Chargers earned their championship
Theodore Roosevelt noted that “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing, unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
That about sums up how the Northern Valley Chargers became champions of the Lehigh Valley Legion League after opening the season with a 2-6 record, reaching the playoffs with a 9-9 record and then winning the postseason tournament as the league’s fifth seed.
After the second win of the season, a 9-8 triumph over North Parkland, coach Brad Rauch sensed that his team was getting close to turning things around.
“We have guys from four different high schools, and every year, it seems like it takes us a while to gel,” he said. “I think beating this team [North Parkland], a team that has seemed to always have our number, could be the point where it all starts coming together for us.”
Northern Valley lost its next game, but won three straight times to start things in the right direction. Soon, the Chargers were out of the basement in the league standings and looking forward to playing in the postseason.
“We didn’t panic,” said Josh Williamson about the team’s attitude when it was 2-6. “We just said that it’s time to pull things together and we really started to just gel and started playing more as a team instead of as a group of guys from different schools.”
When the season ended, the 9-9 record left the Chargers in a four-way tie with West Allentown, Emmaus and Lower Macungie. All four teams were 1-1 against each other, leaving the final seeding of the teams up to a series of coin tosses to determine the order of the fourth through seventh seeds.
The Chargers wound up as the fifth seed, leaving them in a tough spot, and with the likelihood of a home game very doubtful.
“That’s when you start to remember all of those little things that cost you a game here or there, and how you could have helped yourself if only you’d have done this or not done that,” said Rauch. “We just had to keep the team focused on what was ahead and get them to realize that they didn’t want to look back on the playoffs and say ‘what if?’, so they had to play better.”
The Chargers knocked off fourth-seeded West Allentown in the opening round and then surprised top-seeded Coplay-Fullerton with a 6-3 win in eight innings, putting them into the winner’s bracket final against South Parkland.
Errors behind starter Ben Cordova cost Northern Valley that game, but the team again bounced back to beat West Allentown 1-0 and then win two straight against South Parkland to claim their first championship since 2011.
“Second chances are where it matters the most and where I seem to perform the best,” said Cordova, who was the winning pitcher in the championship game. “I try to use the disappointment and hurt from losing a game like that [the loss to South Parkland] to drive through all seven and get it done.”
Rauch stressed to his players that no matter what happened, they should hold their heads high, because of how they turned their season around and what they were able to accomplish.
Even when they faced elimination for three straight games, Rauch reminded his team that it wasn’t finished.
“Being a Northern Valley Charger, all our coaches tell us not to give up,” Cordova said of the message from the coaches. “It made it a little more stressful but not more difficult because we’ve been going with the mindset that the game’s not over until the last pitch.
“That’s been the theme for me since high school season. Just get to the playoffs and anything can happen. All year our record didn’t show how good we were. We lost some close games and lost some games that we beat ourselves.”
The Chargers face Oley-Topton, the Schuylkill-Berks League champ, on Saturday in Quakertown for the start of regionals, which are also a double-elimination tournament.