Failure to do the little things on the baseball diamond almost always leads to an inability to do the big things, like beating your archrival.
Conversely, taking care of said little things can provide the opportunity to revel in the big things, like extending decades-long dominance over your archrival.
That's the Cedar Crest-Lebanon baseball rivalry, 2014 edition, in a nutshell.
After showing signs of narrowing the gap in close losses the past two years, Lebanon was back on the wrong end of another lopsided defeat to Cedar Crest on Monday at Coleman Memorial Park.
The cause was five extremely costly errors, specifically two first-inning miscues on what should have been routine plays, that set the tone for a 9-2 Cedar Crest win and more frustration for Lebanon when looking across the field at the Falcons.
"I think when you come out with errors in the first inning, you set a bad tone," said a frowning Lebanon coach Robert Nordall, whose squad suffered its eighth straight setback. "You keep thinking, 'How am I gonna fix that error?' instead of just playing your game. If you make the plays and you're confident, you're gonna keep making the plays. With our recent slide, the errors have been a constant theme. Errors make a big impact, and we've got to minimize them a little bit more."
Lebanon (1-8, 0-7 Section Two) had little chance to gain any confidence after a rather nightmarish top of the first that gave Cedar Crest (5-2, 4-3 Section One) a 3-0 head start and all the runs it would need.
Lebanon's starting pitcher, promising sophomore Michael DeLeon, opened the game with a strikeout and appeared to follow with another, only to see his third-strike pitch to No. 2 hitter Hunter Wise skip away to the backstop.
That allowed Wise to reach first and set the stage for more trouble to come, including a bloop RBI single to right by Devon Elder that provided the game's first run.
Elder's hit was followed by a Nick Gonzalez grounder to second that was booted, and a Kyle Bogdanovich grounder to short that led to an errant throw to third on a would-be force play.
They played six more innings for kicks, but the outcome was essentially settled by the events of the top of the first.
"When you put the ball in play and force the other team to make the plays, sometimes it goes our way and doesn't go their way," said Cedar Crest skipper Ryan White. "We did a nice job of getting on the board early and kinda taking a little bit out of their sails, hopefully."
The Falcons also accomplished a good many things without Lebanon's help. That included nine hits — three from Conor Bawiec and two RBI singles from Wise — the combined four-hit pitching of lefties Gage Ocker and Matt McCarrick and near-flawless defense that was marred only by a two-out throwing error in the seventh.
"We're doing a better job as far as getting pitches we want to hit," White said. "I thought we did a better job of that again today. And I thought our pitchers did a real nice job of pitching to contact, knowing that we can give up long fly balls and our fielders can track them down and our defense can do the work."
Ocker, who worked the first 4 2/3 innings to earn the win, and McCarrick had a nice cushion to work with, thanks to the three more runs the Falcons added in their second at-bat.
Run-scoring singles by Bawiec and Gonzalez sandwiched a sac fly by Caleb Albright and made it a 6-0 game.
The Cedars got two runs back in the home half of the second on a two-out, two-run single by Christian DeLeon, but Crest responded in kind in the third with a run-scoring single by Wise to bump the lead back to 7-2.
The Falcons tacked on another run in the fourth via a misplayed fly ball and Austin Douple's RBI single, and closed out the scoring in the seventh on Wise's second RBI hit of the game.
"They're just like any Section One team," Nordall said, tipping his cap to the Falcons. "One through nine (in the lineup), they're fundamentally sound. They can put guys in and they can make a difference at any moment."
"We're probably not gonna hit many home runs, even though the kids want to," White said, with a chuckle. "Day after day, we're just trying to get them to hit the pitches they can hit, talking about what you do well and what you don't do well. I think we're doing a better job at the plate and forcing the other teams to make the plays."
Ample evidence of that fact could be found on Monday, when little things that were done, and not done, loomed large.