BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – After a disappointing high school spring, many members of the Campbelltown legion baseball team agreed to come together, first as a group, and then as a team. What that did was make everyone accountable to each other, created an emotional investment and gave each competitor something more to play for than just himself.
On Tuesday night at Earl Wenger Memorial Field, that pre-season agreement paid dividends, in the form of a championship.
Campbelltown claimed the championship of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League with an 8-1 victory over Fredericksburg. Campbelltown scored in each of its first five at-bats and righthander Tyler Morder hurled a complete-game gem, as it won the best-of-five Warren ‘Lefty’ Grumbine Championship Series 3-1.
Campbelltown, now 17-5 and also the regular-season champion, became the first road team in the entire Lebanon County legion postseason to win a game. Fredericksburg finished its campaign 14-8.
In the four games of the title set, C-town outscored F-burg by a combined margin of 38-12. Campbelltown will now represent Lebanon County at the eight-team, double-elimination Region Four tournament at Fayetteville, beginning Saturday at 4 p.m., opposite the host club.
“At the end of the high school season, we kind of nipped it in the bud,” said Campbelltown head coach Tim Morgan. ‘There was no reason for any of them (his players) to play travel ball. They love being here, and a lot of the players didn’t believe in travel ball. That was the key. I was on them all year (in high school). The goal was to go to regionals.”
“It did bring everybody closer,” said Campbelltown catcher and emotional leader Colby Conway. “All the seniors agreed to play together and play legion one last time. Getting to regionals was important. We knew if we didn’t get to regionals we didn’t live up to our potential. It would’ve been a disappointment if we hadn’t won.
“There were some players who were going to play travel ball, but Coach (Morgan) said he wanted to get everybody out,” Conway added. “I kind of had an agreement with guys like Preston (Bare) and Mike (Fuhrman). Some of us were going to play Twilight.”
“They’re a good team. They deserve to be in regionals,” said Fredericksburg head coach Jim McKinney. “Probably the best thing for them is their top-to-bottom hitting. There’s not much of a weak spot. Even their seven, eight and nine guys can hit. That’s their biggest strength. Their defense is average to good. I think they can out-score some teams (at regionals).”
Conway set the tone for the clincher with a clutch, two-out double in the second that extended Campbelltown’s lead to 3-0. In the top of the first, Conway had singled, moved to third on Preston Bare’s hit and scored on an error for the first run of the game.
“Going up three runs early was so key,” said Morgan. “We scored in every inning until the sixth. And we ran the bases well. You’ve got to work it until you’re stopped.”
“It was definitely big for us to win tonight,” said Conway. “Tyler Morder gave us a great start. But the big thing was we were efficient. Tonight we had runners on base and got them in.
“It was definitely important getting off to a good start,” Conway continued. “We try to win every inning. Because if you win every inning you can’t lose the game. Then it became a snow-ball effect.”
“I don’t think this team is like that (resigned to the fact that C-town was the better team),” McKinney added. “They’re not that way. We have decent talent here.”
Morder, a sneaky-quick righty, was on top of his game throughout. He fanned five, allowed four hits and issued two free passes.
“When I showed up at the field he was the first one here,” said Morgan of Morder. “He said, ‘I’m going all seven.’ That’s what a coach wants to hear. Each time out he gets a little better.
“Fredericksburg is a quality team,” added Morgan. “He’s (Morder) such a gamer, no matter what he does. I would’ve had to get a bomb to get him off of there (the mound).”
“He has to stay within himself,” said Conway of Morder. “Obviously throwing his fastball for a strike is important. When he amps up, that’s when he gets in trouble. Some pitchers just throw, but he pitches. He gave us a great effort.”
“He throws well,” said McKinney of Morder. “He keeps our guys off-balance. His fastball moves a little bit. And he mixes in his change-up just enough. He’s a good little pitcher.”
Campbelltown kept adding on and adding on, until it got to a point when Fredericksburg as an outfit, began to hang its head.
In the top of the third, Trey Baker’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0. In the fourth, Conway’s third RBI and Sully Bortner’s run-scoring single upped C-town’s advantage to 6-0.
In the fifth, F-burg’s third error and Josh Sollenberger’s taking of home on the back end of a double steal pushed the Campbelltown advantage to 8-0.
“All year I was hearing everybody saying we were ‘The Team’,” said Morgan. “We thought at the beginning of the season if a couple of senior guys came out it would help the team. It wasn’t a cake walk.”
“The league did get a lot better,” said Conway. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. We had some lapses. As long as we put complete games together we felt like we were the best team.”
“Coming in, I thought we were evenly-matched,” said McKinney. “I knew we were going to have trouble with our pitching. We ran out of it.
“I thought we had a good year,” continued McKinney. “Just about everybody can return. We were in first place almost the whole year. It’s hard to say it was a bad season. I’d rate it as a very good season.”
Conway finished three-for-three at the dish. Meanwhile from the hardware department, Campbelltown’s Mike Fuhrman was named the championship series’ top hitter, while Sollenberger, a shut-out winner in Game Three, garnered the Most Valuable Pitcher nod.
“Colby’s a great kid,” said Morgan. “That kid can flat-out play. He’s a player any coach would love to have. You never have to tell him anything twice. The only thing is he gets down on himself a little bit. But I let him call the game all the time. And no one ever tries to steal on him. He’s got a hose back there.”
“Obviously as a catcher, I see everything on the field,” said Conway. “I’m kind of like a coach on the field. I’m a leader, but not the only leader on the team. You can’t win with just one leader. I guess I see myself as a leader in the catching and pitching department.”
“We normally try to follow the league champion, but I don’t know if I’ll go all the way down to Fayetteville,” said McKinney. “They’ve (Campbelltown) been our competitors the last few years. There’s a competitiveness there. We get along with some of their kids and some of their kids we don’t.
“But I don’t think there’s any animosity there,” McKinney added. “We hope they move on because it would make our league look better. I hope they win the whole (regionals) darn thing.”