Behind Miller, Elco survives Lebanon in 9 innings
Fighting for its playoff life, the Elco baseball team could ill afford to be tripped up in Monday's matchup with a struggling Lebanon High team at Coleman Memorial Park.
The Raiders ultimately didn't trip, but they did the spend the better part of the contest dodging the outstretched feet of an upset-minded Cedar squad that was celebrating its Senior Day.
Lebanon threw a significant scare into Elco forcing it into extra innings before the clutch hitting and relief pitching of senior catalyst Cole Miller helped the Raiders prevail, 7-5 in nine innings.
Now 13-5 overall and 9-5 in Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3, Elco entered the day 8th - the top 10 teams qualify - in the District 3 4A power rankings and also still entertaining some faint L-L playoff hopes that were dashed by Garden Spot's 15-3 win at Northern Lebanon.
The Raiders didn't always look like a playoff team on Monday, but answered the bell when it mattered behind Miller's 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and go-ahead RBI triple in the top of the ninth.
"I'm just happy that we were able to find a way to grind that out," Elco coach Chris Weider said. "Nothing's been easy for us throughout the season, it's been a grind and it was that today. I thought we gift-wrapped some runs for them defensively and didn't make adjustments at the plate, so I'm just happy to walk out of here with a 'W'.
The Raiders did indeed aid Lebanon's cause at times, including in the bottom of the first when Lebanon lead-off hitter Cam Shaak reached on a strikeout-wild pitch, stole second, moved to the third on an errant pick-off throw and scored the game's first run on Raylin Pena's groundout.
Elco would finally get going with three runs in the fourth, highlighted by Tyler Price's RBI squeeze bunt and Kyle Knight's sac fly, but Lebanon, despite its now 4-13 overall record and 3-12 Section 3 mark, would stay in the thick of the fight throughout behind Shaak's three hits and three RBIs and quality relief pitching from Luis Valoria-Polanco.
"It's just a testament to our kids," Lebanon coach Mike Toomey said of his club's effort. "They've battled through a ton of adversity this season. We had to go our bullpen pretty early, but Luis stepped up and did a great job of keeping us in the game, and we had guys step up in big places and make some big hits. But we didn't do enough right to come out on the winning end today."
The Cedars can, at least in part, blame the hard-throwing Miller for that. After Shaak's RBI infield hit tied the contest at 5-5 in the sixth, Miller took the mound in relief of Price, who had earlier relieved starter Travis Weaver.
Lebanon would not get another hit until Shaak lashed a double to open the bottom of the ninth. Miller also got it done at the plate, scoring Clay Hain with a booming triple to left center to break the tie in the top of the ninth.
"He's definitely the guy we look to," Weidner said of Miller. "Last year, he was our first all-league player in a while, and we've asked him to do a lot this year. He's closed, he's caught, he's played short and he's played third. We've asked the kid to do a lot. He's definitely the heart and soul of our team, and the kid cares a ton."
"We did a pretty good of keeping him off the bases without doing a whole lot of damage for most of the game," Toomey said. "But then he came up at the end there and we left a ball up in the zone and he does what he does best. He hit the ball really well. The kid's got a really bright future in baseball."
The Raiders also got three hits and a pair of RBIs from catcher Hunter Witters and two hits and an RBI from Dane Miller en route to the victory.
"We couldn't lose a ballgame today," Weidner said. "That could have really put a damper on things. But I tip my hat to Lebanon. They came out and did everything they could to possibly beat us today."
Elco 7, Lebanon 5 (9 innings)
Elco 000 320 002 - 7 7 1
Lebanon 100 301 000 - 5 10 3
WP: Miller, LP:
SO-BB — Lebanon: Kissinger – 3ip (3Ks)-(1BBs) Valoria Polanco – 5.2ip (3K)-(4BB), Rodriguez – 0ip (0Ks) (1BB), Deitzler – 0.1ip (0Ks), (0BB) E :Weaver - 5ip (5 K’s) (2BB), Price – 0.1ip (0Ks) – (0BB), Miller – 3.2 (3Ks), (0BB)
2B: L- Vasquez, Shaak
3B: E - Miller