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PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Austin Anderson makes play during Lower Macungie's Region 2 Tournament appearance. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Austin Anderson makes play during Lower Macungie's Region 2 Tournament appearance.

Lower Mac falls in Region 2 Tourney

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to The Press in Sports

Lower Macungie pictured a much different end to its Lehigh Valley Legion season than what it encountered Sunday in the Region 2 playoffs. The Mustangs exited after just two games in the double-elimination tournament with losses to Perkiomen and Muhlenberg in their first two games of the event, which was held in Freemansburg.

Muhlenberg eliminated Lower Macungie in a 7-6 game that went 10 innings. Muhlenberg scored a quick run in the bottom of the tenth on a double, sacrifice bunt and an RBI single that pushed across the winning run.

It didn't help Lower Macungie's chances that it was without four players who contributed during the regular season. The absences left manager Jeff Smith with just 11 players for the second game against Muhlenberg.

"We played a good game today, but we were a little short-handed," he said. "The pitching - Teja [Venigalla], what a great game. He pitched almost eight innings and I can't say enough about him. That kid is a gamer."

Venigalla went seven-plus innings, giving up 10 hits and allowing five runs, four of which were earned. Andrew Miller came on in relief in the eighth facing a bases-loaded jam.

Miller allowed just one run to score on a groundball. He battled through some leg cramping in the extreme heat, allowing a run in the ninth that tied the game and then the winning run in the tenth.

"Andrew came in and did the best he could," said Smith. "He had a little leg-cramping going on there, but he wanted to stay in.

"We were pretty much out, that was it. It was a hot day, everybody was pretty much out of gas and extra innings didn't help us because we didn't have our full squad here. Hats off to Muhlenberg, because they hung in and they did what they had to do to win and we wish them well."

Lower Macungie banged out 15 hits against Muhlenberg, with George Smith going 4-for-6 with two runs scored and Joel Bartoni going 3-for-6 with five RBIs against Muhlenberg.

"I had a little bit of luck," said George Smith. "I have great teammates and my dad does a great job coaching and the other coaches do a great job. There's a lot of energy and positivity, and that's huge. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for my teammates and the energy they bring and that makes me ready to go, every single game."

Lower Macungie will lose four players - Austin Anderson, Miller, Todd Sweeney and Venigalla - for next season, but that leaves the Mustangs with a strong core of players who will be returning as they look to go even further next year. The year was an obvious success, considering that there weren't even enough players to field a team last season and this year's squad had to battle through having four wins taken away because of using a player that was ruled to be ineligible halfway through the schedule.

"We had a great season," said Jeff Smith. "Our goal was to play in a championship and get [to regionals] and we accomplished both. It would have been nice to move on, but most of these guys will be back next year, so I would expect a lot of the same next year. I'm proud of all of them and happy to be associated with them and we enjoyed the tournament and we'll move on."