LM Connie Mack exceeds expectations
When Tim Hertzog took over the Lower Macungie Connie Mack team this summer, he would have been pleased with a .500 record.
Lower Mac achieved more than that, and one win separated the Mustangs from a potential spot in the state tournament. After a 10-8 record in the regular season, a 2-1 series defeat to Nazareth was the only thing that kept Lower Mac from being one of six teams representing the Lehigh Valley in states.
And while Hertzog would have enjoyed that stage with such a young team, he's particularly proud of how Lower Mac finished 2015.
"I coached rec ball before and assisted on travel teams, but Connie Mack was a totally different thing," Hertzog said. "We all kind of learned together, and we had a pretty young team.
"My realistic goal was to be a .500 team and get through the season. We exceeded that. We made the playoffs, and we won a playoff game. Obviously we would have liked to have gone on to states."
The team was in question just a few months before the start of the season after many of last year's players moved on to the legion level. But the dedication and commitment from that group kept the program alive.
"In February the team didn't even exist," Hertzog said. "There were only a couple of kids signed up, so we did a lot of recruiting. We have a lot of first-year players on the team."
Lower Mac's start to the season may not have been how they had drawn it up, but a stellar pitching staff led by Cody Masters helped the team remain in the playoff hunt all season.
Along with Lower Mac's ace in Masters, who pitched on the Emmaus High School varsity team last season, Vince Rongione and Ian Hertzog provided a superb 1-2-3 punch that kept opposing batters on edge throughout the season.
Masters' highlight of the season was a 17-strikeout performance for Lower Mac, while Hertzog had two games with 10 strikeouts. Rongione had a number of solid outings throughout the summer to round out their staff.
"Our pitching was our strength," Hertzog said. "The first third of the season, we were hanging right around .500. We weren't really hitting the ball, but our pitching was very good. And then in the last third of the season, everything started to click. We won like five of six, or six of seven games, which kind of really pulled us back into it."
Masters was the only varsity player in the spring, but a number of others played JV for Emmaus and built on that experience in the summer.
Taden Gary specialized as a utility player. Catcher Jake Hahn was instrumental in the aforementioned three pitchers' day-to-day outings.
Ryan Kayse occupied the middle of the infield at both second base and shortstop, while Nick Andronis made a name for himself across the league at third base.