Northern Valley looks to clinch playoff berth
Northern Valley isn't the kind of team that likes to make things easy.
Heading into their final four games of the season, the Chargers felt they needed at least two wins to secure a postseason berth. That remaining schedule included the league's last place team as well as three of the Lehigh Valley League's top four teams.
After losing the first of the set to last-place Coplay, Northern Valley rebounded with a win over third-place Lower Macungie Tuesday. The win puts the Chargers a game and a half ahead of Fullerton for seventh place and a full two games up on ninth-place Salisbury. The top eight teams reach the LVL posteseason tournament, a double-elimination format which gets started next week.
The Chargers were scheduled to take on Southern Lehigh Wednesday and face first-place North Parkland in Thursday's season finale.
"We've got four games left and we want to make sure we get two wins out of the four we have left," said Northern Valley head coach Brad Rauch after last Thursday's win over West Allentown. While it looks like one win could be enough, the Chargers would surely like to get another against a good team to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.
Last Thursday's win over West Allentown didn't Northern Valley's typical path to victory. The Chargers fell behind 3-0 in first inning, but came back to score 11 runs over the next three innings to beat West Allentown, 11-6 Thursday at Northern Lehigh High School.
"All around it was a good day. We've been kind of up and down all year," said Rauch. "I told them before the game we have to get in a playoff mode and get things rolling.
"Normally when we give up runs that like that we struggle to bounce back and get some ourselves."
West Allentown opened the game with a pair off hits off starter Ben Cordova. An error on a fly ball allowed one run to score. Another run came in on a Zachary Blose single and one more scored as Northern Valley turned a double play for the first outs of the game.
But Charger starter Ben Cordova didn't get rattled. He settled in and scattered five hits the rest of the way.
"That's the second outing in a row that Ben's gotten us ground balls and kept us in it," said Rauch.
"I pitched against these guys before and took the loss," said Cordova. "It's good to know you have a team behind you that slaps runs up there any time you need them."
Northern Valley, which put up its highest run total of the season, started chipping away at the lead in the first inning.
Josh Williamson, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four RBI, and Cordova hit back to back singles. Williamson scored on a wild pitch. Cordova came home on a Travis Nelmes single to make it 3-2.
The Chargers took the lead in the second when Taylor Breininger and Dante Salerno reached base on walks to start the inning. Both came in on a Williamson double. Williamson crossed the plate on a Jordan Storm single for a 5-3 lead.
"Everyone's been hitting the ball hard lately and today we started to find gaps," said Williamson. "As a team we've been hitting better. Last game I hit pretty well too. It's definitely a good feeling when you have confidence up at the plate."
Northern Valley extended its lead in the third inning Breininger reached base with a lead-off bunt before Salerno walked. Williamsnon doubled to left field, bringing in one run. Cordova singled to score another. Storm singled to left field to give his team a 9-3 lead.
Nelmes, who went 2-for-4, drove in another run with a single to right field and Evan Meixell doubled to give the Chargers an 11-3 advantage.
"It's been a different story lately," said Cordova. "We were ripping balls right at people. We finally had a game where we started finding gaps and hitting holes."
West Allentown threatened to make the game close with three runs in the fourth inning, as a slow but steady rain fell and light was quickly fading. But Cordova and Northern Valley's defense wasn't going to allow the game to get away.
He allowed West Allentown (6-7) to load the bases in the sixth inning before getting out of it unscathed. The umpires called the game due to darkness after the top half of the sixth.
The LVL regular season champ will get an automatic berth into regionals. North Parkland had a two-game lead over South Parkland through Sunday's games. The tournament champ will also move on to the Region 2 Tournament.
While they've been under .500 all season, the Chargers know that in a tournament, they can get hot and beat any team.
"I think if we play our best the possibilities are endless," said Cordova. "If everyone's doing their role and performing their highest it will be quite a show."