York, PA -
A glance up and down Red Lion's baseball lineup will produce few seniors. Coach Darren Hake laughed about it following the Lions' 11-5 win on a cold, sometimes sunny, other times sleet-filled Wednesday against West York.
Last spring, Hake's club had only a handful of seniors, too.
"We are going through a rebuilding process," Hake said, "and it's one of those things where you're finally starting to see some of these guys come up. You know, I really believe we have the potential to have a great year, but I think some of our best years are ahead of us, to be honest."
Hake would have been hard pressed to find a better YAIAA opponent to open the season than defending Class AAA state champion West York. The Bulldogs (0-1) were sharp early, taking a 1-0 lead on clean-up hitter Cole Bixler's ground-rule double deep to center at Red Lion's Horn Field.
Bixler scored Brandon Kinneman, who had yet to take the mound. When Kinneman did, he was opened just as strong and struck out two in his first inning. However, his 25 first-inning pitches caught up to him in the second, where he didn't escape until throwing another 37 times.
And Hake's young Lions scored three times, with junior catcher Drew Landis' two-out, two-run single putting them up for the rest of the day.
"This win means a lot, not just to me but to the team," said Landis, who was 2-for-3 with a walk and later scored twice in the fifth inning.
Wednesday's opener played like a pitching duel for the first four innings. Then, West York pulled within 3-2 in the top of the fifth. Landis led off the bottom half with a double to kick-start an eight-run effort that ended with Brady Taylor stranded at second base as the potential mercy-rule run.
Taylor, a junior center fielder, finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs that came in his two sixth-inning at-bats.
"As much as I love focusing on Drew Landis, having someone behind him like Brady Taylor, it's tougher to pitch around Drew," Hake said.
All nine Red Lion batters scored Wednesday. Of those nine, only second baseman Kyle Knisely is a senior -- and a first-year starting senior at that.
Hake might have an embarrassment of youthful riches at his disposal, and it starts with his pitcher-and-catcher combination. While Landis is in his third season behind the plate, sophomore pitcher Scott Rissler took the ball plenty of times as a freshman.
He nearly didn't see his first start through as a sophomore when the third inning opened with a comebacker that struck him on his belt. Rissler twirled to the ground in pain. Panic fell over the field, as West York coach Roger Czerwinski immediately rushed from his third-base position to call time and attend to Rissler before Bulldogs batter Brandon Wetzel even reached first base.
"I didn't want to come out of the game," Rissler said. "That's all I was thinking."
The sophomore got back up after a few minutes and threw off the mound. He quickly got three outs to shake off the mishap, as Hake repeatedly told him not to sit down between innings.
The coach had one of his seniors, Cody Godfrey, ready to replace Rissler. But Godfrey didn't have to enter until the sixth, when Rissler reached 108 pitches after loading the bases. West York put a dent in the deficit, but not enough to derail a team that hasn't lost a regular-season league game at Horn Field since artificial turf was installed before last year.
"I just think we wanted to show them what we have," Landis said. "We're here to defend our turf."
RED LION 11, WEST YORK 5
West York 100 013 0 -- 5 6 2
Red Lion 030 080 x -- 11 11 1
West York, Brandon Kinneman, Eric Zearfoss (5) and Cole Bixler; Red Lion, Scott Rissler, Cody Godfrey (6) and Drew Landis. SO-BB -- WY, Kinneman 6-1, Zearfoss 3-1; RL, Rissler 3-6, Godfrey 1-3. W -- Rissler. L -- Kinneman. 2B --WY, Cole Bixler; RL, Brady Taylor (2), Landis.