Chargers fall just short in LVL
Like every other Lehigh Valley Legion team, the Northern Valley Chargers were bitten by players missing games for one reason or another.
Chargers head coach Brad Rauch stressed to his players how important it was to honor their commitment to the team, but it’s summertime and families have vacations and there’s a lot going on. Nobody knows that better than Rauch, who found himself with his family in Lake Seneca, NY as his team won two games on Sunday and then faced the potential of two games against South Parkland early this week for the LVL championship.
After hearing his team was still alive after winning two tough games Sunday, Rauch’s wife stepped in and told the coach “you belong with your boys.” After his six-year old son approved the plan, Rauch and his dad left Lake Seneca Monday and made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to DeSales University to surprise the team prior to their showdown with South Parkland.
Unfortunately, the ride back to Lake Seneca probably seemed much longer as Rauch’s Chargers dropped a 2-0 game to South Parkland, ending the season for Northern Valley (11-11).
The game was a matchup of top pitchers with Adam Smith going for the Trojans and Ryan King pitching for Northern Valley.
South Parkland was able to squeeze out a first-inning run, taking an early lead against Northern Valley. They also threatened in the third inning, but a baserunning blunder resulted in Gabe Stay being caught in a rundown between third and home and he was tagged out. The Trojans still had runners on first and third, but King got a pop-up to end the inning.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game, not just because they’re undefeated, but because they have Smith on the mound and he can be really tough,” said Rauch. “The good thing was that we had Ryan pitching and he’s one of the best around, too, so we knew every run was going to count. We just couldn’t bunch enough hits today and, in the end, they got us.”
The Chargers had opportunities, but failed to get a timely hit that could have put the Trojans on the ropes.
Northern Valley had runners on first and second with nobody out in the second inning, but Smith struck out the next three batters to end the threat.
The Chargers put a runner on in both the third and fourth innings, but couldn’t move him past first base. They did appear have something going in the fifth when King reached on an error to open the inning. Smith again responded and got the next two batters, but Aaron Rudolph singled to put runners on first and second, only to see the uprising end without a run.
South Parkland stole four bases in the game, with two of them coming around to score on singles. Adam Mellinger’s first-inning stolen base set up the first run and Matt Ervolina singled and stole second with one out in the sixth before being driven home by Alex Oliver.
“One of the differences was that they were successful stealing bases and we got thrown out twice trying to steal,” Rauch noted. “We knew we had to get runners in scoring position and were trying to be aggressive, but they were able to shut us down.”
Smith sensed victory and recorded the final five outs on strikeouts to get the win for South Parkland.
While South Parkland went undefeated this season, Northern Valley was a bit of a thorn in their side. The Chargers played the Trojans twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs and lost all four games by a combined nine runs. On the season, the Trojans average margin of victory was 5.5 runs.
“You have to hand it to them,” said Rauch. “They’ve got good players and T.K. [coach Tom Kahn] and [assistant coach Mitch Ohl] do a great job with them, so they come prepared and ready to go.
“I think they’re going to represent the league very well in the regionals and I think they’re going to go a long way and show everybody just how good this league really is. That’s a team that you could even see playing in states.”