LV reaches Carpenter Cup championship
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 its two previous games, the squad had come up clutch.
And there was a belief the team would do it again last 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 head 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,” Holmes 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 left field. 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 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.’”
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.