PHILADELPHIA Unfortunately for the Lehigh Valley Carpenter Cup entry, the long-waited destination was within one victory, but it quickly disappeared to the rearview mirror with Citizens Bank Park in the distance.
Facing a pivotal showdown with the Suburban One (SOL) National/Bicentennial squad for the third consecutive year, Lehigh Valley might have taken some extra solace about beating their neighbors from the south. It was SOL National/Bicentennial that had beat them in the Carpenter Cup championship game in 2008 and knocked them out of the semifinal round in 2009.
There was also arguably the same level of frustration present when SOL National/Bicentennial recorded the final out of a long, anguishing afternoon in a 6-5 win over the Lehigh Valley in the 2010 Carpenter Cup Classic quarterfinals at Richie Ashburn Field in Franklin D. Roosevelt Park Monday afternoon.
Easton's Kevin Nemeth nearly tied the game when he drove a long drive to the left-field fence in the top of the ninth that was caught at the base of the fence by Nick Mascioli. It was Mascioli who broke the 5-5 tie in the bottom of the seventh with a sacrifice fly.
"It has been three years in a row with these guys, and it is a bit frustrating," said LV general manager Joe Pirro, who previously managed the club. "Our kids played hard and it's tough to lose this way. We were close again."
Lehigh Valley, an 11-4 winner over Chester County in their opening round game, found itself in a hole after the first inning as SOL National/Bicentennial touched starter Pat Bet of Whitehall for three runs on five consecutive singles.
But Lehigh Valley bounced back in the top of the second with a pair of runs when Bethlehem Catholic's Pat Walshe singled and D.J. King drew a walk. One out later, Drew Hercik (Nazareth) ripped a two-run single that narrowed the gap to 3-2.
Yet, SOL National/Bicentennial, who won their opening-round game 18-0 over Chester County - continued their assault as they responded with two more runs in the bottom of the second to take a 5-2 lead.
Northern Lehigh's Joey Seremula then stopped the bleeding as he allowed just three hits and struck out three over the next three innings. In the bottom of the fourth with the bases loaded, Seremula struck out Christopher Dock's Ryan Seiz on three swinging strikes that kept LV in the game and proved to help ignite a three-run rally in the top of the sixth.
It was a special outing for the Elizabethtown College-bound Seremula as well as a special moment against Seiz, who recently lead his team to the PIAA Class A championship and is also headed to the University of Louisville on a baseball scholarship.
"It was a big moment for me to strike him out," said Seremula of the incident. "I know he (Seiz) had some big home runs lately. After that happened, our whole bench was fired up.
"We knew we were never out of this game."
Lehigh Valley took advantage of the momentum as Mike Bahnick (Bethlehem Catholic) lead off the inning with a single. Golden Hawk teammate Alex Longernecker followed with a looping double down the left-field line that plated Bahnick for a 5-3 deficit.
Derrick Walling (Pleasant Valley) then reached on an error, placing runners on first and third. Parkland's Jon Abeln smacked a double in a gap in left-center that scored both Longnecker and Walling to tie the game at 5-5.
Lehigh Valley had base runners in both the sixth and seventh innings, but SOL National/Bicentennial relied on their defense, turning pivotal double plays in both stanzas to fizzle potential rallies.
NOTES ... Palmerton head baseball coach Ted Plessl has managed the team since 1998 ... Other TIMES NEWS area players were Tamaqua's Mike Streisel (first base) and Ryan Palsgrove (left field) along with Pleasant Valley's Drew Borger( second base).