The season jumped into high gear for the Elizabethtown Area High School baseball team, as they trounced Lebanon 12-0 in five innings via the mercy rule at Lebanon’s Coleman Memorial Park on Tuesday, March 27.
“It feels good to start the season off so well,” head coach Bill Templin said. “Early in the game, we had some timid approaches to the plate, trying to see some pitches but also putting ourselves in holes. It was good to see the guys start to come around. It’s only the second or third time we’ve seen live pitching this year, so it’s an adjustment. But I was pleased with the results.”
Senior pitcher Chad Caley got the win, striking out five batters and allowing just one hit in 3? innings, with junior Nick Kreider pitched the final 1? to finish things off. Elizabethtown had no fielding errors and allowed just two baserunners all game.
“All of our pitchers have the same approach,” Templin said. “We’re gonna attack the strike zone with the pitch counts that we have. They’re good enough where they can throw into the zone and let the defense play behind them. We’re not necessarily looking for strikeouts, but we’re gonna throw strikes. I want to put them in positions where they have to swing at our pitch. Hopefully, they then hit a ground ball into the infield, and that’s an out for us.”
The 12 runs came in three bursts across the second, fourth and fifth innings. Senior Austin Denlinger led the team with 3 RBIs, and a total of nine players scored runs for Elizabethtown. They helped themselves by getting 4 steals on the basepath and trying for extra bases on hits.
“We work on being aggressive in our baserunning a lot,” Templin said. “There’s like nine things that have to go right in order to throw somebody out from the outfield. You gotta have a catch, a transfer, a throw and a tag, and the umpire also has to see it the right way. We’re always gonna err on the side of being aggressive. We’re gonna get some guys thrown out, but it happens, and it puts the other team on their heels. They can’t ever take a breath, and if you hit a single to center with a guy on first, all of a sudden, that runner’s around second, and we get an extra base out of it.”
Still, the team can’t get too confident yet. Kreider was the lone batter to have more than one hit, and Elizabethtown was able to do a lot of their damage through Lebanon’s mistakes. The latter had a number of mental errors and ended up having to play four pitchers. On the other hand, the Bears had a few lofty hits despite the poor weather conditions.
“I think we had a good approach,” Templin said. “Chad hit a ball into right on the screws. Austin hit a similar one to left-center, and the centerfielder had to make a heck of play to get the out. Richie hit a couple of hard ones, including the one where the third baseman misplayed it. As the weather warms up, they’re gonna hit a little bit further and carry a little bit more. I’m confident that we’ll put balls in play, and our aggressive baserunning will help with that too.”
There was a light drizzle for most of the game, and temperatures hovered around the high 30s and low 40s. The contest had already been postponed from the previous day due to the weather, so the fact that Elizabethtown was able to dominate as thoroughly as they did says a lot about their preparation.
“Everybody’s cold and stiff,” Templin said with a chuckle. “The guys coming off the bench don’t have a lot of time to warm up. Baseball’s not supposed to be played when you have three pairs of pants on. The good thing is we’ve been outside quite a bit at practice. We’ve talked about how to layer and dress. You’re gonna have to take some extra time to get loose.”
The game is the first of a back-to-back-to-back series for Elizabethtown, with Manheim Central and Central York next on the schedule. They played the former three times last season, so it’ll be quite a familiar matchup for them this year.
“We have a pretty good plan as far as managing our pitchers go,” Templin said. “We knew we were gonna be playing three days in a row. Once we get into the heart of the season, we’ll be playing every other day. Sometimes, it’ll be four in five days. It’s just high school baseball.”