BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Like numbers and statistics? You’ll love baseball.
Cedar Crest, however, aspires to a different level of baseball mathematics. In the Falcons’ world, 10+10=7.
At least it did yesterday. With the variable being ‘W’.
On Tuesday afternoon, Falcon batters drew ten walks, while their pitching staff struck out ten opposing hitters. And when the equation was completed, it all added up to a 9-2 Lancaster-Lebanon Section One-Two crossover victory over Elizabethtown.
Employing a patiently aggressive approach at the plate, Cedar Crest used its ten free passes to score in each of its first five at-bats and open a 9-1 lead. Meanwhile Falcon starter Dan Black and reliever Patrick McCabe combined to shut down the Bears on three hits, and to record ten Ks.
The triumph snapped the Falcons’ modest two-game losing skein and left them 10-3 overall and 7-3 and in second place in Section One. Elizabethtown is now 6-7 on the year and 5-5 in Section Two.
“I thought we played well,” said Cedar Crest skipper Chris Groff. “Dan’s been struggling with walks a little bit, but today he threw strikes. And we did a good job of going up the middle (with the pitch) and taking what they gave us. Overall I’m pleased. It was good solid win.
“We had lost back-to-back games,” Groff continued. “Both were one-run games, to two good teams and in two close games. We needed a good, all-around win.”
Before being lifted with an eight-run, fifth-inning lead, Black was in command most of the way. The only time the Bears really got to him was in the second, when they plated their only run, on two walks, a single, a throwing error and a stolen base.
The strong senior righthander’s final line read: two hits allowed, three walks and eight strikeouts.
“I thought he threw well,” said Groff. “His fastball was strong and accurate. And I noticed he took a little off of it to get strikes. What Dan realizes is that it takes one pitch to get an out.
“He’s a very good pitcher,” Groff added. “We’re fortunate to have those guys (Black and senior righty Logan Fullmer) throw for us. Pitching and defense are our strengths. With that, we’re going to be competitive every game. You’re always going to be in it when you have good pitching and defense.”
Cedar Crest snagged an early run thanks to a Zach Smith RBI in the bottom of the opening frame, then assumed a 2-1 margin in the second courtesy of Zach Hostetter’s bases-loaded walk in the second. The Falcons provided Black a little breathing room by opening a 6-1 cushion in the third.
Crest scored four times by loading the bases with nobody out. Fullmer knocked in a pair with a double to the right-centerfield gap, after Brady Galbraith had launched a sacrifice fly, and before Daulton Ritter scored him with another ringing two-bagger.
“You can definitely be patient and aggressive,” said Groff. “But it’s not easy. The first thing we’re thinking is, ‘Yes it’s a strike.’ We always want to be ready for the first strike. We want to be aggressive on strikes.
“To us, walks mean on-base percentage,” Groff continued. “We’re always big on that. In many ways, that’s better than batting average. Getting on base can sometimes put pressure on the other team. We want to swing at strikes and take balls.”
In the fourth, Garrett Getz’s single drove in Smith, who had doubled. And when Galbraith brought Getz home with an RBI-grounder, the Falcons’ advantage had reached 8-1.
“We’re two games behind Hempfield and tied for second place with Penn Manor,” said Groff of the Section One race. “As long as we’re attempting to go 1-0, at the end we’ll have a good shot at reaching our goals. We think we’ll be right there.
“It’s (a 20-game season) not a lot, and it happens quickly,” added Groff. “You talk about three games a week, so it happens in chunks at a time. Each game means so much. You’ve got to take it one at a time and let it all play out.”
For the Falcons, Smith went three-for-four, while Fullmer, the designated hitter, collected a pair of extra-base hits.
“I think we’re enjoying the season,” said Groff. “We’ve had a lot of success over the last few years. Our seniors are great at it. We try to enjoy each game. We’re focused on 1-0, and after a loss we try to move on. I’m going to let them enjoy the rest of today, and hopefully we’ll come out tomorrow (against Conestoga Valley) and see if we can do it again.
“These guys are having a great time on the journey,” Groff added. “They enjoy playing baseball and they enjoy playing baseball together. Our seniors don’t care about accolades. They only care about this team. It’s refreshing to see that.”