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BASEBALL: Elco rallies late past Northern Lebanon, 4-3

MYERSTOWN>> For a relatively young and inexperienced baseball team, Elco is rapidly developing a habit of pulling out games at the end.

Catcher Austin Rueppel's sixth-inning double lifted the Raiders to a 4-3 win over Northern Lebanon on chilly Wednesday afternoon in L-L League Section Three play at Lyle Krall Field.

Northern Lebanon opened a 3-0 lead after two innings and with ace Wyatt Beakler on the mound, appeared well on its way to victory. A pair of Viking errors in the fourth inning gave Elco life, and the Raiders responded by pushing across two runs in the fourth and one each in the fifth and sixth, despite collecting only six hits.

"That's the way our games have been going," Elco coach Chris Weidner said. "Of our first five games, every one but one came down to one run. We just keep believing and grinding away. We're picking up some character-building wins for as young and inexperienced we are."

Rueppel, a senior, is a good example, Weidner said.

"This was Austin's biggest hit of his career," Weidner said. "He's a senior with limited varsity experience. We normally DH for him, except for when (Cole) Blatt is pitching. Cole pitched today, and Austin came up with the game-winning hit."

Blatt, a junior left-hander, dug a hole in the first inning when he gave up consecutive singles to Beakler, Chase Dubendorf and Jordan Nichols for Northern Lebanon's first run. But after walking Isaac Wengert to load the bases, he got Luke Sonnen on strikes to end the threat.

The Vikings made it 3-0 in the second inning on the first of two Seth Walmer doubles and walks to Hayden Johnson and Beakler. Dubendorf then delivered a two-run single, before Blatt got Wengert on a pop to first.

Travis Zimmerman gained life in Elco's fourth on a lead-off grounder to third that was bobbled for Northern Lebanon's first error. Vinnie Vitelli, another Raiders senior with limited experience, reached base on an error, before Aaron Dietz and Rueppel hit back-to-back singles to drive in a pair.

In Elco's fifth frame, senior Jack Mays drilled a double and eventually scored on a Zimmerman grounder to short. The Vikings had a good chance to take the lead a half-inning earlier, when Walmer led off with a double, but was picked off in a rundown when an apparent bunt play misfired.

The win improved Elco's record to 5-1 on the year and 4-1 in league play, while Northern Lebanon slipped to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in league.

"Elco just kept battling back," Northern Lebanon coach Daryl Hess said. "In our past few games, we left a lot of runners on base, and today it came back to bite us."


W — Blatt; L — Beakler

SO-BB — NL: Beaker 7-2, E: Blatt 3-4.

2B — NL: Walmer 2. E: Mays, Rueppel