COPLAY Senior Dave Behler became the game hero for Lehighton's baseball team yesterday just by watching the ball pass by.
On a full count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, Behler proved to have a good eye and took ball four. It allowed the Indians to score an extra inning, 7-6 win over Allentown Central Catholic in a District 11 Class AAA semifinal at Coplay. It also got Behler the game ball.
The victory, filled with drama, gave the Tribe (17-7) a pass to Coca Cola Park in Allentown where they will meet Saucon Valley at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday for the championship.
While Behler was in the right spot at the right time, there were many moments that tested the mettle of his team.
Ÿ Three times the Indians came from behind.
Ÿ Three times Central ended innings with the bases loaded.
Ÿ Winning pitcher Tyler Hill, a sophomore, allowed just three runs in 6 innings, and got a key base hit in the eighth.
How exciting was this game?
"If ESPN could get their hands on a tape of this game, I think they'd use it," said Lehighton head coach Brian Polaha.
When talking about saviors in the contest, you have to include Anthony Farole, a sophomore who is one of the smallest starters on the team.
In the bottom of the second, Farole sliced a line drive triple and drove home three runners.
Then in the eighth, he tapped a sacrifice bunt which advanced a runner.
"I wanted to give him a chance...and it paid dividends," said Polaha about putting Farole in the lineup.
"That was the biggest hit of my high school career," admitted Farole. "The ball was right where I like it; a little inside."
The game was played over two days. It began Thursday afternoon at Northwestern High School. A severe thunderstorm forced the game to be suspended in the second inning with Central leading 4-0. At the time, the Vikings had the bases loaded and just one out.
It resumed yesterday in Sam Balliet Stadium in Coplay.
Polaha remarked, "Baseball is a lot about momentum." He admitted the Vikings had the momentum Thursday afternoon, and that the rain might have been a saving grace.
"I told my players in the huddle they (Central) had all the momentum yesterday," sais Polaha referring to Thursday. "I told them that the new days brings new opportunities. They just had to focus."
Starting pitcher Kyle Hunter was replaced by Hill when the game resumed with Central having the bases loaded, one out, and a 4-0 lead.. The first batter Hill faced went down swinging. The second one forced a high fly into left field.
In the fourth, Central went up 5-3, but the Indians scored a run in the bottom of the fifth and one more in the bottom of the seventh to send it into the extra innings.
The run in the fifth was scored by Derek Heffelfinger who walked, went to second on a base hit by Hunter, and scored on a double by Jacen Nalesnik.
In the seventh, it was Heffelfinger again who scored, this time leading off with a single, advancing on a fielder choice play, and scoring on a Nalesnik single.
The bottom of the eighth saw Lehighton's Nic Storm lead off with a single, then go to second of Farole's sacrifice bunt. Hill hit a single, and so did Hunter to let Storm score. Nalesnik was walked intentionally before Behler got his game-winning walk.
Hunter had three hits while Nalesnik had two hits and two RBIs. Behler and Tyler Harris also had two hits apiece.
ACC 310 100 01 - 6 8 0
Lehighton 030 010 12 - 7 13 0
Arner and Smale. Hunter, Hill (2) and Nalesnik. W - Hill. L - Arner.