BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Bobby Dorta doesn’t have to have everything go his way all the time. He has the utmost trust in the teammates behind him.
But Dorta is a control freak.
On Friday afternoon, Dorta’s control had him in control the entire way, as the Palmyra baseball team blanked rival Hershey 6-0 in an important Mid-Penn Keystone Division game. Pitching to contact, but at the same time not afraid to miss bats, the 6-5 senior right-hander mowed down the Trojans in an efficient masterpiece that took less an hour and 45 minutes to paint.
The facts that it was Dorta’s most impressive outing thus far and the Cougars’ most complete performance of the spring were far from coincidences. The outcome was also significant in that it bolstered Palmyra’s hopes for a District Three Class AAA postseason spot.
The Cougars, who started the season 0-3 and 1-5, improved to 6-7 overall and 4-7 in the Keystone, with the win. Palmyra has won four of its last five outings, all by shutout.
Hershey, which nipped the Cougars 10-9 in Chocolatetown back on April 1, fell to 8-6 on the year and 6-5 in the division.
“We’re getting there,” said Palmyra head coach Tim Gingrich. “I like what I see right now. We couldn’t do what we’re doing now at the beginning of the season. We certainly put the three aspects of the game (offense, defense and pitching) together. The last two or three games we’ve been playing pretty good.
“Confidence is the big thing,” continued Gingrich. “We stress to the kids that we want to see what they’re made of. Oh yeah, we can make districts, because we have a tough schedule. What needs to happen is exactly what happened today. When we set goals at the beginning of the year, this what we were hoping for.”
Mixing his pitches and hitting his spots, Dorta surrendered just three Hershey hits and didn’t permit a Trojan runner past second base. In his 85 pitches, Dorta registered nine strikeouts and walked only two.
In his support, the Cougar fielders made just two, meaningless errors. Both came in the top of the second inning, after the first two outs had been recorded.
“Bobby’s starting to come around,” said Gingrich of his ace. “That’s what a number-one does. Over his last three starts, he’s pitched well. Today was effortless. He threw the ball well. He wasn’t struggling to get outs. And making the plays behind him definitely helped.
“Anytime you can get ahead on the first pitch, you’re going to do well,” Gingrich continued. “There’s no question about it. He’s got three or four good pitches, and he’s throwing them for strikes. That’s the big thing. Bobby’s hardly thrown at all for us all spring. He has a pulled muscle in his back that he’s been nursing for the last five or six months.”
The Cougars plated single runs in their first, second and fourth at-bats, then put the outcome out of reach in bottom of the sixth inning.
Palmyra staked Dorta to a 1-0 lead on Evan Hallowell’s two-out, RBI-double, after lead-off man Zach Miller reached base on a dropped third strike and was sacrificed to second by Tyler Julian. The Cougars’ second run was the result of Nick Decarlo’s lead-off single, a stolen base and Braden Vernet’s sacrifice fly.
“We’ve been spotty offensively,” said Gingrich. “But the last two games we’ve been getting guys on base. You’ve got to make them (the opponents) make the plays.
“I want to be aggressive at the plate,” Gingrich added. “But I want to be smart about it. I want them (his batters) to hit their pitch. Now we’re making things happen.”
Palmyra upped its advantage to 3-0 with an unearned run in the fourth, after two outs had been registered. Before coming around to score, nine-hole hitter Chad Gingrich had kept the inning alive with a double.
The Cougars used four consecutive two-out hits in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 6-0 score. Miller and Julian singled ahead of Dorta’s two-run safety, while Hallowell drove home Dorta with a base knock.
“It’s a rivalry with them (the Trojans). That’s our big rivalry,” said Gingrich. “Anytime you can beat your arch enemy, it’s a big win. There’s no question that this is our biggest win of the season. But tomorrow’s game with Cedar Crest is big too. They’ve kind of had our number the last few years.
“We faced him (Hershey starter Blake Smith) before. He’s a good pitcher,” added Gingrich. “But if we put the ball in play, things are going to happen. We have a couple of guys who can run a little bit.”
Keystone Division Standings
Palmyra 2015 Results
|4:15 PM||L 0-3|
|4:15 PM||L 1-5|
|4:15 PM||L 9-10|
|4:15 PM||W 4-0|
|4:15 PM||L 0-2|
|4:00 PM||L 3-8|
|3:00 PM||W 4-3|
|4:15 PM||L 0-8|
|4:00 PM||W 16-0|
|12:00 PM||W 10-0|
|7:00 PM||L 0-8|
|4:15 PM||W 2-0|
|4:00 PM||W 6-0|