The Raiders dropped their season opener after completing a long-developing comeback in the seventh inning
HAMBURG - The Elco baseball team waited longer than anyone for seven meaningful innings this spring.
And then, through their patented, grinding approach to the game, they earned one more.
But win No. 1, that will still have to wait.
Sunk by the coupling of a leadoff triple from Hamburg's Nick Kuhn and an ensuing error in the bottom of the eighth, the Raiders dropped a 4-3 decision in their season opener. Raiders starter Ben Herb went six innings, allowed two earned runs and left the game with a 3-2 deficit, when Elco (0-1) tied the game in the away half of the seventh on Cole Miller's RBI groundout. Sophomore Clay Hain then took the hill and furnished the first of two 1-2-3 half-innings that followed, leading to his re-entrance in the eighth and Kuhn's decisive shot to right-center.
The Raiders stranded eight runners in their 2016 debut, the first of five games in a seven-day span that picks up next with Monday's home opener against Manheim Central.
"We had guys on base today and we didn't get the big hit," Elco coach Chris Weidner said. "Ben Herb is going to compete. He keeps guys off balance. He pitched well enough for us to win today. We didn't get the key hits when we needed to pick him up."
Raiders co-captain and second baseman Kyle Rosengrant finished with a team-high two hits, including a roped RBI single in the bottom of the sixth that cut the Hawks' lead to one. Rosengrant's liner brought home Aaron Deitz, who had previously reached on an error. Akin to Elco's pairing of outfield near-misses and one infield error over the third, which eased across three Hawks runs, a couple porous Hamburg gloves threw the Raiders a late lifeline.
"They left the door open for us. There's no doubt about that," Weidner said. "So we've got some things we need to talk about for Monday."
Overall, Elco collected eight hits, seven of which came at the expense of Hawks starter Ryan Smith. Smith regularly pounded the zone with his plus fastball, a pitch the Raiders first caught up to in the fourth frame. Making his second plate appearance, Deitz singled to left and, three at-bats later, came around on Rosengrant's initial base knock. However on the same play, Nate Hostetter was cut down at the plate trying to score from second and Elco trailed 3-1 at the game's mid-point.
Miller threw out both Hamburg base stealers in strike-'em-out, throw-.'em-out double plays that ended the second and fifth innings.
Elco ace Cole Blatt is slated to start Monday.