Following a down high school season, the Bears Blue baseball team was looking to rebound during the summer in the Lancaster County Midget Baseball League, with a potential return to the playoffs for the eighth straight year.
However, things got delayed; rain forced a postponement of Bears Blue’s scheduled home opener against Lancaster (McCaskey) on Wednesday, May 29, to Thursday, June 20, and their following game at Hempfield Black on Thursday, May 30, was also postponed indefinitely since Hempfield’s high school team is still in the postseason.
Bears Blue finally kicked the summer off on Monday, June 3, as they hosted Conestoga Valley, who entered the game on a two-game winning streak. That was upended though, as Bears Blue came away with an impressive 8-1 victory off the back of some excellent pitching from Josh Kreider and an offensive onslaught in the third inning.
Both sides were slow to start; Conestoga Valley had just one baserunner in the first two innings off a fielding error. Meanwhile, the Bears loaded the bases in the bottom half of the first off two singles from Jace Bock and Jake Black and a Cael Brandt walk, but CV pitcher Ethan Weaver escaped with a strikeout, later forcing three straight outs in the bottom of the second.
CV threatened Kreider in the top of the third, getting going with a leadoff double from Nick Trott. After Kreider got a strikeout on the next at-bat, Logan Kline and Eddie Hernandez each singled to load the bases, though a nice throw from Bock in centerfield halted Trott at third. Kreider took advantage, wiggling out unscathed by striking out the next batter and forcing a long fly ball to left that Westin Kolaric reeled in for the third out.
The Bears came alive afterward. Kolaric led off the bottom frame with an infield single, stealing second from there. Hunter Stewart singled him over to third, with Bock getting hit by the next pitch to load the bases. Kreider blooped a single through to left, plating Kolaric for the first run.
After a pop out to second, Brandt legged out an infield single that allowed Hunter Stewart to score. Tyler Souders then nailed a hit to right-center, bringing in Bock and courtesy runner Ben Wentling. He and Brandt would come home on a double to the left field fence from AJ Russo, who later scored after a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. In all, the Bears put up 7 runs in the third.
Bryce Behmer led off the fourth in style for CV, blasting a home run over the left-field fence. Airam Conde looked to continue that offense on the first pitch of the following at-bat, sending a hit down the third base line. However, he would be tagged out trying for second after Kolaric connected with Sydney Stewart on a beautiful throw.
Kreider shut CV down from there, with their only baserunner coming on a Conde double in the top of the seventh. He finished with 11 strikeouts overall while allowing 7 hits and an earned run. The Bears defense played a big part as well; Black notably made a diving catch from his spot behind the plate for the first out of the sixth.
The eighth run for the Bears came in the bottom of the fourth after Bock singled, advanced to third off an overthrow and scored on a Black single. They did leave the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth, however, albeit in identical situations (a force at second off a ground ball for the final out).
Bock, Kreider and Black each had 2 hits to lead Bears Blue. The former finished with a game-high 2 runs as well. Souders and Russo tied to lead all players with 2 RBIs. Ten Bears had hits on the day. The score could’ve been even higher; they left 9 runners on base, all with the bases loaded.
Conde led Conestoga Valley with 2 hits, while Behmer had the lone run and RBI thanks to his homer. Weaver left after the third inning, yielding 9 hits and 7 earned runs. Brandon Wingenroth finished out the game from there on the mound, giving up 4 hits, 4 walks and an earned run.
Bears Blue will have to wait a week before their next game. Their scheduled contest for Wednesday, June 5, at SWS (Lampeter-Strasburg) will be played at a later date since L-S will be playing in the PIAA quarterfinals on Thursday, June 6. The Bears are set to host Solanco Gray on Monday, June 10.