What do you get when a team that suddenly can do no wrong meets up with one that is struggling mightily to do much of anything right?
You get Northern Lebanon 18, Lebanon Catholic 0 in four innings, that's what you get.
In an utterly non-competitive matchup of two teams rapidly heading in completely different directions, red-hot Northern Lebanon laid a thorough 18-0 mercy-rule beating on scuffling Lebanon Catholic at 5th Ward on Wednesday afternoon.
On the way to their sixth straight victory, the Vikings pounded out 14 hits — two apiece from Darrin Shirk, David Brooks, Jon Walizer, Zane Merkel and Chase Dubendorf — and took advantage of a slew of Lebanon Catholic fielding misadventures to end the contest after four quick, but eventful, innings due to the 15-run mercy rule.
The outcome continued to solidify Northern Lebanon's status as a contender in a hotly-contested Section Three race while improving its increasingly impressive record to 9-4 overall and 8-3 in the section.
Lebanon Catholic, meanwhile, fell to 2-10 overall and 0-10 in Section Four after its eighth straight defeat and most demoralizing loss of the season.
"I'm very pleased," Northern Lebanon coach Daryl Hess said of his club's play, both recently and on Wednesday. "We're playing well in all three aspects; we've been hitting the ball, pitching, and playing good defense behind the pitchers, as well. I'm encouraged by that, I think they're gaining a little bit of confidence here. I just like the way we're playing right now."
For his part, Lebanon Catholic co-head coach Glenn Meck was as distressed with his club's play as Hess was pleased with his.
It was hard to blame him, after he saw the Vikings get the jump with four runs in the first and three more in the second before a full-fledged rout developed in the third when the visitors sent 12 hitters to the plate while scoring seven times.
"I wish I would have stayed at the office," Meck quipped after it was suggested that his club endured a rough day at the office. "I just said to the kids, 'You've got to look inside, you gotta make those routine plays.' We can't give a team six or seven outs (in an inning). We've been preaching that all year.
"Last week, we had a 2-0 (loss) with Lampeter-Strasburg and we didn't make any errors. We were in the game. They gotta decide what they want to do the rest of the year. There's nothing we can do. You gotta make the plays."
The Beavers did indeed kick — and throw — the ball around on the way to five errors. But the Vikings smacked a lot of balls that there was no defense for, too, continuing an offensive resurgence that has them averaging 10.5 runs per game in the winning streak.
Walizer, Dubendorf, Merkel, Dustin Bachman and Noah Gingrich were the top run producers with two RBIs apiece.
Pitcher Brett Minnich was the beneficiary, although he didn't need much help after limiting Catholic to one hit — a fourth-inning single by losing pitcher Chris Decker.
"I like the way we're hitting the ball right now," Hess said. "We've been hitting the ball half decent the last couple weeks here, and that's one thing I like to see. And that first kid (Decker) wasn't bad, he's a nice pitcher. We got out aggressively and swung the bats pretty well."
"They're playing good ball, they're hitting the ball," Meck said of the Vikings. "And we're short on pitching. Decker's been throwing a lot this year. We really have two starting pitchers, him and (Matt) Kern, and you gotta pick and choose who you throw Kern against because of (trying to make) districts."
From his side of the field, Hess could empathize, having been in the Beavers' shoes a few times in the past.
"It's tough," Hess said. "We had a couple games like that last year, when things just don't go well. I've been on that side, too. You just hope that your guys keep playing hard for you, and their guys did."
But not hard enough to change what the scoreboard, and the scorebook, had to say.
"I can take a loss," Meck said. "But not when you give up nine or 10 unearned runs. That I can't take."