barr. “I’m not throwing as much as I did in high school ball, and I think it affected me. But 58 pitches in seven innings, that’s the lowest I’ve ever thrown. I was just throwing strikes.
“I’m just really excited,” continued Barr. “Everybody knows Fredericksburg is a good team. There’s always sparks flying when we play them.”
“Fifty-eight pitches? I find it real hard to believe that,” said Schaeffer of Barr’s pitch count. “We were swinging at a lot of early-count pitches. We didn’t do our jobs. Our base-running was terrible.
“It’s a baseball game,” Schaeffer added. “It sucks. We played well all season. We just did not hit the baseball.”
Annville didn’t exactly rip the cover off the ball against Fredericksburg starter Jordan Nichols, either. And the game was score-less through five innings of play.
But Annville lead-off hitter Eli Setlock opened the sixth frame with a double. M. Long moved Setlock to third with a grounder to first base, before H. Long plated him with a ground-out to second, for the game’s only run.
“After the fourth inning, with the way the pitch count was, I thought if we scored one run, we win the game,” said Sauley. “These kids don’t quit. They would run through a wall for me. I told them before the game, ‘We beat them twice, we can do it again.’ I figured we could do it, as long as we could play defense.
“They’re (Fredericksburg) very talented,” added Sauley. “But I think we’re just as good. They’ve got a lot of talent over there. We beat two college pitchers (Nichols and Wyatt Beakler)”.
“They were expecting to come in here and win two games and be done with it,” said Barr of Fredericksburg. “I think that was their approach. After Game One, we didn’t drop our heads. Yeah, this was an upset. I think so.
“I think we played better in the playoffs than we did during the regular season,” Barr added. “During the regular season, we had one day up and one day down. In the playoffs, we played really good baseball.”
” I was very confident,” said Schaeffer. “All my team had to do was play their game and follow through. That’s (Annville) not the team I saw during the regular season. They played better as a team.
“If you want an honest answer, it was a lack of hitting,” Schaeffer continued. “We didn’t see anything overpowering. We just didn’t hit.”
Nichols retired the first six Annville batters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the top of the fourth, before Setlock broke it up with a lead-off single. Nichols finished with a five-hitter, four strikeouts and two walks.
“I don’t always have that many (10 or 11 players),” said Sauley, who was without regular Noah Connor. “It’s about mixing and matching. I had to put Eli in left field tonight. We had to switch things around. But as long as you make contact and get the other team to play defense, you’re going to win games.
“Our pitching was phenomenal, except for the second game against Fifth Ward (in the semifinals),” continued Sauley. “But you can’t always count on that stuff.”
“He pitched great,” said Schaeffer of Nichols. “He pitched great all year. He only gave up two earned runs all year.
“It’s always a success if the team learns something,” concluded Schaeffer. “If you start on Day One, and you gain some knowledge along the way, it was a success. The pitchers learned a lot, and the kids learned a lot as a whole. It’s not all about wins and losses. We just didn’t finish the way we would’ve liked. It is what it is. It’s been a long summer.”
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2016 Annville Results
|6/30/2016||W||Annville 3 Campbelltown 0|
|6/29/2016||W||Annville 6 Richland 2|
|6/28/2016||PPD||Annville 0 Campbelltown 0|
|6/26/2016||W||Annville 10 Myerstown 3|
|6/23/2016||L||5th Ward 5 Annville 4|
|6/22/2016||W||Annville 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/21/2016||W||Annville 4 Fredericksburg 3|
|6/19/2016||L||Richland 3 Annville 2|
|6/14/2016||W||Annville 17 Myerstown 6|
|6/12/2016||L||5th Ward 4 Annville 3|
|6/9/2016||L||Fredericksburg 8 Annville 1|
|6/6/2016||W||Annville 3 Richland 2|
|6/1/2016||W||Annville 4 Myerstown 3|
|5/31/2016||W||Annville 9 5th Ward 0|
|5/29/2016||L||Fredericksburg 3 Annville 1|
2016 Fredericksburg Results
|7/1/2016||W||Fredericksburg 10 Campbelltown 0|
|6/27/2016||L||Myerstown 3 Fredericksburg 2|
|6/26/2016||W||Fredericksburg 5 5th Ward 2|
|6/23/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 Richland 0|
|6/22/2016||W||Fredericksburg 5 Myerstown 4|
|6/21/2016||L||Annville 4 Fredericksburg 3|
|6/19/2016||W||Fredericksburg 4 Campbelltown 3|
|6/15/2016||W||Fredericksburg 1 Campbelltown 0|
|6/13/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 5th Ward 4|
|6/12/2016||W||Fredericksburg 8 Richland 0|
|6/9/2016||W||Fredericksburg 8 Annville 1|
|6/8/2016||W||Fredericksburg 9 Myerstown 1|
|6/1/2016||W||Fredericksburg 13 5th Ward 0|
|5/31/2016||W||Fredericksburg 7 Richland 0|
|5/29/2016||W||Fredericksburg 3 Annville 1|
Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League
Final Regular Season Stadnings