Photos for this article were provided by Northern Lebanon student reporter, Carter Kubica.
When Coach Travis Thome was named the head coach of Northern Lebanon’s baseball program in December, he got right to work, rallying his players with the mantra of “Enough is enough”. His band of Vikings responded and began putting in the off-season work that they hoped would pay off in the future. Saturday morning (7 am) workouts at Champs Performance Training in Lebanon became a mainstay, with 20+ young men reporting weekly to put in the work.
In sports, when you put in the work there are no guarantees. The off-season is one thing, but playing games is another. However, athletes who choose to challenge themselves (and one another) put themselves in a position to be successful. Through four games of the 2023 campaign, the Vikings were starting to see the fruits of their labor. They won their first three before succumbing to perennial powerhouse Lancaster Catholic in what was a fairly competitive match-up, despite a final score of 7-1.
On Friday, the Vikings hosted Camp Hill Lions, another program that has a long history of success. Since 1999, Camp Hill has won three PIAA State Championships and finished as the runner-up in 2018. They arrived in Fredericksburg with a 5-0 record, placing them as the top ranked team in the District 3 power rankings among all 3A schools.
Starting on the mound for Northern Lebanon was Adrian Gonzalez, the freshman pitcher who threw a complete game shutout of Hamburg in his lone start on March 28th. The opposing pitcher was Camp Hill’s senior hurler Luke Parise, who entered the day with a 2-0 record. The two quickly engaged in a pitching duel that left the scoreboard with a 0-0 at through four innings.
Adrian Gonzalez cruises through four innings.
During the Top of the 5th inning, the cracks began to show for the young Vikings. A series of errors and Camp Hill’s ability to move baserunners quickly led to them scoring four runs, all unearned. Northern Lebanon was unable to respond offensively in the bottom half, so at the end of the 5th inning, Camp Hill led 4-0. Gonzalez’s day ended having allowed four runs on four hits, while striking out three and issuing two walks.
Viking pitcher Dylan Fegley now had the task to keep the Lions in check, something he did in the Top of the 6th. Speaking after the game, Coach Thome reflected on that point of the contest, “After we gave up the 4 runs, I was hoping we would continue to grind out at-bats. Their pitcher was looking very good and keeping our guys off-balance. But we were entering our 3rd time through the lineup, so it was only a matter of time before we capitalized on Parise’s command.”
With two outs in the Bottom of the 6th, Moises Gonzalez singled. Riley Messinger then hit a double to the fence, allowing Gonzalez to score. The 6th ended with Camp Hill leading 4-1.
“The run in the bottom of the 6th inning gave us much needed life. Messinger has been clutch for us at the plate so far, and he gave us the lift we needed at that spot,” said Thome. In the Top of the 7th, Fegley again shut down the Lions, allowing the momentum to continue in the Vikings’ favor.
With three outs remaining, the Vikings started the 7th with a single and a walk. Catcher DJ Byerley drove in a run on a single to close the gap to 4-2 Camp Hill advantage. Thome said of his squad that he believed “we right where we needed to be in the lineup.” The decision was made to use Owen Walmer as a pinch runner in place on Byerley. When Parise walked Brian Lowen to load the bases, Camp Hill made the decision to pull him.
Byerley led off the 7th with clutch RBI.
Next up for the Vikings was Xander McQuaide who smoked a double, scoring, including Walmer from second base. On that play, Lowen advanced to third. Thome said, “Walmer had a great read on McQuaide’s double to be able to score the tying run. Lowen hustled to 3rd to put the go-ahead run on 3rd with only one out.
During the off-season, one of the hardest workers was junior Moises Gonzalez. Now, at the plate in a 4-4 game with the winning run standing on third, would the hard work pay off? Gonzalez delivered. His single scored Lowen to complete the come-from-behind walk-off win in a fashion that left Camp Hill stunned. The Vikings left the field as believers, with a sense of confidence … and a Saturday off. Northern Lebanon 5, Camp Hill 4.
The 4-1 Vikings will host Columbia on Monday.
Northern Lebanon Baseball: Xander McQuaide’s double that tied the game against Camp Hill in the Bottom of the 7th. Set the table for Moises Gonzalez to drive in Lowen for the win. pic.twitter.com/rtq0zJOywk
— LebCoSports.com (@LebCoSports1) April 9, 2023
Through five games this season, here are some key stats from some of Northern Lebanon’s top performers:
Moises Gonzalez – .438 BA /.550 OBP / 6 RBIs / 4 R
Xander McQuaide – .368 BA / .455 OBP / HR / 9 RBIs / 7 R
Riley Messinger – .467 BA / .556 OBP / 4 RBIs / 1 R
Adrian Gonzalez – .400 BA / 1 RBI / 4 R; 12 IP / 0 ER
Brian Lowen – .333 BA, .600 OBP, 4 R, 3 SB
James Voight – .273 BA / .467 OBP / 4 R / 4 SB
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