A spring to remember for Lebanon County athletes
The weather often left a great deal to be desired.
But this spring, Lebanon County athletes did not allow the lack of sunshine or the prevalence of rainy days to detract from their performances on the playing field.
Far from it.
The curtain came down on another scholastic spring sports season in the county on Tuesday night, when the Palmyra boys lacrosse team bowed out of the state playoffs with a first round loss to Strath Haven. It concluded a highly successful spring for the locals, one worthy of some mythical hardware with which to highlight some of the top performances.
So with that in mind, let's do just that...
Best Team: Palmyra boys lacrosse
No-brainer pick here. The Cougars enjoyed a simply sensational season, putting their program on the map with a 22-2 romp through the spring that included an unbeaten regular season, a Mid-Penn Keystone Division title and the program's first District 3 2A championship and subsequent state playoff berth.
There was no shortage of heroes for Palmyra along the way - top scorers Kyle Nolen, Grant Haus, Ethan Gain and Peter Robertson led the charge - as the team took its school and community on a ride it won't soon forget, and one that will set the standard for the Palmyra boys lax teams to come.
Best Male Athlete: Mitch Long, Annville-Cleona baseball
With apologies to track and field standouts Jesse Cruise of Cedar Crest, Derin Klick of Lebanon and Stanley Miller of Annville-Cleona, Long is the easy pick here.
The numbers back it up. The senior pitcher/outfielder was superb all spring, batting a robust .483 with eight doubles, two triples, five home runs and 30 RBIs. He also stole 12 bases in 13 tries - one of which was a game-winning steal of home - while posting a .593 on-base percentage and .933 slugging percentage.
On the mound, Long, who helped A-C to Lancaster-Lebanon League and 3A district playoff berths, was as good, if not better. In 10 appearances, he went 7-1 with a 1.07 ERA and struck out 62 and walked just 10 in 52 1/3 innings of work while also tossing three complete games.
Best Female Athlete: Reagan Hess, Annville-Cleona track and field and Ariel Jones, Cedar Crest track and field
It wouldn't be surprising if Hess and Jones are having back problems after all the hardware they carried around this spring.
Beginning at the Lebanon County meet on April 29 when they combined to set or share four new records - three by Jones - Hess and Jones were on fire this season.
Hess, snared three gold medals (100, 200, long jump) at the District 3 meet for the second year in a row, then added a silver in the long jump and a bronze in the 100 at states, to cap a brilliant career the likes of which won't be seen again anytime soon.
Jones, meanwhile, had an equally compelling senior season, establishing new county meet marks in the high jump, triple jump and as part of the 4 x 100 relay team at the county meet, before going on to add L-L titles in the high jump and triple jump and district gold in the high jump.
Two once-in-a-generation type athletes who left their mark and then some on the 2017 spring sports season in Lebanon County.
Best freshmen: Dylan Tull, Cedar Crest boys tennis, Ben Clary, Palmyra boys tennis
Had to go plural here with the freshman award thanks to the splendid rookie campaigns of Tull and Clary.
Tull teamed with Jack Muraika to win the L-L AAA doubles title, then made a run to the 3A district singles final that also gave him a state tournament berth to show for his freshman campaign.
Clary had a similarly successful freshman season, finishing as the county singles runner-up to Muraika, before capturing the Mid-Penn AAA singles crown and placing third in the 3A district tourney. Clary also qualified for states.
These guys along with Muraika, who had a shoulder injury cut short his sophomore season, are gonna be battling for county, league, district and maybe even state singles titles before their careers are over.
Best win: Lebanon Catholic softball
It had been almost six years and 105 games since the Lebanon Catholic softball team had tasted victory when it stepped onto the field at Antietam on May 10.
Or, as the Beavers decided, long enough. Shaking off the burden of constant losing, Catholic finally got back in the win column, routing Antietam 24-6 for its first victory since May 26, 2011.
Best sport: Track and Field
Success in track and field in the county wasn't limited to the exploits to Hess and Jones, that's for sure.
Although no county squad won a team championship outside of the Lebanon County meet, the locals more than made their presence felt. Most notably at the District 3 meet, where county athletes walked away with a total of eight individual championships.
Best moment: Adam Sauerwein, Lebanon High baseball
A rare medical condition has kept Adam Sauerwein from being an on-field contributor to the Lebanon High baseball team, but on May 11 that all changed when Lebanon coach Mike Toomey put Sauerwein's name on his lineup card for the first time in the Cedars' regular season finale.
Facing crosstown rival Cedar Crest, Sauerwein contributed one hit in two at-bats in a 20-14 Lebanon loss after being a surprise addition to the lineup that day.
But it was more about the opportunity - and the goodwill shown by both Lebanon and Cedar Crest that allowed it to happen - than the outcome for Sauerwein, who was rewarded for his off-field dedication to the team with an opportunity to enjoy the spotlight on the field for a short time.
Safe to say, it was a moment that he and all who were a part of it won't soon forget.