As a trying season near its end, the Elizabethtown Area High School baseball team had a prime chance to close things on a positive note with a win in a tight game. Unfortunately for the Bears, they were unable to pull out the victory.
The team went to Susquehannock on Wednesday, May 8, for its regular-season finale. The Warriors, fired up after holding their Senior Day festivities, quickly fell back to earth as they were unable to produce any offense thanks to senior Elizabethtown pitcher Michael Baker, who allowed just one walk and struck out a whopping 7 batters through the first three innings of the game.
The Bears were only marginally better at the plate themselves, though, managing just two singles during the same period. They did score first, however; with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, senior Nick Kreider came in on a wild pitch to give Elizabethtown the lead, though Susquehannock the frame with a strikeout and a pickoff at third base.
The Warriors finally came to life in the bottom frame, quickly loading the bases themselves with a walk, a hit by pitch and a single. Baker limited the damage, however, allowing just a sacrifice fly to left from freshman Scott Denis that tied the game up at 1-1.
A leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth from junior Joe Gusherowski chased Baker, with senior Cole Patrick coming on in relief. Following a walk, Susquehannock went up 2-1 when a throw to first off a sacrifice bunt was high, allowing Gusherowski to score.
Down a run, Elizabethtown had two chances to equal the score in the final two innings. Senior Cole Livingston reached second in the sixth with a single and a Kreider walk, but none of the following three batters were able to hit him home. In the top of the seventh, senior Luke Adams nailed a two-out single to keep his team alive, but a deep fly out to center allowed Susquehannock to escape with the win.
The Warriors had just 2 hits on the day, split between Gusherowski and junior Owen Bortner. The former scored a run as well, as did senior Noah Miller. Junior Sam Gardner got the win in relief, striking out 6 batters and giving up just 2 hits during the final three innings. Fellow junior CJ Munch started the game, lasting four innings and allowing 3 hits in addition to 3 strikeouts.
Adams and senior Hunter Murry had 2 hits each to lead all players and makeup 4 of Elizabethtown’s 5 hits. Baker went four innings on the mound, giving up 2 hits and an earned run while striking out 7 batters. Patrick didn’t allow a hit during the final two innings.
The loss put the Bears’ final record at 5-15 for 2019, a major drop from 10-10 the year before. While Elizabethtown had to deal with a tough schedule (as of Tuesday, May 14, 11 of their games were against eight playoff teams), the team as a whole struggled in tight situations; the Bears lost six games by a total of 3 runs or less.
“I counted 13 games that I felt we had the opportunity to win,” head coach Herb Miller said. “The difference between a 5-15 and a 15-5 season are minimal things, but that’s baseball. Hopefully, the younger kids learn from it. The seniors can’t get it back, but they were there. They got down to the last out and were still fighting. I got to appreciate that. That’s good stuff. As far as the season goes, it’s set now. We as coaches have to take a step forward and do a better job. The whole program is now at a spot where we can do all the little things to get those Ws.”
Next season will be a huge transitional period for the Bears, considering that they’re losing eight seniors to graduation. While two (Adams and Javan Thomas) were new to varsity this year, the other six (Baker, Kreider, Livingston, Murry, Patrick and Kyle Welch) have been with the program since entering high school.
They were statistical leaders as well. Welch shined at the plate, leading the team in batting average (.365) and hits (23) while sharing the high in RBIs (9) and runs (8). Livingston tied him in the latter, finishing second in hits (16) and third in both batting average (.291) and RBIs (6). Meanwhile, Patrick, Kreider and Baker combined for all but two starts at pitcher.
“There’s a ton of talent sitting there, so I’m losing that to start with,” Miller said. “But I think everybody else looks up to those guys. The season was going to go as far as that core group took us. It was a lot of firsts. Cole Livingston was standing at shortstop for the first time. Luke and Welchie did the same at second and third. Those three arms at pitcher were pretty much carrying us. What it comes down was that we didn’t get those hits. You don’t win many baseball games when you only score one run. But they didn’t go up there with their heads down; they went up fighting, digging and clawing. That’s all you can ask for.”
Compared to this year’s senior class, Elizabethtown will have just two (juniors Zach Malone and Matthew Ramsey) set to return in 2020, though both had some bright moments. Ramsey was dependable in the outfield, while Malone came on strong on the mound late in the year; he wound up leading the team with a 3.23 ERA.
Outside of those two, however, there’s just one player who was apart of the regular lineup: sophomore Jake Black, who tied Welch with a team-high 9 RBIs. Mainly the designated hitter this season, he figures to take over for Murry at catcher. Among the rest of the sophomores and freshmen, 11 saw playing time, but the majority didn’t actually start.
One thing working in the Bears’ favor is the sheer size of the underclassmen group. The program currently has 12 sophomores and 11 freshmen to develop over the next few seasons. If just a few of those players can take a leap before next year, Elizabethtown could very well return to competitive play. However, if the Bears want that happen, they’ll have to improve their hitting; they finished with just 61 total runs as a team (an average of just over 3 per game) and an overall batting average of .238.
“We talked a lot about approach,” Miller said. “I’d like to see us get a little more aggressive. I think the sophomores actually are a very aggressive group. They’re not afraid to go up and swing the bat. On varsity, you don’t get the perfect pitch. They got a feel for it by coming up and playing some at this level. They’re getting to a point where they’re gonna step into that cage and work. I’m pretty sure they didn’t care for that feeling; even though a lot of them didn’t get in the game, they understood what those seniors were going through. The work ethic is there, and they know what things to do and not do.”