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Playoff hopes all but gone for Blue Raiders baseball

By Larry Etter Press & Journal Staff
Posted 5/10/17

The Middletown varsity baseball team lost its fifth straight game on Monday, a 4-1 setback at Palmyra.

The losses dropped the Blue Raiders (7-9 overall) out of the top 10 in the District …

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Playoff hopes all but gone for Blue Raiders baseball

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The Middletown varsity baseball team lost its fifth straight game on Monday, a 4-1 setback at Palmyra.

The losses dropped the Blue Raiders (7-9 overall) out of the top 10 in the District 3-AAAA playoff standings and all but eliminated hopes for postseason play.

Following the tough 3-0 loss to West Perry on May 1, the Blue Raiders hosted both East Pennsboro and Camp Hill, and then had Friday’s game postponed because of heavy rains.

On Tuesday, the Raiders took East Pennsboro into two extra innings before coming up on the short end of an 8-7 decision. On Thursday, the Middletown nine fell behind Camp Hill 3-0 in the first inning and kept battling as they tried to overcome that early deficit. But, despite putting players in scoring position several times in the late innings, they lost 8-4.

The Raiders were scheduled to play two more games this week — Tuesday at Steel-High and Thursday at home vs. Trinity — before wrapping up the regular season next week.

Palmyra 4, Middletown 1

Stepping out of the Capital Division to take on the Cougars from the Keystone Division, the Blue Raiders were hoping to break the winless string but could not pull off a much-needed victory. The Cougars punched out eight hits, five against Middletown starter Michael Mattes, and scored three of their runs in the third inning that broke a 1-1 tie.

The Raiders scored first with their lone run coming in the top of the first. The Middletown offense had five hits but left five men on base.

In the first inning Noah Zimmerman led off with a walk, stole second, went to third on a fielder’s choice groundout by David Alcock and scored on another fielder’s choice grounder by Johan Sanchez-Padilla.

Mattes faced four batters in the home half of the opening frame, getting a big assist on a double play (a force-out at first and a tag-out at home) that ended the home team’s first at-bats. After Palmyra pitcher Brian Coburn sat down the Raiders in order in the top of the second, the Cougars tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom half. With one out Coburn was hit by a pitch, went to second on a single by Sam Zeigler, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error.

In the third, Tristen Maxwell was left stranded after getting hit by a pitch with one out. Palmyra scored three runs in the bottom of the third, the only runs by either team the rest of the way. A leadoff single and an error with two outs led to two of the runs, brought about on Coburn’s double to right field. Zeigler’s RBI single knocked in the third run before Mattes got out of the inning.

Down 4-1, the Blue Raiders got something going to start the fourth when Sanchez-Padilla and Blake Jacoby punched out back-to-back singles to start the frame. Joe Brady’s sacrifice fly moved Sanchez-Padilla to third, but Coburn ended the threat on a strikeout and pop up in foul ground. Jimmy Fitzpatrick took over on the hill for the Middletown side and pitched out of trouble following a one-out single and another Raider error.

Zimmerman’s single to right after Maxwell reached base on a Palmyra miscue nearly produced another run for the Blue Raiders in the top of the fifth. But Alcock’s line drive to third was caught and Maxwell could not get back to the bag in time, ending the Middletown threat on a double play.

The Cougars had two men on base in the bottom of the inning but neither of them scored.

The Raiders went down in order against new Palmyra pitcher Braden Vernet in the top of the sixth and, despite loading the bases in the home half via three walks, the Cougars came up empty.

Leading off the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter Matt Shopf hit a looping single to left field but was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. Fitzpatrick doubled to right center, keeping the Raiders’ hopes alive. But Vernet got Maxwell on a groundout to short to end the game.

East Pennsboro 8, Middletown 7

Starting pitcher Michael Mattes was touched for the three runs in the top of the first inning as the 8-6 Panthers collected three hits and a walk in the opening frame.

But the Blue Raiders picked up a pair of runs in the home half to get back into the game. The weird factor, however, was that Middletown scored those two runs without the benefit of a hit. It got even stranger for the home team after the Panthers had taken a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning. The Raiders would tie the score at 5-5 — amazingly without a hit off East Pennsboro starter Nick Embleton.

The 3-2 Panther lead held up through the second, third, fourth and fifth innings as both pitchers kept their opponents in check. The Raiders had runners on base in the second, fourth and fifth innings but could not produce the tying run against Embleton and the East Penn defense. Meanwhile, Mattes struck out seven Panthers during the stretch to key the scoreless drought. East Pennsboro, however, picked up a run in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Zach Garlinger and added another in the seventh on an RBI double by Embleton.

That 5-2 lead loomed huge for the guests but the Blue Raiders responded to the challenge facing them. After Tristen Maxwell led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, Embleton was replaced by reliever Dalton Miller. Kyle Truesdale greeted Miller with another walk and Joe Brady also drew a base on balls with one out to load the bases.

Noah Zimmerman’s fielder’s choice grounder knocked in Maxwell for the first run. A pair of passed balls with Jimmy Fitzpatrick at the plate pushed in the tying runs that sent the game into the first extra inning. Still the Raiders had not registered a hit.

Controversy showed up in the top of the eighth when a safe call at first was overturned, ending the Panthers at-bats. More controversy showed up in the bottom of the frame as the Raiders nearly pulled off the winning rally. Blake Jacoby was safe on an error leading off and went to second on Richard Castagna’s sacrifice bunt. Maxwell drew an intentional walk and David Alcock was safe on an error, loading the bases with one out. When Matt Shopf laid down a suicide squeeze bunt with Jacoby racing for home, it appeared as if the winning run had been scored. But, instead, Jacoby was called out at the plate and Maxwell was thrown out trying to reach third on the play, ending the Raider threat.

Buoyed by that turn of events, the Panthers scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning, brought about by a hit batsman, a single, and an intentional walk that loaded the bases. Another walk and a fielder’s choice pushed in two runs and a wild pitch plated the third one before relief pitcher Zimmerman and the Middletown defense got out of the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth the Raiders finally registered their first hit, a one-out single by Zimmerman. Fitzpatrick’s infield single was the second one. Both runners advanced on Johan Sanchez-Padilla’s fielder’s choice. Jacoby worked a full count before driving a clean single to left that drove both runners home. Castagna followed with a walk to put the potential winning runs on base. Maxwell brought some excitement to the home side with a deep shot to centerfield, but it stayed in the park and was caught near the fence for the third out, ending the game and the Raiders’ hopes of a much-needed victory.

Camp Hill 8, Middletown 4

For the second time this season the Blue Raiders had to face Camp Hill ace pitcher Wyatt Beddow.

In the first game, Beddow and the Lions shut out the Middletown side 3-0. In the second matchup the Raiders picked up three hits and took advantage of six walks to score three runs off Beddow in a better effort. But Beddow’s teammates were solid on offense and scored 8 runs off Middletown starting pitcher Zimmerman. Several fielding errors by the Raiders aided the Lions’ cause as well.

Camp Hill scored three runs in the top of the first off one of the errors, a double, an infield single and a wild pitch.

The Blue Raiders got one run back in the home half of the opening frame on an RBI triple to right center by Sanchez-Padilla. The big hit knocked in Zimmerman who had led off with a single up the middle. After Camp Hill scored a single run in the top of the second, the Raiders collected their second run in the bottom of the frame. Castagna led off with a walk, went to second on a balk by Beddow and reached third on a wild pitch with Maxwell at the plate. After Maxwell drew a base on balls, Shopf’s sacrifice fly to left drove in Castagna.

After Zimmerman sat down the Lions in order in the top of the third, the Raiders had a pair of runners on base in the home half, both via walks, but neither scored, keeping the score at 4-2. An RBI single by Luke Newman drove in Camp Hill’s fifth run in the top of the fourth. Maxwell walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth and reached second and third on a pair of passed balls. With two outs, Brady produced an infield single, diving safely to the bag at first, as Maxwell scored run No. 3 for the Raiders.

Leading 5-3, the Lions punched out four hits and took advantage of an error and walk to ring up three more runs for an 8-3 lead in the top of the fifth. With relief pitcher Luke Goodyear taking over for the Lions, the lead held up until the bottom of the sixth when the Middletown side produced run No. 4. Truesdale’s leadoff walk and a one-out single by Zimmerman put two runners on base for the Middletown nine. With pinch-hitter Stephen Kleinfelter in the batter’s box, both runners moved up on a ball in the dirt. Kleinfelter later popped up for the second out.

Sanchez-Padilla was safe on a dropped third strike and Truesdale raced home on the Camp Hill error for Middletown’s fourth run. Jacoby walked to load the bases, giving the Raiders a chance to scored more, but Goodyear induced a ground ball and a force out at second to end the inning.

Jacoby, in his second inning of relief, gave up a leadoff double and walk to start the seventh, but got three straight outs to prevent further scoring. In the home half, Maxwell went down swinging for the first out and pinch-hitter Aaron McDevitt flied out to right before the second pinch-hitter, Avery Williams, was hit by a pitch. But Brady grounded out to third to end the 8-4 loss.

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