COPLAY - It's tough to imagine anything being more difficult for a baseball player than watching a walk-off hit by the opposing team in the 11th inning of a championship game after three-plus hours of hard-fought baseball.
But Lehighton pitcher Pat Janecki might have experienced something even worse at Sam Balliet Stadium on Tuesday night.
After allowing just one earned run in 10 innings of work, Janecki sat in the dugout as Andy Brandstetter hit the game-winning double into right field to send South Parkland to a 4-3 win in the Lehigh Valley Legion Championship game.
"It was anxious, nail-biting and at the end, it just felt bad that we didn't get the win," Janecki said.
Second-seed South Parkland will join regular season champion North Parkland in the Region 2 Tournament, which begins on Saturday in West Lawn.
As far as Lehighton, its season comes to an end, despite a valiant effort put up by its starting pitcher.
Janecki, who also went 2-for-5 with a run scored, struck out six in the 100-plus pitch performance.
"I didn't get tired," Janecki said. "Some innings I felt like I got stronger and stronger."
Lehighton coach Derick Reis was thoroughly impressed by Janecki's outing.
"He was going until he said he couldn't go anymore," Reis said. "He threw so well today. There was no way I was taking him out until he came and said that's it, I'm done."
Janecki, who escaped bases-loaded jams in both the ninth and 10th innings, used four double plays to assist him on the night, including a throw-out at the plate by center fielder Dan Russo that forced extra innings.
Kyle McAvoy replaced Janecki in the 11th and walked Brian Egge to lead off the inning. Following a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, Brandstetter delivered the decisive hit to end the marathon game.
"Basically, I wanted to foul off as many "Basically, I wanted to foul off as many pitches as I could until I got the right one," Brandstetter said. "Fortunately, I got a fast ball on the inside part of the plate and I hit it pretty well."
After South Parkland used a five-hit, three-run fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead, Lehighton battled back with two of its own in the sixth inning.
Janecki led off the frame with a single into right field and then catcher Greg Pecha drove a triple into center field to cut the lead to one run. Russo would knock in the game-tying run with a single into center field.
Lehighton, which managed just seven hits in the game, loaded the bases in the top of the 11th without recording a hit.
Kyle Hunter reached base on an error, Jacen Nalesnik walked and Janecki was hit by a pitch to fill the bases. But Pecha struck out looking against Parkland's Casey Cooperman to bring an end to Lehighton's final rally.
Dan Shaw struck out six and allowed five hits and three runs in eight innings pitched for South Parkland.
Brandstetter went 4-for-5 to lead South Parkland, which is coached by his father Al Brandstetter.
"I have been with him a long time," Al Brandstetter said. "He's headed to East Stroudsburg to play baseball next year. So this was a nice way to end the high school/legion chapter here in the local area. Hopefully, we'll go down to Wilson-West Lawn and play a few more."
Pecha went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs, Ryan Blasko recorded an RBI single in the second inning and Nalesnik walked four times for Lehighton.
"The loss is definitely heartbreaking but I wouldn't say our season was disappointing," Reis said. "For some of these kids, they played in the last baseball game they're ever going to play and it was probably the best baseball game they are ever going to see, ever going to play in, ever going to be a part of in any capacity."
Lehighton 010002000 00 - 3 7 3
So. Parkland 00300000 01 4 11 3
Janecki, McAvoy (11) and Pecha; Shaw, Nelson (9), Cooperman (11) and Abeln. W - Cooperman. L - McAvoy.