BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – There were the requisite number of mistakes associated with a scholastic season opener, both physical errors and mental miscues. Still, there were definitely more positives than negatives – stuff like resiliency, opportunism and aggressive plate approaches.
But for Lebanon, the most positive aspect of it was that it provided momentum and confidence upon which to build.
On an overcast Friday evening at Annville-Cleona, the Cedars began their 2022 spring season with an exhilarating 8-7, eight-inning, come-from-behind victory over the homestanding Little Dutchmen. Faced with a late 7-4 deficit, Lebanon rallied for three runs in the top of seventh inning to send the non-league game to extra frames, then pushed across the winning run in the eighth.
After singling and stealing second, Colby Robb scored the decisive run for Lebanon, on another stolen base and a throwing error. The Cedars’ three-run rally in the top of the seventh came without the benefit of a hit, as they used three walks and four wild pitches to tie the game at seven.
It certainly was an entertaining result involving a pair of Lebanon County clubs seeking to turn things around from somewhat disappointing campaigns a year ago.
“We’re hoping to build on every mistake,” said Lebanon head coach Fred Gonzalez. “If we’re happy with that, we might as well end the season right now. We had a little bit of a learning experience today. They (his players) were happy with the win, but they weren’t happy how they got there. There was no quit, and that was one of the positives.
“In the seventh and eighth innings, we changed our approach at the plate,” added Gonzalez. “We stopped getting chasey. We got more selective and we made them (the Little Dutchmen) pay for mistakes. I’ll take the start and the finish, but I won’t take the middle.”
“We know better,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller. “We just didn’t play very well. These guys have all played before. They were mistakes we shouldn’t ever make, even at this time of the year.
“We’ve just got to refocus,” Miller added. “It’s just one game. Now we have to go 19-1 instead of 20-0. But you’re never going to win the way we played today.”
The Cedars had grabbed a 4-0 lead with a similar rally in the top of the first inning.
Jose Parte ignited the outburst with a lead-off single, and Robb contributed an RBI. But Lebanon feasted on two free passes and a critical Little Dutchmen error.
“We got the win. But we’re better than the win that got handed to us,” said Gonzalez. “There were way too many mistakes. Maybe it was nerves. Of course, I love a win. But I feel better when we do the things we’ve worked on.
“There were some positives,” continued Gonzalez. “I have a phenomenal group of tight kids. But I felt like we had a little bit of selfishness today. We’ve got some new blood in our system and they still have a lot to learn. They (the Little Dutchmen) gave us a lot of runs.”
“We didn’t finish,” said Miller. “You can’t give free bases. You can’t give free outs. In the middle of the game, we weren’t doing that. When you give an extra at-bat, miss a fly ball, give someone life – and they (the Cedars) took advantage of it.
“They (the Cedars) didn’t give up,” Miller continued. “They kept playing. They didn’t allow us to put them away.”
Annville-Cleona responded to Lebanon’s early outburst with five runs of its own in the bottom of the first frame. Gavin Keller capped the Little Dutchmen rally with a two-run double, following walks to Chase Maguire, Alex Lingle and Cash Anspach, a single by Freilin Ramos and a Cedar error.
Then, in the bottom of the second inning, the Little Dutchmen extended their lead to 6-4 when Lingle reached on an error, stole a base and came around to score on a wild pitch. Annville-Cleona tacked on another insurance run in the third, courtesy of Keller’s sacrifice fly.
From the second inning, up until exiting after the fifth, Annville-Cleona starting pitcher Jake Mills faced the minimum number of Lebanon batters and did not surrender a hit.
“We’re a little more in-your-face, but not in an arrogant way,” said Gonzalez of his troops. “But they’re (the Little Dutchmen) the exact opposite. They’re a good bunch of kids. I love playing them. I wish them the best. They’ll be fine.
“Some of our kids stepped up when they needed to,” Gonzalez continued. “But you’re going to see better baseball from us. It’s ugly, but I’ll take it.”
“Outside of the first inning, I thought he did very well,” said Miller of Mills’ pitching. “He found his groove. He pitched well and we had a couple of kids hit the ball well.
“The potential is there,” continued Miller. “We just need to do the basic things. You’ve got to throw, you’ve got to catch and you’ve got to run. It was a combined team effort.”
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2022 Annville-Cleona Baseball Schedule
2022 Lebanon Baseball Schedule
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