ELIZABETHVILLE – No team wants to see its season end in painful, walk-off fashion. That fear lives especially with the Annville-Cleona baseball team, which experienced that reality first-hand last season against Upper Dauphin.
The Little Dutchmen were given a chance to re-write that script a year later, again on the stage of the District 3 Class AA playoffs – even at the same ballpark where last year’s brutal ending occurred.
Once again though, the Little Dutchmen found themselves in the same situation – a tie ball game in the bottom of the seventh. And with an RBI single by Drake Lenker, A-C was handed déjà vu all over again, as they fell to the Trojans in walk-off fashion to end their season with a 2-1 loss Thursday in quarterfinal action.
“That kid did a great job. All the credit goes to him in a tough pressure situation with the game on the line,” said Little Dutchmen coach Scott Shyda. “He did what he needed to do out there.”
Not only is it a nightmare for A-C to lose yet again on a walk-off to the same team, in the same ball park, on the same stage – but to have the winning run reach base because of a self-inflicted wound.
Lenker was set up for the game-winning opportunity after Connor Deitrich started the inning by reaching on an infield single, then advanced to second on a throwing error. Deitrich then moved to third on another infield single by Kolby Bond. After the Little Dutchmen pulled out a double-play off a fly-out to right - picking off the runner at first for not getting back to the base in time - Lenker came through to win it with his walk-off to left.
“I honestly thought he was coming with a curveball first pitch, but I was hitting fastball and then I adjusted to the curve,” Lenker said. “I was lucky enough to hit at the right time.”
Lenker also helped close out the game on the mound in a big way, not allowing a hit in the final two innings in relief of starter Kyler Glouner.
Although the Trojans’ game-winning scenario was jump-started by an error, A-C’s strength all season has come from pitching and defense, which again kept it in this one. Ace Mitch Long led the way, throwing a complete game, allowing two runs on eight hits, while not walking anyone and striking out four.
“They did what they needed to do to keep us in a position to win. I’m very proud of our pitcher, he did a great job out there,” Shyda said. “But our hitting just isn’t where it needs to be in these one-run losses. That’s what happens.”
His team couldn't cash in with runners in scoring position – something that’s plagued the Little Dutchmen all season.
A-C left runners at first and second stranded in the fifth, then left Tyler Schrader at second in the sixth, when he reached base after being hit by a pitch and moved to second on a groundout.
“The last bunch of times we’ve lost we haven’t gotten a key hit,” Shyda said. “They also made the plays they needed to make in the field, so hats off to them (Upper Dauphin) there, and we end up losing a one-run game as a result.”
The lone run from the Little Dutchmen came off Schrader’s bat, which gave A-C a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the first. The Trojans tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single from Calen Reigner, making the Little Dutchmen pay for advancing Kyle Glouner to second on a wild pitch. Glouner was then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Aaron Cleveland.
A-C ends the season 13-8, after reaching the postseason as the Section Four runners-up – a year to certainly build off of, but hopefully not have yet another dramatically tough ending.
“I told the kids I’m proud of them. Looking back at this year, they had a very good year. A couple of those games could’ve gone our way and they didn’t,” Shyda said. “Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve enjoyed a good year with these kids and I will miss not being with them every day.”
Annville-Cleona 1000000 – 1-3-1
Upper Dauphin 0001001 – 2-8-1
WP: Drake Lenker 0 K, 0 BB
Kyler Glouner 3 K, 4 BB
LP: Mitch Long 4 K, 0 BB
A-C: Schrader 1-for-2, RBI.
Hunter Long 1-for-2, double
UD: Lenker 2-for-3, double, RBI.
Reigner 2-for-3, RBI.