Lehigh Valley boys fall in Cup finals
They were the Carpenter Cup’s comeback kids.
Lehigh Valley’s late-game heroics had been commonplace at the prestigious tournament.
Down a run entering the final frames in each of their past two games, the squad has come up clutch.
And there was a belief they would do it again Tuesday at Citizen’s Bank Park.
But it was Burlington County (NJ) that broke open a tie game with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to claim the Carpenter Cup Classic championship with a 4-2 win over Lehigh Valley.
“We just never quit,” said LV coach Ted Plessl. “Our backs were against the wall coming into the ninth, but like they said, ‘We’ve been here before, let’s do it again.’
“Unfortunately, the magic ran out for us today.”
Elijah Dickerson (2-for-2) roped a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth inning to kick-start Burlington’s rally. Joseph Dalsey bunted Dickerson to third, and Jedler Hernandez’s double scored Dickerson to put Burlington ahead 3-2 lead.
A Cade Hunter double to the deepest part of park scored Hernandez and made it 4-2.
“It was a hell of an experience, this is a hell of a team,” said Lehigh Valley’s Dallas Greenzweig, a Pleasant Valley junior who got the start at catcher. “We had a great tournament, had a lot of fun, it just didn’t come out the way we wanted.
“But next year, we’re going to come out and win.”
Lehigh Valley showed its grit throughout the tournament.
The squad dug out of a 5-1 hole – and outlasted a brief rain delay – against Delaware South in semis, taking the lead in the eighth inning when Northwestern’s Derek Holmes delivered a go-ahead two-strike, two-out, two-run single in a 7-6 victory.
It was a familiar scene in the quarters, when LV scored twice in the top of the ninth to edge Berks County 3-2 to reach the semis, a rally keyed by the Tigers’ Nick Henry.
The stage was set for another rally against Burlington.
Ben Stokes (Stroudsburg) delivered an RBI double to score Brandon Robinson (Emmaus), who reached on error to tie the game at 2-2 with one out in the top of the eighth. Stokes had the go-ahead sacrifice fly in LV’s quarterfinal win.
Rafe Perich (Northwestern) collected his second hit of the game, moving Stokes to third and brining Holmes to the plate.
But a double play ended the threat and kept the game knotted at 2-2. Lehigh Valley went down in order in the top of the ninth.
Holmes, who helped the Tigers reach the Colonial League and District 11 Class 4A final, and earn a berth in the state tournament, was able to put the setback in perspective.
“It was great,” he said standing in the dugout afterward. “For our team to come together like this, the way we’ve just been able to bond over the last couple days. To be able to make a run like this; we fell one short, but just to be able to play in Citizen’s Bank, and be here with these guys was awesome.
“And to be able to play with some of the guys from Northwestern one last time, just being able to play with those guys, and play in this kind of atmosphere, is just a great way to end my career.”
The game was scoreless until the fourth inning. Blake Barthol (Parkland) opened the frame with a leadoff double to leftfield. A Brian Horoshko (Allentown Central Catholic) single scored Barthol to put LV in front 1-0.
Burlington had an answer, a loud one at that, in the bottom of the inning, one that started with Lorenzo Repack’s deep one-out triple that hit off the right field wall. After a fly out by Brian McMonagle failed to do the job, Joey Moore (2-for2) delivered a two-out double to score Repack and tie the game at 1-1.
Robby Barrientos followed with a double that plated Moore, giving Burlington County 2-1 lead.
Moore opened the bottom of the second with a single, and Connor Coolahan started the third with a hit. But Burlington couldn’t cash in, as LV starter Braden Waller (Emmaus) worked out of trouble each time. The sophomore went three innings, striking out three and surrendering just the two hits.
Plessl praised the group’s ability to play as a team – not individuals – throughout the event.
“Anytime you can bring 31 different high schools together that we have the rights to get ballplayers from, and 17 different high schools represented, that’s just fabulous,” said Plessl. “It’s really neat to be able to bring all those kids together on one team.
“By the time you get to this game, they don’t refer to themselves as Liberty, or Easton, or Parkland. All of a sudden, all you’re hearing out of them is, ‘Lehigh Valley.’”
CHAMPS … The win gave Burlington its fourth Carpenter Cup title, third-best among active franchises in the tournament. Lehigh Valley’s last title came in 2011.
THE OPENER … Holmes also came through with a key two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning of an 8-4 opening round win over Suburban One American Continental.
Leading 6-4 with two outs and a pair in scoring position, Holmes came through with his double to plate two more runs and give LV more breathing room.
Lehigh Valley 000 100 010 – 2 6 1
Burlington Cty. 000 200 02x – 4 12 1
Waller, King (4), Welch (4), Staivecki (7), Gustofson (8), Zwolenik (8) and Greenzweig, Transue; Kato, Willitts (4), Frigioli (6), Mangene (8) and Barrientos, Hunter. W – Mangene. L – Gustofson.
Derek Holmes (Northwestern) delivered what turned out to be the game-winning, two-run single in the eighth inning that helped lift Lehigh Valley to a 7-6 victory over Delaware South Monday afternoon to advance LV to the finals.
“Well, I kind of addressed this at our last team workout when I was talking to the team,” said the Lehigh Valley manager Ted Plessl. “I mean … Easton lost out. Emmaus lost out. Liberty lost out. Parkland lost out. Northwestern lost out. … And, I’m looking at a great bunch of ballplayers, and I said, ‘Hey, there’s championships that were not gotten.’
“But, I said, ‘Here’s one more shot for all of you.’ And, it was kind of interesting, as I saw all of them shaking their heads yes. They’re going for it. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I know one thing, the other team is going to have to beat us because we’re not going to beat ourselves. The bottom line is we will fight to the very last out. I feel good about [Tuesday].”
After sitting through a 40-minute rain delay in Citizens Bank Park, it was Delaware South that broke the 5-5 tie with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Then, after trailing 5-1 after four innings of play, it was the likes of Braden Breithaupt (scored on a passed ball), Brandon Robinson (two-run single) and Zack Transue (RBI single) capitalizing on opportunities in a four-run fifth inning.
Lehigh Valley 100 040 020 – 7 8 1
Delaware So. 140 000 100 – 6 10 3
Mahady, Zwolenik (2), Staivecki (4), Waller (7) and Greenzweig, Transue (5); Hilligoss, Reichhold (4), Keene (5), Warrington (7) and McGray, Shockley (5). W – Waller. L – Warrington.
Northwestern’s Nick Henry played a key role as an alternate in Lehigh Valley’s 3-2 victory over Berks County on Saturday at UYA Ashburn and Showcase Fields.
With the win, Lehigh Valley found itself in the Carpenter Cup semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“We always tell our alternates if you come to the game, we’ll try to get them in the dugout and just be prepared to play in case we need them,” said manager Ted Plessl, who found out two minutes before game time that one of his LV players couldn’t play.
After watching Berks County take a quick 2-0 lead after one inning, Lehigh Valley chipped away at the deficit with a run in the top of the fourth.
Blake Barthol (Parkland) singled to lead off the inning. On a wild throw to first on a hit by Quinn Warmkessel (Salisbury), Barthol plated Lehigh Valley’s first run.
It wasn’t until the very last inning of the game, but Braden Breithaupt (Stroudsburg) got things going with a single. Ben Piripavel (Liberty) put down a sacrifice bunt to move Breithaupt to second.
With one out, Henry tied things up with an RBI-single scoring Breithaupt.
Henry’s crossed home plate with what turned out to be the game-winning run on a Ben Stokes (Stroudsburg) sacrifice fly.
Lehigh Valley 000 100 002 – 3 5 0
Berks County 200 000 000 – 2 7 1
Zwolenik, Gustofson (4), Welch (7), McEvoy (9) and Greenzweig, Transue (5); Book, Leverington (4), Laraia (6), Duffie (7), Renner (9) and Rodriguez, Vanderslice (5). W – Welch. L – Renner. S – McEvoy.
Lehigh Valley opened tournament play with an 8-4 victory over Suburban One American/Continental.
Lehigh Valley did the most damage however with four runs in the fourth inning. Then they added some insurance runs with two in the eight.
With winning pitcher Evan Zwolenik (Northampton), Daniel McEvoy (Pleasant Valley), Kyle Mahady, Braden Waller, and closer Koby Staivecki, accounting for only six strikeouts, it left the defense behind them to lend a helping hand in Lehigh Valley securing an opening round victory.
“Our defense played really well today,” Plessl stressed. “I know we had two errors, but one was a pickoff and the other one if anybody else probably doesn’t even get to it, yet I know they called it an error, but in my book it was a tough play to begin with. We played very well definitely on defense.”
Lehigh Valley 110 400 020 – 8 13 2
SOL American 000 004 000 – 4 7 4
Zwolenik, McEvoy (4), Mahady (6), Waller (6), Staivecki (9) and Greenzweig, Transue (5); Valenti, Hamilton (3), Lowe (5), Curran (6), Bitski (8) and Hicks, Reilly (5). W – Zwolenik. L – Valenti.