PALMYRA - There is a lot to be said for getting hot at the right time. There is even more to be said for staying that way as the importance of each game increases, i.e., when the postseason arrives.
The Palmyra baseball team carried a seven-game win streak into Tuesday's district playoff opener vs. West York, but had been idle for about a week when it stepped onto its home diamond for the District Three Class AAA first round contest.
Suffice it to say the layoff did nothing to cool down the fifth-seeded Cougars, now proud owners of an eight-game winning streak after a convincing 7-3 triumph at Palmyra Area High School.
Now 15-6 and bound for Thursday's quarterfinal round against No. 13 Spring Grove at 4:30 p.m. at Northern, Palmyra rode Isaac Blatt's 70-pitch complete game and a five-run bottom of the second highlighted by freshman left fielder Jacob Wagner's ice-breaking two-out, two-run double to the defeat of the York-Adams reps, who conclude their season at 10-9.
Conventional wisdom says the Cougars will cool off sooner or later, but a commitment to doing the little things and to each other could mean that day will not arrive in the near future.
"This is the way we've played the last 10-12 games," said veteran Palmyra skipper Tim Gingrich. "Just good defense, playing smart, taking pitches, putting bunts down, pitching. That's a winning combination."
"Just positive attitudes on the bench," said Blatt, who pitched expertly to contact while scattering eight hits and striking out none. "Everybody is wanting to win, and it shows on the field."
It certainly showed in the big bottom of the second, which began with Wagner's bloop two-run double and also included RBI singles by Dylan Spagnolo and Nick DeCarlo and a bases-loaded walk to Zach Yingst that chased West York starter Zach Gettys in favor of Brandon Sheffer after just 1 2/3 innings.
"All with two outs," West York coach Scott Erickson said with a grimace. "Five runs with two outs. Some walks, some hit batters, couple bloop hits. It is what it is. We came from behind our last game, but just couldn't quite pull it back today. When you fall behind 5-0 to a pitcher like that, it's hard to come back."
To its credit, West York made some inroads against Blatt, getting on the board in the fourth on Tyler Seiffert's RBI single, then adding two more in the sixth on run-scoring hits by Colton Kubicky and Sheffer.
But the 5-0 cushion, not to mention the two insurance runs the Cougars added in the fourth on Blatt's RBI single and DeCarlo's sac fly, was more than enough support for Palmyra' lanky right-hander.
"Awesome," Blatt said with a smile, of the substantial run support he received. "Just knowing that I have a lot of runs I don't have to be quite on point and don't have to stress whenever I give up a couple of hits."
"He only threw 70 pitches today. The last time out he only threw 67," Gingrich said. "And the thing is, he didn't really have his curveball or changeup today. It was mainly just fastball, in and out. He just makes 'em swing, and we have a good defense, so more power to it."
It all changed for Palmyra around mid-season, when a stern talking-to from Gingrich following a disheartening loss to Susquehanna Township caused the Cougars to permanently reverse course.
"I had a little meeting, and I think some things needed to be said," Gingrich said. "I think some of it helped. But I think it was also us getting guys in the right position, fielding and hitting. And we brought (Wagner) up from the JV team, and he lit a fire."
It's still burning.