Yankees take 2-1 series lead in finals
Jake Hebert's story is a unique one.
Hebert, one of a handful of talented pitchers on the Northern Yankees' staff, grew up in Missouri and later attended his early collegiate years in Illinois. Just last November, Hebert moved to the Macungie area and transferred to Lehigh Carbon Community College where he plays baseball in the spring.
On Sunday night, Hebert brought the Yankees one step closer to their first Blue Mountain League title after experiencing plenty of success in the Tri-County League.
An unexpected 15-minute delay couldn't even slow down Hebert after nearly half of Limeport Stadium's lights went out in the bottom of the fifth inning. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Limeport's Mike Cudwadie finally came through with a single, but Hebert's complete game, one-hitter lifted the Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Bulls. The Yankees took a 2-1 series lead with the potential series-clinching game on Tuesday night, after Bethlehem Press deadlines, at Coplay's Sam Balliet Stadium at 5:45 p.m.
"We had stellar defense. I was making pitches. Everything was just going right," Hebert said. "I felt like when the ball left my hand there was always a good chance it would be a strike or near it."
Before the halt in play, Hebert had struck out six batters and walked just one through 5 2/3 innings. It didn't take him long to close out the rest of the sixth inning when he took the mound again.
"It was a little shocking, but I just took it as another inning," Hebert said. "I was like, 'We're not batting, I'm not pitching, so it's just in between innings and I'm getting some rest in between. I get to go back out, and warm up and throw again.'"
The Yankees threatened in the top half of the first inning with runners on first and second with two outs, but a combined one hit from both teams through three innings left the scoreboard reading zeros early.
It wasn't until the fourth inning when the Yankees' bats finally broke through against Limeport starter Nick Bowen.
With runners on first and second once again, Tyler Cooperman drove a pitch to deep left center field for an RBI-double that scored Rick Seltzer. Jeremy Faust's two-run single then scored Jay Maletz and Cooperman for a 3-0 lead. That turned out to be more than enough for the Yankees.
"I was just looking to hit the ball hard, drive it somewhere," Cooperman said. "We had runners on and that's what I'm looking to do in that situation.
"We haven't played that great here as a team, and personally I haven't done much at the plate. It was nice to get a big hit tonight."
Limeport's most promising stretch came in the seventh with runners on first and second with one out after a Yankees error and Hebert walk. But moments later, Hebert got Adam Maini to ground out into a 4-6-3 double play to halt any threat.
Limeport co-manager Adam Ganser, who helps coach at LCCC in the spring, was well aware of Hebert's abilities coming into the game.
"I knew what we were getting into facing him," Ganser said. "I tried to give all of our guys a heads up on what he's got and what he's about.
"Credit to him, he pounded the strike zone. He located his fastball whenever he wanted to. He was working the corners inside and out; he was mixing a breaking ball here and there that kept our guys off-balanced."
Game 4 has plenty on the line for both teams. With a win, the Yankees (who haven't trailed in any of their three postseason series) can break through and make history in the Blue Mountain League.
"For a lot of these guys, this is all the baseball they play summer ball," Cooperman said. "It's exciting. It means a lot. We're ready to get the next one."
For Limeport, they're still looking for that championship that has eluded them over the years. A win on Tuesday will even things up with a winner-take-all situation on deck.
"It's a do or die mentality really," Ganser said. "If we lose the season is over. If I know the guys like I think I do, we're going to come out fighting and we're going to give everything that we got."