All hands – and arms – were on deck for the New Oxford Twins in Sunday’s South Penn League lidlifter against Biglerville.
Getting contributions at the plate, in the field and most importantly on the mound from one end of the bench to the other, the Twins outlasted the Black Sox, 5-1, in nine innings at Oakside Community Park. The well-played contest was the first for both teams in a shortened 18-game SPL regular season.
“We have a new team this year and I felt like everybody contributed, especially the pitching,” said Ox manager Scott Meckley. “We had some guys who hadn’t thrown in a while or aren’t even regular pitchers.”
Meckley ran four different hurlers to the hill in attempt to limit a capable Black Sox lineup. The quartet delivered by scattering eight hits and combining for seven strikeouts. Joel Clabaugh, Jeff Deveney and Wes Haller posted six scoreless innings of relief after starter Jordan Arnold left following three solid frames.
“You score one run you won’t win many games,” said Biglerville manager Travis Byers. “I wanted to be aggressive but I should’ve stressed the fact that we needed to be patiently aggressive today. When we did square one up we hit it right at them and ran into a little bit of bad luck. I think they got a couple more breaks than we did and that was the difference in the game.”
The hosts posted their lone run when Chase Long worked a two-out walk in the second inning, swiped second base and came home on a Pat Armor single. Armor appeared to pop out in foul territory to end the inning but after a consultation of the umpires, the catch was ruled to have come out of play. Given a reprieve, Armor roped a single into left field.
Biglerville recorded a hit in each of the first five frames but advanced a runner past second base only twice. Rising high school senior Connor Orner laced singles in his first two at-bats while Long and Tucker Byers also swatted base hits.
New Oxford was stymied offensively as it failed to get a leadoff batter on base through six innings. Mike Shultz was effective in his Sox debut before running into trouble in the fourth. Shultz coaxed a pair of outs before yielding an infield single and hitting a batter. Tanner Byers came on in relief, and after issuing a free pass, recorded a strikeout to leave the sacks packed. Byers, whose uses a free-wheeling, submarine pitching style, blanked the Twins over the fifth and sixth innings. They broke through in the seventh after emptying their bench.
Zach Keffer laced a single just inside the third-base line and moved over to second on Josh Rickrode’s bunt. Rickrode hustled down the line and beat the throw, giving the Ox two on with none out.
Byers field Alex Emlet’s sacrifice bunt and quickly flipped the ball to third to cut down Keffer. Leadoff man Brevin Neveker’s swinging bunt found the sweet spot between the pitcher’s mound and third base – nearly carbon copies of the Rickerode and Emlet efforts – and he easily beat the throw to first to load the bases.
Biglerville appeared to have victory in hand when Byers coaxed a potential double-play grounder from Mitch Collins. The relay throw from second to first was low, however, and Tyler Kime was unable to dig it out of the dirt as a hustling Collins hit the bag.
The low throw allowed the Twins to knot the game at 1-1.
“We had some new guys contribute and our veteran Mitch Collins came through,” said Meckley. “We got a little help with them not being able to turn two.”
The Black Sox threatened in the seventh when Armor looped a leadoff single but Deveney rolled a double-play ball to squash an uprising. The hosts were at it again in the eighth as Tucker Byers poked a clean single into center and smartly took second base when the ball was mishandled. Orner followed by tattooing a pitch up the middle, but the liner was snared by the shortstop who doubled-up Byers.
The Twins finally got to Tanner Byers in the ninth. Following a strikeout, Emlet rolled a dribbler between third base and the mound. The throw to first was offline, allowing Emlet to take second. Byers recovered by fanning Brevin Neveker before issuing consecutive free passes to Collins and Brodey Neveker, bringing Deveney to the dish.
Byers got ahead in the count, 0-2, before the dangerous Deveney leveled a single into right to plate a pair of runs.
“Jeff’s somebody we’ve relied on the last couple of years, he’s a clutch hitter,” said Meckley. “He hit a couple of line drives today, he was due to come through. He’s one of the best additions we’ve made in the last couple of years.”
Byers, who logged five strong innings of relief, was lifted following his 96th pitch.
“I didn’t want to throw him nearly that much,” said Travis Byers. “I used my whole bench, I exhausted it to pinch hit a lot of guys and make everybody a part of the game.”
Brady Topper provided some insurance with a two-run single to right, his third hit of the afternoon.
Wes Haller took the mound in the seventh, and following a walk, fanned the side. Haller is a welcomed addition for the Twins, who are dealing with the loss of their top three pitchers from last season, including ace Anthony Lippy who joined three-time SPL champion Cashtown.
“We have 8-9 guys who can throw two innings but we don’t have anybody who can throw five innings yet,” said Meckley.
Travis Byers lamented missed opportunities but kept a big-picture perspective following the loss.
“I think this year is a building block for a full season for next year,” he said. “We want to get the most out of these 18 games and see where we stand for the double-elimination playoffs. I want to win, but I don’t expect to win when we get one run.”
New Oxford 000 000 104 — 5 11 1
Biglerville 010 000 000 — 1 8 1
Jordan Arnold, Joel Clabaugh (4), Jeff Deveney (6), Wes Haller (9) and Austin Roth. Mike Shultz, Tanner Byers (4), Colton Devilbiss (9) and Pat Armor. WP: Deveney. LP: Byers. SO-BB: Arnold 2-1, Clabaugh 2-1, Deveney 0-0, Haller 3-1, Shultz 0-0, Byers 6-3, Devilbiss 0-0. 2B: Brady Topper (NO)