BY DON SCOTT
During the 1980s and 1990s, Palmyra was the dominant club in the now-defunct Lebanon-Lancaster Twilight baseball circuit. In four years, Mike Snyder revived the team, making the playoffs each summer, – this year claiming the post-season championship by defeating 2010 champ Middletown.
Finishing in second place in the regular season, behind the Brewers, to earn a first-round playoff bye, Palmyra took Lawnton in three straight games, and came back from a 0-2 deficit with four consecutive wins to defeat Middletown.
“This year we added lead-off man Ben Mersky, and Craig Denlinger, who ended up hitting third or fourth for us in our every day lineup, to go along with Travis Smart, Brett Harmony, C.J. Fager, John Mentzer and Jared Boger,” said Snyder. “Those two guys were a big plus and Harmony hit around .480, which in wooden bat baseball is incredible. On the downside we lost Ryan White for most of the season, but that’s where Ben and Craig really helped us because Ben took over in center and Craig could play either infield or outfield as needed.
“As far as our pitchers I knew we’d be OK with Kyle Weary (1-1), Matt Sanders (2-3), Travis Thome (7-0) and Tyler Reed (5-1) but being able to add David Superdock (2-4) and Ross Buckwalter (9-0) it gave me five quality starters even after Weary left in early June,” added Snyder. “Our runs-against was the lowest of any team in the league.”
The six games of the final series took nine days to play, which Snyder said might have helped Middletown a little more since it only had four pitchers and he had five.
“What it did for me, I was able to bring Buckwalter back on three days rest because of the last rain day, so that helped,” said Snyder. “For them it meant they were able to get four days rest for Zach Whitman and Adrian Huber, who were their number one and two guys. In the end it benefited both teams.”
The teams split the four regular-season games, and the Brewers had a 26-25 edge in runs-scored in the playoffs. But ten of their runs came in their 10-1 first-game win.
Palmyra jumped out to a 4-0 regular=season start, lost two, then won 12 of the next 14. before going 3-5 to finish with a 19-9 record, best in its brief four-year history.
“I realized that just making the playoffs wasn’t enough, we needed to get one of the top two spots to get a bye to save the pitching going into the second and third rounds,” Snyder said. “You don’t want to have already used your top guys to get to the next round and then not have anyone to go against the opponent’s guys who are rested. In a seven-game series, you might be able to come back, but not in a shorter one. Once a team gets down in a short series it’s tough to get back up mentally to be ready to play and get momentum back in your favor.”
Getting down 0-2 in the final round put some credence in what the skipper said about that situation in a longer series.
“We were able to do it because we had the pitching, hitting and defense to do it against Middletown’s pitchers,” said Snyder. “Whitman, who pitched the first game, gave us more trouble as a soft-tossing lefty then Huber and the others who throw harder. The difference when we saw Whitman again was we remembered how he worked us earlier and made the adjustments.”
As to what next season might look like, Snyder sighed: “I know a couple guys said they won’t be back and I understand that. They’re getting into their upper 20s and their lives are changing with family activities. However, you never know. Maybe come March they’ll get the itch to suit up again.
“Mitch (assistant coach, Lamoureux) and I will keep working hard to build the program,” Snyder continued. “We don’t want to sit back just because we won this year. We want to keep it strong for the next several years.”