No crack of the bat nor thud of the glove will ever resonate quite as loudly as the statement the Lebanon baseball team made Thursday.
A new era of Cedars baseball has arrived.
Knocking off rival Cedar Crest for the first time since 1994, Lebanon won its season opener, 6-5, behind a complete game from starter Cody Kissinger. The junior hurler survived a potential game-winning home run off the bat of Falcons sophomore Joe Carpenter that instead died on the warning track with one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the seventh.
Upon inducing a groundout in the next at-bat from Nate Cavic, who had previously been 3-for-3, Lebanon program history was alive, well and jumping for joy across the infield grass.
"I think this game really proved something to teams around the league that we're for real this year," said Cedars senior Logan Blouch, who scored the game-winning run. "We're ready."
Lebanon was undoubtedly ready from the outset Thursday, plating three runs off Cedar Crest starter Brett Bawiec in the top of the first. Kissinger opened with an RBI single to right, a feat Cedars left fielder Cam Shaak duplicated two at-bats later for a 3-0 lead. Shaak tied Falcons sophomore Chad Ryland with a game-high two RBIs, which Shaak owed to a first-pitch Bawiec offering left up in the zone.
"We left some balls up today," first-year Cedar Crest coach Josh Brown said. "We've just got to work harder in practice, and I'll take that responsibility as the coach."
Faced with a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the fourth, the Falcons first got on the board during their second look at Kissinger, who surrendered a double to Cavic before consecutive RBI hits to Ethan Stickler and Ryland. Then, in the following half-inning, Blouch erased Cedar Crest's efforts by smoking a two-out, run-scoring triple to center and later plating himself on a wild pitch for a 6-2 edge.
The Falcons pushed back, though, scoring thrice in the bottom of the fifth via a string of singles around a critical Lebanon error with two outs. Only an ensuing, Kissinger-induced grounder to third kept Cedar Crest from evening the score.
"I can't say enough about this team and these players," Cedars skipper Mike Toomey said. "The one thing I'm most proud of is we continued to fight through a lot of the adversity and errors. And some of that was lessons we learned last year."
And then it was a clutch Shaak catch in the seventh again denying the Falcons a tied game, after Kissinger thought he might've just given it away.
"I let go of that one," Kissinger said of his final pitch to Carpenter, "and as soon as he hit it, I thought it was ..."
Except it wasn't. Only the final scare of a thriller few following local baseball will forget anytime soon.
"It's as big a win as you're going to find this early in the season," Toomey said.
The key word, of course, being early. Because these aren't the same old Cedars anymore.