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Coburn, other key pieces help Palmyra find groove

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PALMYRA – After having some key pieces jump into the season late from the basketball state playoffs, the Palmyra baseball team has had a roller coaster start at 5-5 overall.

But carrying a two-game win streak into Thursday’s showdown with rival Hershey, Palmyra was looking to finally start establishing some consistency.

The Cougars did just that, holding off a late Trojan rally for a 3-2 win at Palmyra High School.

With the win, Palmyra (6-5, 5-3) is now all alone in second place, two games behind Lower Dauphin in the Mid Penn Keystone.

What’s helped the Cougars has been the emergence of freshman pitcher Brian Coburn.

Coburn put together another solid outing, going 6.1 innings, allowing both Hershey runs during a seventh-inning rally, on five hits, while striking out three and not walking a single batter. He was actually perfect through four innings.

“Every game before I pitch a pray,” Coburn said. “Then when I start pitching, I know my team has my back, and we just hit and field the ball.”

Though the exact end results may not show it from this game alone, it’s been a dominating run by Palmyra’s emerging young arm.

Coburn’s performance followed an outing April 13 at CD East that saw him take a no-hitter into the seventh inning, leading to a 1-0 Palmyra win. Add that up and Coburn has allowed just two earned runs over his last 16 innings.

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For a freshman pitcher on the varsity level, it’s certainly an impressive stretch, but Coburn can’t really put a finger on how he’s been able to stay so composed.

“I don’t know. I’m used to pitching, having done it a lot over the years,” Coburn said. “I’m having a good time.”

“Brian has been exceptional for three games in a row,” Palmyra coach Neil Weber said. “What he does really well is command the strike zone with two or three pitches. For a freshman, he’s got a lot of guts and he’s not scared to compete. He’s been big for us all year.”

While Coburn was dealing on the mound, those late-arriving key pieces have begun settling in nicely, coming up huge in this particular game.

Braden Vernet got Palmyra on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a sac fly, followed by Carl Reigle’s RBI single in the fifth to make it a 2-0 game. Reigle also played a factor in the Cougars’ third run, inadvertently getting involved in a pickle between first and second, allowing Dylan Spagnolo to score. Vernet also earned the save.

Another aspect that had plagued Palmyra’s start to the year was finishing just 1-3 in one-run games.

Now having won three straight, with the third coming against its rival, and the fact it was a one-run game, makes it the perfect building block for the Cougars to finally get on a run.

“It’s just playing better defense,” Weber said. “You look back and think we should have pulled a couple of those out, but we didn’t. So all we could do was take care of the game in front of us. I think for us, it’s just coming together, getting the reps and getting our timing. I feel like we’re starting to become the team we thought we’d be.”

While things appear to be looking up for Palmyra, it’s looks to be the exact opposite for Hershey (6-4, 4-3), having now lost three of its last four. The Trojans also have to overcome a rare mid-season coaching change, after Hershey athletic director Scott Govern removed second-year coach Shane Zellers.

Al Fricke, who was the Trojans' coach for eight seasons through 2010, took over as the interim coach Thursday.

“Scott called me this morning asking if I could fill in the rest of the season, saying the coach was let go … I want to say it happened this morning. That’s all I know,” Fricke said. “I coached three or four of the kids before, so I’m familiar with some of them. I’ll do the best I can. I think we have some nice kids. I learned a lot today from watching them play, and we’ll go forward from there."