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BASEBALL: Lebanon edges Elco on the road, 3-2

MYERSTOWN >> Wins and losses, good innings and bad have come and gone for the Lebanon baseball team, but its huddle, without fail, has remained the same. The Cedars always gather, share a few words and then disperse upon a count to three and this unchanged cry:


Now while the motto, a deliberate, constant acknowledgement of their ongoing climb out of the league basement, will stick as long as the season does, it may need a small tweak. For last week, Lebanon (6-10, 5-8 Section Three) reached its highest season win total in seven years with still weeks to play. And Monday the Cedars upset playoff-hopeful Elco (9-5, 6-5) in a manner that perfectly typified their plucky, prove-it campaign to date.

Inducing a game-ending liner to third base, sophomore Cody Kissinger escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the seventh and handed Lebanon a 3-2 win over the Raiders at Lyle Krall Field. Kissinger allowed four singles, including two in the final frame, while he and his teammates tallied three hits against Elco starter Tyler Horst. Horst had a no-hitter entering the sixth inning, after which the Cedars' bats sprung to life and their gloves, outside of two errors, worked to save the game.

"I was just putting faith in my teammates, making sure I threw strikes," Kissinger said of the late-inning dramatics. "And if they got hit, I hoped my teammates made a play."

Tied at 1-1 in the sixth, Cedars co-captain Austyn Yerger smashed Horst's no-hit bid with a triple and came around to score on Kissinger's sacrifice fly. When the Raiders plated an unearned run in the bottom of the frame, junior Logan Blouch roped the first seventh-inning offering he saw into a go-ahead RBI single. Freshman Dharlim Vasquez, called up from junior varsity two weeks ago, had reached earlier via a double to the right-center field gap.

"He's fearless when he plays. And we have never let a mistake affect what we do next," Lebanon coach Mike Toomey said of Vasquez and the Cedars' earlier errors. "We were able to move forward and get ready to make the next play. Then we came in, kept attacking the baseball and had a big hit to bring them around."

Down by one for the second consecutive inning, Elco watched clean-up man Vinnie Vitelli fly out to right, where Lebanon's Justin Martin atoned for a run-scoring miscue in the sixth by securing the high-hit ball. When the next two Raiders singled to left around a fielder's choice, Horst followed by punching a 3-2 groundball with runners in motion, a blur of a sequence that forced Cedars third baseman William Scaturro to pause. Horst then beat Scaturro's throw over for an infield single, setting a full table for Nate Hostetter.

Hostetter, who had yet to reach base, rocketed Kissinger's final pitch of the day into the mitt of a leaping Scaturro, who didn't hesitate to snap up his second chance at polishing off a win.

Meanwhile, the Raiders were left to lament their third runner stranded just 90 feet away from home plate on a frustrating day offensively.

"We didn't hit. We didn't make an adjustment," Raiders coach Chris Weidner said. "I'm chewing nails down there in the coaches' box because the difference in the game is they hit two balls into the gap and we didn't take that approach and got on our front foot ... but I tip my cap to Kissinger. He did a great job."

Lebanon center fielder Cam Shaak scored an unearned run in the first after drawing a game-opening walk. Elco provided an immediate answer, when Horst clubbed a two-out RBI single in the bottom half of the inning.

The Cedars' victory also avenged a 3-0 home shutout loss to the Raiders suffered four weeks earlier.

"I'm just so proud of these kids," Toomey said. "They had to buy in to what we wanted them to do. It was their choice whether to buy in and every one of them did that. I'm very lucky to be their coach ... This one feels good."

Just as earning respect should.

Lebanon 3, Elco 2

Lebanon100001 1 —3 32
Elco100001 0 —242

W — Kissinger; L — Horst.

SO-BB — L: Kissinger 3-3. E: Horst 3-4.

2B — L: Dharlim Vasquez.

3B — L: Austyn Yerger.