See the top five plays as the Raiders cruise past the Vikings, 14-5, Wednesday. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
FREDERICKSBURG – Feeding off last season’s thrilling postseason run, the Elco baseball team knew coming into the season it can, in fact, compete in a highly competitive Section 3.
So far, the Raiders are definitely proving themselves, standing alone a top Section 3, remaining unbeaten with a dominating 14-5 win over country rival Northern Lebanon on Wednesday at Northern Lebanon High School.
But it hasn’t been all easy for Elco.
After a tight 9-6 win over Cocalico last Friday, the Raiders found themselves trailing 4-1 early to the Vikings, before taking advantage of four NL errors to come back and eventually break the game open.
Seeing his team - now 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Section 3 play - pull out two of those types of wins, Elco coach Chris Weidner says his team has shown signs of great character.
Weidner said, “We again showed what we can do to battle through adversity. Over the course of a few ball games, you’re going to face that and need to dig deep. I think both those wins - where we had to hold on against Cocalico, and today (Wednesday) we’re down - we didn’t shrink. It’s mental toughness. It helps watching our team over the long haul grow in times of adversity.”
At the core of the Raiders' hot start is living the team motto - coming together as a “TRIBE.”
“I think we have that bond,” Elco senior Cole Miller said. “I think we can win more ball games by doing that.”
It’s been a white-hot start at the plate for the Raiders, who have scored 51 runs, averaging 10.5 per game.
Miller was responsible for three of his team’s runs Wednesday, including a scorching solo home run in the top of the first, his first of the season.
“My coaches kept telling me to stay back and I actually did that. It shows to listen to them,” Miller said. “It boosts my confidence and our team confidence as well.”
It also didn’t hurt having some help from some critical Vikings mistakes, triggering four-run innings in the second and fourth and a three-run fifth.
The Vikings (3-2, 0-2) find themselves in an early hole in the standings, still searching for the first section win, and trying to snap a two-game skid.
NL coach Daryl Hess says it’s up to his team leaders to step up and make sure this slide doesn’t continue.
“We just have to go out and get a win. That’s the first thing,” Hess said. “We have the kids here that can do it. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it, and that starts Friday (at Cocalico).”
Elco on the other hand, looks poised to stay on top, but knows there will be plenty more games where it has to be ready to battle.
“There’s not a gimme game in Section 3,” Weidner said. “It builds confidence for us, there’s no doubt about it, but we know every game is going to be a grind.”
That also means the Raiders are far from calling themselves the best team in the section; Weidner still handed that to the team that beat them for the section crown last season.
“I’m not going to say that, no. It’s way too early in the season,” he said. “I’m happy where we’re at and we’re just going to keep working to get better. I honestly still think Manheim Central is still the strongest team on paper, but we hope when the dust settles come May, we’re there competing for that spot. Right now, we’re putting ourselves into the belief we can do that.”