NV Connie Mack reaches state semi
Northern Valley’s bid in the Connie Mack state playoffs did not get off to an auspicious start. In their opening matchup, the Chargers fell to a lower-seeded Nazareth team by a score of 11-2, placing them on the brink of elimination. With one loss already on its record, Northern Valley would have to remain undefeated if they were to keep its championship hopes alive.
Ultimately, the Chargers wouldn’t take home this summer’s state title, but they came closer than anyone could have predicted after the opening loss.
Northern Valley rallied, securing a series of upsets to advance into the tournament’s semifinals. The Chargers’ first victory came against the Lehigh Valley League runner up Northampton by a score to 3-1. Three days later, following a rain delay which interrupted the fourth inning, the Chargers topped LVL champion Bethlehem Catholic 4-2, eliminating both league finalists.
Perhaps Northern Valley’s most shocking victory, however, came in its quarterfinal matchup against regular season champ South Parkland, a team that had already beaten the Chargers 15-5 in league competition. Despite the outcome of their earlier encounter, Northern Valley topped the Trojans 5-4, coming back from an early deficit to win in the seventh inning.
The Chargers’ momentum carried them through the tournament and brought them within a single run of reaching the state title game. In their semifinal faceoff against Doylestown, Northern Valley forced the Bux-Mont League champions into extra-innings, at one point holding a late game lead. Northern Valley maintained control of the game until the eighth inning, when a key play gave Doylestown and a 9-8 win.
“We had them down to their last out,” said Chargers’ head coach Erich Klein. “A loss is a loss, but I’m proud. We had an excellent opportunity to win that game, too, but it just didn’t all come together.”
Despite not reaching the championship, Northern’s Valley’s postseason run defied expectations. The team entered the state playoffs seeded only fourth in the league and finished fourth in the state tournament, the highest standing of any Lehigh Valley unit.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Klein said. “It was probably the best year I’ve ever had, [even] without winning a championship.”
Northern Valley’s resurgence after the first-round defeat wasn’t the team’s only accomplishment in the state playoffs, either. At the tournament’s conclusion, the Chargers’ Derek Holmes was named state tournament MVP. According to Klein, it was the first time a Northern Valley player had received the award in his 17-year coaching tenure.
“I was surprised,” said Holmes. “I got a call from coach after the tournament ended, and I was stunned.
“I would’ve loved to have gone on to finals, and to have come up one game short still stings a little. [But] for our team to start out 5-5 and make it this far into the playoffs is a real accomplishment.”
In addition, the Chargers were well regarded by opposing teams, fans, and officials alike for their sportsmanship——an honor which Northern Valley’s coaching staff values almost as highly as the state title.
“That’s always [our] goal, to teach the kids to… respect the game and their opponents,” stated Klein.
The Chargers’ coach credited his assistants, David Laudenslager and Joey Seremula, for their time and devotion to the Connie Mack program.
“I’m going to miss the kids who can’t play for me anymore,” Klein commented. “I really appreciate them spending two summers with me and the coaches, and giving us everything they had.”
Reflecting upon the beginning of Northern Valley’s season, it’s difficult to believe that this team went from a 5-5 record to fourth in the state. But unfavorable odds never sufficed to hinder the Chargers; rather, the players adapted under duress and played on, improving with each game and learning from their missteps.
Northern Valley may not have taken home the state championship this year, but the Chargers certainly proved themselves worthy of it.
As for next summer, Klein is already optimistic about his team’s chances, as best expressed by his own words: “The future is bright for our program.”