The Cougars rolled behind strong performances from Tyler Julian, Zach Yingst and Isaac Blatt
PALMYRA - Cedar Crest baseball coach Josh Brown has a succinct explanation for why his young team stands in an 0-2 hole to start the season.
"They're not used to winning. We've got to teach them how to win," Brown said. "We've got all the tools to win, but we've got to get over that hump and learn how to."
While it's up to the Falcons to set their own learning course, the opportunity to make a first step was certainly there for the taking Saturday. All they had to do was look straight across the diamond.
Making its season debut, a veteran Palmyra club doubled up Cedar Crest 10-5 behind a trio of strong, upperclassmen performances. Senior hurler Tyler Julian tossed five innings and went 3-for-3 at the dish with three RBIs, while classmate Zach Yingst earned a two-frame save and supplied the Cougars' only extra-base hit. Junior shortstop Isaac Blatt finished 3-for-4 and collected three stolen bases en route to scoring a pair of runs.
Both teams totaled more than a dozen hits and combined for nine errors on an otherwise gorgeous day in the field.
"We put pressure on the defense," Palmyra skipper Tim Gingrich said. "We're not going to hit a lot of home runs or a lot of doubles, so we put the ball in play, steal some bases and get the bunt down."
The Cougars (1-0) never trailed after a single full inning and scored in every frame they batted except the second. Cedar Crest, captained by multi-hit days from sophomore Joe Carpenter and freshman catcher Kyle Poorman, never came closer to a lead than in the top of the fifth, when Julian took his curtain call with a punch-out that stranded runners at second and third.
"My fastball was feeling pretty good. But I had started off-speed, so I ended with the fastball to catch him off-guard," Julian said. "I actually prefer to throw a fastball on that last pitch, if I can."
The Falcons consequently trailed 6-5 heading into the home half of the frame, only to allow another run and then three more in the bottom of the sixth amid a couple of errors.
"We just didn't make the fundamental plays," Brown said. "Mental mistakes, they're going to kill you."
Three straight run-scoring hits from Julian, Yingst and Evan Hollowell jump-started Palmyra to a 4-1 advantage in the bottom of the third. But Poorman was quick to answer in the next half-inning, following an RBI single by Cedar Crest third baseman Juan Espinosa with a two-RBI double to center field.
And while Palmyra's ensuing barrage of game-winning hits served well for a happy home opener, there was another aspect of the Cougars' performance that better hit home for Yingst.
"The team came together," the senior said. "Last year was a bit of a struggle. We had a good amount of wins, but we weren't really confident in ourselves, so just to see the team confident and together as a big family was pretty cool."