Northwestern Press

Saturday, July 21, 2018
PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE FEIFELNorthern Valley shortstop Justin Welsh is one of four Chargers that were selected to play in an all-star showcase next week in Reading. PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE FEIFELNorthern Valley shortstop Justin Welsh is one of four Chargers that were selected to play in an all-star showcase next week in Reading.
PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE FEIFEL Northern Valley players celebrate a home run against Carbon County last week. PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE FEIFEL Northern Valley players celebrate a home run against Carbon County last week.

NV ready for late charge

Thursday, June 28, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

The Northern Valley Legion team is proof that you can have too much of a good thing. The Chargers season started late because of Northwestern Lehigh’s long run into the PIAA playoffs. Most of the Chargers players come from Northwestern, so the season didn’t open until after the Tigers were eliminated from the postseason. Then, a rainout postponed the start of the season for three more days so that the Chargers first game wasn’t until June 12.

In the two weeks since then, Northern Valley has played 13 games. The Chargers are coming off a stretch where they played 10 games in eight days with double-headers last Friday (a sweep of West Allentown) and another on Sunday when North Parkland swept the Chargers. There are four games left in the regular season and they’re all on consecutive days starting with Emmaus on Thursday and finishing with Lower Macungie on Sunday.

“These guys are worn out,” said manager Brad Rauch. “The coaches are worn out and we’re not the ones playing, so it’s been rough. They had a long high school season and now we’re throwing a lot of games at them in a short time and it’s catching up with everybody.”

To make matters worse, there are players who have needed to miss time because of work, family vacations and baseball showcases. For much of their recent eight-day stretch the team has gotten by with just nine players at each game. Add to that the wear and tear on pitching and it’s actually pretty surprising that the Chargers are 7-6 on the season.

Rauch has been able to use pitchers like Derek Holmes in some games. Holmes only pitched in a handful of games for Northwestern so his arm is relatively fresh compared to other pitchers on the roster.

“We’ve had to move guys around and go with some pitchers who don’t have much experience on the mound, but these guys have been great about it,” said Rauch. “As a coaching staff, we have to remind ourselves that they’re all tired at this point, but the players aren’t complaining. The guys just show up and play hard and see what happens.”

Relief may be on the way this week. Rauch expects to have almost a full roster of players in the dugout for the final week of the regular season and playoffs, which start next week. That will ease some of the workload on players and give him more flexibility when making out the lineup card and managing games.

Rauch saw this coming. When Northwestern reached states he saw a scenario where things could get touchy.

“It’s so hard to win at states that you can’t assume you’re going to go as deep as these guys did; they were amazing,” said Rauch. “Once they won a couple I wanted to see them go all the way even if it meant pushing our season way back. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to go through what a lot of these guys did and especially for the seniors. It was a special thing, so I was hoping they would go all the way and we would just figure out our season later.”

Northern Valley placed four players on the Lehigh Valley Legion All-Star Team. Justin Welch will be the starting shortstop with catcher Tyler Wiik, outfielder Trevor Schreiner and pitcher Ryan King also making the squad.

The LVLBL team will play a team of all-stars from the Berks/Schuylkill League at Reading’s FirstEnergy Park on July 9. The postseason begins on July 5.