PALMYRA - A sign of effort and sacrifice, the dirt-coated jersey is baseball's clearest and most enduring badge of honor.
Such badges were scattered across the Palmyra dugout post-game Monday, clothing a group of strangely dispirited ball players. For after seven full innings, these Cougars would've been happy to trade their individual dirty laundry for a far cleaner team performance.
Five errors and a smattering of early walks sullied a gorgeous afternoon outside Palmyra Area High School, where the Cougars fell behind quickly in a 7-1 defeat to first-place Susquehanna Twp. The Indians (7-2, 7-2 Mid Penn Keystone) amassed 10 hits and scored in every inning but two, while turning in a spotless defensive performance. Palmyra (6-5, 4-5) did little to aid starter Zach Yingst, who allowed five runs in as many innings, only three of which were earned.
Susquehanna Twp. pounced immediately via Austin Dressler's RBI single in the top of the first and three more runs in the next two frames.
"Oh my God, they played unbelievable," Cougars coach Tim Gingrich said of the Indians. "We had a couple opportunities to cut (the deficit) and just didn't get a key hit. They took advantage of walks; we didn't. They didn't make an error; we did."
Susquehanna Twp. right fielder Keavon McCurry reached base in all four of his plate appearances, knocked in a pair of runs and scored once himself. McCurry also snared a couple of potential hits, a boast every Indians' outfielder could make on the afternoon.
"Our outfield did a great job, and we've got a lot of speed in our outfield," Susquehanna Twp. skipper Rob Martin said. "Defense kept the lead."
Brandon Charochak's RBI single to left accounted for Palmyra's lone run, which jogged across in the bottom of the second for a 3-1 deficit. The Indians then answered immediately by bringing home Dressler in the third, after he'd reached on a error that started with a simple comebacker to the mound.
Trailing again by three, the Cougars stranded a pair of runners in the third and fourth, before surrendering another run in Yingst's farewell frame and two more amid an handful of late errors.
The loss almost certainly dropped Palmyra out of contention for a division title.
"We just need to focus on getting wins to try and get in the playoffs at this point," Gingrich said. "I'm not so much worried about winning the division as much as us coming out and playing the best baseball we can each game. And if we do that, we've got a good chance at winning."