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RED LION — The Red Lion American Legion baseball players took to the field with heavy hearts on Wednesday evening against Spring Grove.

The players had earlier learned of a tragedy that hit the Red Lion community around 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. It was like a punch to their collective gut. Two of their classmates had died when the minivan they were in crashed into a utility pole.

Nicholas Mankin and Stone Hill, both of whom would have been seniors at Red Lion High School this fall, were not just classmates to those wearing the Red Lion uniforms.

Nor were they merely acquaintances.

For Micah Osenbach, it was deeply personal. Osenbach, a rising senior himself, was close friends with Hill in particular.

For the team's coach, Tim Zelger, the news was especially devastating. Zelger developed a strong bond with Hill while coaching him with the Red Lion Junior American Legion team last summer.

In times such as that, almost everyone affected by the tragedy needs some sort of comfort. There was a memorial earlier in the day at the location in Lower Chanceford Township where the crash occurred.

A bit more of that comfort was available when the game started at Horn Field at 6 p.m. Despite falling behind by three runs in the first inning, Red Lion was able to chase Spring Grove starter Joe Yeater by scoring six runs in the fifth before claiming an 8-4 triumph.

While the victory lifted the team's spirits momentarily, the past day was certainly emotional for Osenbach, who said this was the second tragedy involving Red Lion students recently.

"This is rough," he said. "Red Lion went through this already with another set of two kids, and that was rough on me and I didn't even know either of them particularly well. And to have someone so close to you have something happen like that ... it's rough."

Postponing the contest was definitely a possibility that was considered. But the decision was made more complicated when considering the team is in the middle of playing five games in six days.

"We thought about (postponing)," Zelger said. "I had him last year, Stone, and he played well. I knew him well and my heart goes out to both of those boys. I knew one extremely well and ... it's tough. We talked with all the boys before the game. But I think that this is their outlet."

Osenbach agreed.

"This is therapy," he said. "It still stings and it's going to sting for a long time, but being out here with the other guys and picking each other up is what we really needed to do."

Spring Grove, which is playing an abbreviated schedule because of the high school team's successful PIAA state playoff run, jumped on the home team early with a three spot in the first off starter Tyler Stabley. A two-run triple by Trent Baker and a single by Derek Hoiles put the visitors ahead with no outs.

Stabley, however, rebounded. He surrendered just one run — a RBI double to Yeater — while scattering nine hits. He was particularly effective after his team took the lead in the fifth. The southpaw retired seven of the final eight batters he faced.

"For us to play that game, against that Spring Grove team, which is outstanding, that's big," said Zelger, whose team improved to 6-3. "It was a great ballgame."

Everything tilted in the home team's favor in the fifth inning, when it sent 11 batters to the plate. With the bases loaded and two outs, the home team got a two-run double by Hunter Smith that evened the score at 4-4. John Smith drove in two more runs with a single to center. Back-to-back singles by Stabley and Matt Allen, who each finished with two hits, closed out the six-run frame.

"(Yeater) just ran out of gas a little bit," said Spring Grove coach Tom Maughlin, whose team dropped to 1-2. "He pitches in some tournament baseball. And then we misplayed a couple of balls. That one (by John Smith) I thought we were going to catch there behind second base."

After a pause, Maughlin shrugged his shoulders and added: "It went their way and it was meant to be, I guess."

OTHER AMERICAN LEGION GAMES

Northeastern 9, Dover 4: At Manchester, the home team plated seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a commanding lead. Starting pitcher Steven Shimkus led the home team by throwing six innings, striking out 10 and walking five to pick up the win. Trae Beyer and Drew Wolfgang each went 2-for-3, while Brady Dolan went 2-for-4. For Dover, Trevor Staub went 2-for-3, including a double, while Shad Murphy went 2-for-4, including a double, with two RBIs. First-place Northeastern improved to 10-0.

Shiloh 8, Wrightsville 2: At Wrightsville, Anthony Kahley pitched four innings of two-hit, shutout ball to lead Shiloh to the win. Evan Zinn added two innings of one-hit shutout relief. Brandon Sheffer (two hits, two runs, RBI), Tyler Seiffert (two hits, two runs, RBI), Brandon Wetzel (two hits, run), Robbie Bertucio (two hits, RBI) and Colton Kubicki (two hits, RBI) led West York's offense.

Pleasureville 3, York 2: At Pleasureville, Ryan Crum's walk-off single drove in Andrew Parks to give the home team the victory. Mike Davis was 1-for-3 with a run scored and a double, the game's only extra-base hit. Davis struck out the side in the seventh to record the win on the mound as well.

South Western York 4, Glen Rock 0: A group of Austins helped lead South Western York to victory. Austin Yancheski was the winning pitcher, tossing four innings, scattering two hits, striking out four and walking two. At the plate, Austin Staub and Austin Reusing were each 1-for-1 with an RBI. Austin Weaver was also 1-for-1 and added a run scored.

AMERICAN LEGION NOTES

All-Star games set: The York-Adams American Legion Baseball League will host a Tri County All-Star game on Sunday, June 28, at York Township's Shryock Field. The day will feature a pair of games with players from Dauphin, Franklin and York-Adams counties. The day begins with a tryout starting at 11 a.m. After the workout, the first game will pit the players from Franklin County against a York-Adams squad and the second game will feature players from Dauphin County against another York-Adams team. The York-Adams area will field two teams because of the high number of teams in the league. For more information, contact Greg Rebert at 717-554-1716.

Dallastown Post 605 looking to the past: The Dallastown Post 605 baseball team is looking for past players, coaches and fans. A committee is in the process of hosting a 50th year celebration game on Saturday, June 27, at York Township's Shryock Field against the Pleasureville American Legion team. The committee is trying to find the records from the inception of the team, which is believed to have started in 1965. The goal is to create a booklet of the team's history for future players. Those unable to attend, but who have team information to offer, can do so by contacting Greg Rebert at rebert24@verizon.net or by calling (717) 244-9075.

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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