Lower Mac beats CC to advance in LVL
Vince Viola had only made one pitching appearance for Lower Macungie during the Lehigh Valley Legion regular season.
Sunday, with the stakes as high as they get in summer baseball, he was called on to take the mound with his team’s season on the line.
Viola came in to the playoff elimination game with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning. His team was clinging to a 6-4 lead over the Carbon County Monarchs when Viola got the ball.
He walked the first batter to make it 6-5, but got out of the inning without further damage. After a double play and a walk that loaded the bases again, Viola struck out the next batter, the first of eight straight Monarchs he retired before giving up a couple runs in the seventh but preserving an 8-7 win to advance Lower Macungie into Tuesday’s loser’s bracket semifinal against Salisbury.
“I tried to just keep the runs down to where they were because I knew this team could get more hits at the end and produce more runs,” said Viola. “My fastball was working. I was locating off the plate really well. My curveball was working for the most part. The up and in fastball was working really well for me today.”
Although he hadn’t been a regular in his team’s pitching staff, Lower Mac was playing it’s third playoff game in three days and had to go deep into the rotation.
“We were really in a pinch with pitching because of pitching rules,” said Lower Mac head coach Jeff Smith. “We really had to rely on two guys. [Starter Everett] Horton did fantastic. And Viola, who has pitched one time this year, he seemed to get stronger as he went on.
“I texted [Viola] last night and said I hate to do this to you but we’re in a pickle. I need you to throw tomorrow. His reply to me was ‘no problem coach, I got it.’ I love kids like that.”
Viola allowed just one hit over four innings while walking four and striking out two. He cruised through perfect innings in the fifth and sixth, but walked a pair of batters in the seventh inning before Carbon’s Daniel Keer (3-for-4, 3 RBIs, 2 runs) hit a two-run triple to get his team within a run at 8-7 with two out in the top of the seventh inning.
The Monarchs’ Mason Barndt blasted a ground ball that looked like it could get through the middle of the infield, but Gunnar Schichtl made a backhanded stop and threw out Barndt to end the game.
“We had the tying run on base,” said Monarch head coach Donnie Rehrig. “Mason put the ball in play and their second baseman made a heck of a play to his right.”
Horton kept Lower Mac in the game over the first three innings, allowing just four hits but walking eight batters while striking out four.
After Carbon took a 2-0 lead with runs in each of the first two innings, Lower Mac responded with six runs in the bottom of the second.
Viola, who started the game as a designated hitter, drove in the first run on a fielder’s choice. Another came in on a Shane Martrich single. Rob Roman knocked in another with a single and Brandon Robinson got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 4-2. Adam LeMaster knocked in two more with a single for a 6-2 lead.
Carbon loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth when Bradley Buzzard hit a two-run double to make it 6-4. Two batters later, Viola entered with the bases loaded and no outs.
After the Monarchs cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the fourth, Lower Mac responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Three walks loaded the bases with no outs. Viola hit a two-run single to give his team an 8-5 lead.
The win advanced Lower Macungie into Tuesday’s loser’s bracket semifinals at top-seed Salisbury. That game was played after Press deadline. See next week’s issue for results.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will play Wednesday against the loser of Tuesday’s winner’s bracket final between North Parkland and South Parkland.
“I think we have a good chance no matter who we play Tuesday,” said Viola. “We beat both of those teams once before. If we get the bats going and play solid defense I think we really have a shot at this.”
Lower Macungie, which went 12-6 in the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed for the LVL playoffs, opened the tournament last Friday with a 10-4 win over No. 8 Coplay before losing 4-3 to No. 3 seed North Parkland on Saturday.
Only the league tournament champ will move on to next week’s regional playoffs at Muhlenberg Township’s home field in Laureldale.