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PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ North Parkland's Nick Helfrich takes a swing during the state legion tournament. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ North Parkland's Nick Helfrich takes a swing during the state legion tournament.

North Parkland's season ends in states

Thursday, August 7, 2014 by TODD KRESS tkress@tnonline.com in Sports

Initially, there was a sense of sadness. There was exhaustion from playing baseball nearly the entire summer. And there may have even been some disappointment.

But after looking past their 11-2 season-ending loss last Thursday in the Pennsylvania State American Legion Baseball Tournament against Boyertown, there was a feeling of accomplishment for the North Parkland players. There was a bit of satisfaction.

There was history made.

It was the first time in program history that North Parkland advanced to the state legion tournament after capturing the Region 2 championship two weeks ago against Norchester. Furthermore, it was the first time a legion team from Lehigh County won the region since 1985.

"For a lot of kids, it seemed like the season was just getting pretty long," pitcher Walter Roland said. "It's kind of hard when you're playing throughout the whole entire summer. For me and some of the other last-year players like Nicholas Helfrich, Aidan Flynn and Jordan Jones, it definitely was a pretty sad moment because we've been with the program for a pretty long time.

"I'm sure everyone, including myself, really felt more accomplished than anything before any disappointment."

Roland pitched a masterful 12-inning shutout against Murrysville last Tuesday in the opening round of the state tournament to lead the Buffaloes to a 1-0 win. He allowed just seven hits-three of which came on broken bats-in advancing the Buffaloes to face Swoyersville the following day.

Evan McAndrew came up with the game-winning RBI-single in the 12th inning.

"That was probably the game of my life," Roland said. "I was so focused in. I couldn't hear a sound or anything."

Against Swoyersville last Wednesday, the Buffaloes' bats struggled just as they did against Murrysville. However, Swoyersville was able to get on the scoreboard, while the Buffaloes managed just five hits.

In their season-ending defeat, the Buffaloes recorded just six hits and two runs against host-Boyertown last Thursday.

The Buffaloes tallied 19 hits through their three state games.

A week-long break between winning the region championship and facing Murrysville in the first game of states could be a reason for the Buffaloes' slumping bats. The elite pitching staff at the state level also has something to do with it.

"We really didn't get to pick up any scrimmages [between regionals and states]," Roland said. "That hurt our hitting. We only scored two earned runs through that whole entire tournament of states. It was pretty disappointing that it was a tough time for everyone to hit cold."

The Buffaloes held the top mark in the Lehigh Valley Legion Baseball League once again with a 16-2 finish in the regular season. In the playoffs, the Buffaloes went a perfect 5-0, including their 10-2 victory in the title game over Southern Lehigh.

"It was great playing on the team," Roland said. "All of the guys got along together really well. We had a lot of team chemistry, which was in my opinion the biggest difference-maker in the season this year."