Missed opportunities and errors proved to be costly for the Strasburg Tigers in a key Inter-Valley Conference showdown with Garaway in Strasburg on Monday, March 27.
Despite a Strasburg comeback bid after falling behind by four runs, the Pirates were able to utilize the savvy presence of freshman pitcher Josh Yoder to hang on to collect a 5-4 victory.
Trailing 1-0, Garaway plated three runs in a second inning production that saw the Pirates take advantage of a pair of Strasburg errors. A single by Ben Koshmider began the inning, and with two outs Peyton Miller delivered a run-scoring single. B.J. Schwartz then delivered an infield single before two errors allowed two runs to score, and Garaway had a lead it would not relinquish, despite Strasburg starter Gino Schupbach deserving a better fate.
The Tigers committed six errors on the night, which led to some costly unearned runs that put a damper on Schupbach’s complete-game effort.
“We struggled to make plays,” Strasburg coach Mike Becker said. “It’s a frustrating way to lose. You’d kind of like to hope that with a veteran team like this we would step up and make plays, but we didn’t. But it is early, and those things will get better. I thought Gino was as efficient as always, but we didn’t help him out defensively. He had to get some extra outs, and he still finished with only around 90 pitches.”
Not that things wouldn’t get a little bit hairy for the Pirates as the Tigers fought back.
After Quinn Miller and Ryan Aleshire built the Garaway lead to 5-1, Strasburg finally started to solve Garaway hurler Trey Hershberger. With Schupbach and Mitch Neidenthal leading the way, Strasburg began pecking away, and Jay Dibacco’s double got the Tigers closer.
In the top of the fifth, the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out, and down by just one run, Garaway coach Justin Elmore turned to a freshman to squelch the rally.
In stepped Jordan Yoder, who pulled off a Houdini act in getting out of trouble with his team still up by a run. The freshman then sailed through the final two innings to preserve the 5-4 victory.
“It felt good, and these guys trusted me to get the job done, and that was all I needed,” Yoder said. “My only thought was throw strikes and don’t blow it. I knew if I trusted my defense I’d be fine.”
Yoder closed out Garaway’s 8-3 victory over Canton Central Catholic two days earlier, so it helped having at least that experience to lean on.
“We knew from day one on Feb. 20 that he was going to be able to help us,” Elmore said of Yoder. “We trust him, and hopefully he is learning that we trust him. I told him in the huddle he is going to be in these kinds of spots, and he comes in and throws strikes. He has grown up quickly, but he has such a calm and quiet demeanor, that nothing seems to rattle him.”
While the game was tight, both coaches said their respective teams would have benefited greatly from a timely hit or two, as both clubs left runners on base at an alarming clip.
“We took advantage of some small all to score our runs, but we left plenty of guys on base, and we feel like our bats are going to come around,” Elmore said.
“We left a small village on base tonight,” lamented Becker. “We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had. We put pressure on them all game long, but we couldn’t come up with anything when we really needed it.”
With Strasburg falling to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in Inter-Valley Conference play, while the Pirates improved to 2-1 and 1-0, Becker said he hopes that his team can learn from this experience, but he added that this is one of those games that can bite you at the end of the year. But that is the way baseball sometimes goes this early in the year.”
“You look back at the end of the year, and you’re trying to compete for the league and for a tournament seed, and you wish you had one more win,” Becker said.
Elmore said that having faced a solid veteran club like Strasburg and a perennial powerhouse in Canton Central Catholic in a double-header, and having come out at 2-1, gives his coaching staff some good insight into his team this season. “We’ve measured ourselves in the first couple of days of the season against some really good competition, and I like what I see,” Elmore said. “We held our own against Canton Central Catholic, then to come here against a talented team that returned a ton was very rewarding. And that was the first time in seven tries that we have beaten Central Catholic. We have found out a ton about ourselves. We’re kind of an old-school baseball team.”
Miller and Aleshire each hit two singles to lead Garaway, while the Tigers were paced by Schupbach and Mitch Neidenthal, who each spanked a single and a double, while DiBacco added a double.
While Strasburg’s one-run loss amidst six errors was troubling, that may pale in comparison to possibly losing a bigger part of the puzzle. Senior pitcher/first baseman J.T. McCracken was on crutches after a mishap in the Tigers’ win over the Tusky Valley Trojans two days earlier. McCracken was pitching when he tried to react to a line drive smoked right back at him. Making a twisting motion to try to catch the hot smash, he said his cleat felt like it caught in the dirt on the mound, and his knee twisted in the process. “I heard it pop,” McCracken said. “I am hoping it’s nothing too bad, but I am getting an MRI (Tuesday), so it is a wait and see thing right now.”
“He’s our number four hitter, so obviously that has a big impact,” Becker said of McCracken’s pending injury. “We wanted to work in some freshmen slowly this season, but if he can’t go, we may be working them into the mix sooner rather than later. We are hoping that J.T. will be OK, because he is such a big part of this team.”