Errors doom Chargers in loss
Northern Valley head coach Brad Rauch explained how his team got out of a 2-5 hole to start the year, to being tied for third place entering Tuesday night’s game against second place South Parkland.
“After we started 2-5, our coaches sat down with the players and just preached focus,” Rauch said. “Our pitching really stepped up over the last eight games (6-2) and our hitting picked up. But we had some trouble holding leads, and made too many mistakes on the field.”
A mistake came back to haunt the Chargers last Tuesday evening at Parkland High School. With the score 1-1 and runners on first and second in the bottom of the fifth inning, Kyle Novobilsky laid down a sacrifice bunt. It was fielded, but no one was covering first base, and the throw landed in the outfield, scoring two runs.
The Trojans (10-4) added another run in the inning, and three more in the sixth to top Northern Valley 7-2.
“Our bats came alive late,” said South Parkland head coach Thomas Kahn. “It’s funny because I don’t always like to bunt, but it was a situation where with the impending rain, we needed something. And it turned into a good thing for us.
“That’s a really good team over there, so we’re fortunate to get this win tonight.”
The Chargers (8-8) were first on board after two scoreless innings. Evan Meixell led off the top of the third with a single, and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jacob Kistler hit a sacrifice fly to right field that brought Meixell to third and in scoring position. Then starting pitcher Niko Fager hit a sharp liner that could not be fielded cleanly by the Trojans infield, and the first run was on the board.
South Parkland fought back in the bottom of the fourth. Anthony Sorrentino led off with a single. Harrison Rabenold followed a walk to Cullen Wadsworth with a base hit to load the bases. After a groundout to get the runner at home, starting pitcher Ryan Giovenco hit a run-scoring single to tie the game.
The big breakthrough came in the bottom of the fifth inning when eight batters came to the plate for the Trojans.
It began with a hit and a hit by pitch by Nathan Markowicz and EJ Brandt, respectively. Then Novobilsky laid down a sacrifice bunt. When Fager fielded it, he threw it to first assuming it was covered, but nobody was there to take the throw, and both runners came around to score.
Wadsworth then brought home Novobilsky two batters later, and South Parkland led 4-1.
In the bottom of the sixth, it was a two-out rally that began with a fielding error by the Northern Valley infield. Novobilsky (3-3, RBI) and Wadsworth (2-2, 2RBI) had RBI triples, and Sorrentino (2-3 RBI) had a run-scoring double to spike the lead to 7-1 heading into the final inning.
“I think their pitcher got a little tired there towards the end of the game, and I told the guys to wait for a good pitch to hit,” said Kahn. “They got good pitches to hit, and we have some good hitters in our lineup. It’s deep, and we used that to our advantage.”
Just like after the start to the season, the Chargers did not quit. After Isaac Fatzinger and Kistler walked with two outs, Taylor Breininger ripped a single to right field to load the bases. Dakota Laudenslager brought Fatzinger home with an RBI single to cut the lead to 7-2, but that was the last hit that came their way.
Both of these teams will be competing in the eight-team playoff which begins next week.
“From where we started to where we are now, I’m so proud of the guys for fighting and not giving up,” said Rauch. “We want to clinch a home playoff game, but even if not, we want to compete in these playoffs like we do every year.”
Northern Valley dropped to sixth place with the loss. The league’s top eight teams make the playoff tournament. Only the Lehigh Valley League tournament champ will represent the league in the regional playoffs. The regular season will determine seeds for the playoffs.
The Chargers finish the season with a game against the Carbon County Monarchs Thursday (at Northern Lehigh High School) and the season finale against North Parkland Friday (at Orefield Middle School).
South Parkland had a game Wednesday at Lower Macungie (played after Press deadline), Thursday at home vs. West Allentown and a season finale against first-place Coplay-Fullerton (12-1) that includes the resumption of a suspended game and a regularly scheduled contest.
The Chargers likely need one more win to secure a spot in the postseason. The Trojans have their spot locked up with just a slim chance of dropping down to third or surpassing Coplay-Fullerton for the top seed.