It's hard to believe that the Valley West All-Star 9-and-10 year old team, which took the field on Saturday and Sunday, was the same squad that had played Tamaqua last Thursday.
Last Thursday, Tamaqua pummeled the Valley West squad 13-1, in the first game of the best of three series in the District 18 tournament. The mercy rule was applied in the game.
On Saturday in the second game, Valley West and Tamaqua waged a seesaw battle, with the Luzerne players coming from behind to even the series, winning 6-5.
Then on Sunday, it was Valley West for most of the game. The team built up a 10-4 lead going into the last inning, but staged a determined comeback. Unfortunately for the locals, it fell just short and Valley West won, 10-9, to win the district title.
The tourney was played in West Hazleton.
Valley West now goes to sectional competition, playing at Council Rock on Wednesday.
Tamaqua will enter the Panther Valley tournament this week.
In Sunday's game, Valley West led throughout the entire contest.
Tamaqua was hampered by some key errors, which was accompanied by consistent hitting by their opponent.
Valley West jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead, and added three more in the fourth to take a commanding 6-1 lead. By the time Tamaqua got their last licks in the bottom of the sixth, VW was up 10-4.
The locals gave their all, though. They fought back and it appeared they might overcome the deficit.
After a lead-off strike-out in the bottom of the sixth, eight consecutive batters made it to base for Tamaqua. A game-ending strikeout salvaged the championship win for Valley West with Tamaqua coming up one run short.
"They don't stop," said proud Tamaqua coach Charlie Kistler, regarding the tremendous late-game effort. "They keep ticking."
Kistler suggested the reason that Valley West might have jumped into such a large lead early was that his team started feeling a little down at giving up an early lead. "They had their heads down a little bit, but then they kept battling and battling," the coach assessed.
He said the advantage in the game was that Valley West "made plays and we didn't."
Zeke Wassail and Casey Rother had great weekends at the plate for Tamaqua.
Wassail went three-for-four on Sunday, whacking a double and an RBI single, after going two-for-four on Saturday with a run-scoring double and a single.
Rother had a single, an RBI, and got to base on an error yesterday, while on Saturday he had two hits in two at-bats, including a fifth-inning go-ahead RBI.
For Valley West, George Palermo had an awesome two days, going two-for-three on Saturday and three-for-four on Sunday.
Valley West went up 3-0 yesterday with a pair of singles which put runners on first and second, an error which allowed two runs to score, and another single which drove in the third run.
Three more runs in the top of the fourth made it 6-0.
Tamaqua finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth when Wassail led off with a double, stole third, and then got home on a passed-ball.
It became 7-1 in the top of the fifth, but Tamaqua closed the gap with three runs in their half of the inning. This was achieved with three walks, a two-run single by Casey Rother, and an error.
When Valley West added three runs in the top of the sixth to make the score 10-4, things looked pretty bleak for Tamaqua. Then a strike-out of the first batter in the bottom of the inning looked to have sealed the fate of the Tams. But it's never over until the last out is called.
Isaiah Kuprynsky ignited spark in his team with a scathing triple to right center, a ball that rolled to the fence. Two walks filled the bases and Wassail tagged a single that let Kuprynsky score. A walk and two more singles followed, but there was an unassisted play at second, and then the strike-out to put an end to the rally.
The fans were treated to an unexpected special event at Sunday's game. The field on which the game was played is located next to Hazleton Airport. An air show was occurring during which planes were doing aerial maneuvers including dives and flying upside-down. There were helicopters, jets swooping, and parachute jumpers in the distance, which combined with the excitement of the close game, made for an interesting afternoon.
Valley West 300 313 - 10 9 2
Tamaqua 000 135 - 9 7 4
Holt, Antolick (5) and Wolk. Zuber, Scherer (4), Clemson (6) and Inama. WP - Holt. LP - Zuber.
Tamaqua saw a come-from-behind effort go unrewarded on Saturday. Going into the bottom half of the sixth and final inning, the local team had a 5-4 edge, taking the lead after trailing earlier in the game.
Goerge Dakerno and Alex Klein, who shared pitching duties in the game, served as the deadly batting tandem in the bottom of the sixth which overtook Tamaqua, giving Valley West the 6-5 win.
It was a nail-biter for the entire game, with neither team ever ahead by more than one run.
Tamaqua scored first in the top of the first when Zeke Wassail clubbed a single, went to second on a passed-ball, and scored on a double by Casey Rother.
Valley West evened the game in their half, with Dakerno getting a lead-off single and eventually scoring on an error.
Tamaqua went up 2-1 in the top of the third thanks to a single by Brad Clemson, who made it to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cody Scherer, stole third, and made it home on an error.
The determined Luzerne County opponent added two in the bottom of the third to make it 3-2, then the Tams added two in the top of the fifth. Scherer had a lead-off double, Thad Zuber followed with a double, which let Scherer score, and Zeke Wassail added one more double, scoring Zuber.
Tamaqua 101 120 - 5 9 4
Valley West 102 102 - 6 8 3
Rather, Zuber (5), Wassail (6) and Inama. Klein, Dakerno (4), and Wolk. WP - Dakerno. LP - Wassail.