FREDERICKSBURG - They entered as the county's two best ball clubs from the tail end of 2015.
And Northern Lebanon and Palmyra could very well be on that same track back to the top again this spring.
But only one could make the claim of king of the hill when they shared a field Thursday. Thankfully for the Cougars, they had Zach Yingst toeing the rubber and plenty of support behind him.
Fourteen hits and a strong start from Yingst helped Palmyra spoil the Vikings' home opener with a 7-4 showdown blown open by a big sixth inning. Yingst threw six strong frames, allowing only a single hit through the first five, while the Cougars (2-1) ran Northern Lebanon sophomore Michigan Daub from the mound late.
"Today we were more aggressive at the plate," Palmyra coach Tim Gringrich said. "After the first two innings, I thought we did a lot better. We had some really key hits with guys on."
Palmyra's Dylan Spagnolo and Tyler Julian each knocked out a pair of extra-base hits and finished 3-for-4. Ahead 1-0 in the sixth, Julian sparked the Cougars' offensive explosion with a leadoff double later followed by a series of bunts the Vikings (2-1) failed to convert into outs. Daub's last straw proved to be a surrendered suicide squeeze with the bases loaded, which drew a 4-0 Palmyra lead and his curtain call after an otherwise solid outing.
"I was pleased with the way he threw," Northern Lebanon coach Daryl Hess said of his starter. "I thought he threw with good velocity, and his breaking stuff wasn't bad. It's just unfortunate those things happened there, but I thought he did a nice job."
Thanks in part to Spagnolo, the Cougars scored three more insurance runs before the frame closed, which served their purpose perfectly over the next two innings. For Vikings catcher Chase Dubendorf clubbed an RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth, and Northern Lebanon scored twice more off Palmyra reliever Brandon Charochak in the seventh.
But the day still ultimately belonged to the black and orange, whose new-found offense has jump-started another strong campaign.
"It helps in the long run," Spagnolo said of providing run support. "It saves our pitchers' arms, gets us some extra runs and we avoid the close games where our guys have to go seven innings."