HALLAM — While one player does not make a baseball team, losing your leader for a couple of weeks certainly can sting a little.
That might explain why Hallam manager Terry Golden had a smile on his face before Wednesday’s Susquehanna League clash against defending league champion Jacobus.
The return of Jaron Shimmel to the Express lineup was the spark that Golden’s club was looking for as the regular season winds down.
Shimmel made his return a memorable one, too.
The Hallam shortstop clubbed a pair of home runs while driving in three runs to help the Express earn a 7-3 triumph.
“It was nice to get Shim back this week,” Golden said. “He’s been out for the past couple of weeks with a hamstring injury. He’s our leader and we’re not the same team without him.”
Shimmel pulled his hamstring running out a ground ball in a game against York Township a few weeks ago. He tried to come back shortly after that against Stewartstown, but it flared up again, forcing him to take time off to recover.
The team was little emotionally drained with their star watching games from the bench, which made his return a pick-me-up for all of the Express players.
“The team saw him get hurt and I think that sort of weighed them down a bit,” Golden said. “And we’re a different ball club without Shim out there for us.”
Typically the leadoff man for the Express, Shimmel was moved down to the No. 5 hole because his speed had not yet fully returned. Fortunately, he didn’t have to run too hard after hitting the ball out of the park in his final two at-bats.
McNeil also returns: Shimmel’s return was big, but he wasn’t the only returning Hallam starter back in the lineup. Catcher Eric McNeil, who collected a game-high three hits to go along with two RBIs, returned Wednesday after spending some time away from the team recently.
“We had our team back tonight and we have a pretty good lineup when everybody is here,” Golden said.
Colby Shimmel shines on mound: The lineup gave a boost to starting pitcher Colby Shimmel, who earned the complete-game victory.
Colby Shimmel, a recent Eastern York graduate, struck out eight while surrendering nine hits and three runs (one earned).
“Colby has been doing it all for us,” Golden said. “Pitching, hitting, you name it.”
Inching closer to surprising title: Wednesday’s triumph was big for the Express (23-6). Golden’s squad has just three games left. Hallam sits 1½ games ahead of East Prospect (21-7), which was idle Wednesday. That means the team’s magic number to clinch the regular-season title sits at three.
That Golden’s team is in this spot, a season after losing two Hall of Fame-caliber players in Shawn Hedrick and Jon Benchich, is remarkable. Even Golden himself admits to being a bit surprised by his younger, but talented squad.
“We’ve had a lot of people step up,” he said. “Colby has pitched well for us and played right field. And (Alex) Tucci is like 8-1 or 9-1 this year. And it’s not just them. Everybody has been stepping it up and doing their part.”
Hank Shultz led Jacobus with three hits, while Kerry Clark collected two hits for the Jackals (18-8).
Glen Rock 10, Shiloh 0: At Shiloh, Scott Merkel led the visitors' offense by going 2 for 4, including five RBIs. Also for Glen Rock, Casey Hood went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, Dan Rhodes went 3 for 5 with one RBI, Luke Knott doubled and Brad McCullough started the game on the mound and threw five shutout innings, striking out five and walking one. For Shiloh, Jacob Molison and Ryan Stough each doubled. Glen Rock improved to 13-9-0.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.