Tamaqua had Stroudsburg right where it wanted it as the two teams headed into the sixth and final inning of their Section 6 10-11 year old Little League Tournament game.
Unfortunately for Tamaqua, Stroudsburg was able to fight its way out of the corner and into the winner's circle.
Stroudsburg rallied in its final at-bat, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth to come from behind and send Tamaqua to the losers' bracket of the double-elimination tournament. Stroudsburg's Willie Kaiser tied the game with a two-run triple before teammate Jason Blaney singled him home for the eventual game winner in an 8-7 victory.
"I just told our kids that they have to make the plays," said Tamaqua manager Charlie Kistler. "We have to make the plays. We have to run the bases smarter. The team that makes the most plays wins the game every time."
Kaiser was the man of the day as he finished the game 4-for-4 with two singles, a double, a triple, three RBIs and the game-winning run. He also started on the mound for Stroudsburg and pitched very well after a shaky first inning. He allowed five runs in the opening frame, but had his defense commit three errors behind him. However, after that Kaiser did not allow another hit until the fifth inning when he was pulled due to his pitch count.
"I think I did well," said Kaiser. "Our fielding could have been a little better, but overall I think we did pretty well.
"I was a little nervous in the first inning, but I knew my team would pick me up. I knew we would make the plays."
Tamaqua decided to remove starter Zeke Wassell, who gave up five runs on four hits, in the second inning and brought in Thad Zuber. Zuber did an outstanding job in relief as he surrendered just two hits until things unraveled the final inning.
Zuber allowed a single and a walk to start things off in the sixth. Following a fielder's choice, Kaiser stepped to the dish and laced his triple to tie the game. After Zuber got the next batter to pop out to short, Blaney singled to right to plate the go-ahead run.
"Thad is a good kid," said Kistler. "He is money every time we bring him in, but you are talking 90-some degree weather. And they are kids. They are 11-year-old kids. He will battle back and we will see what we have for tomorrow."
Tamaqua set itself up for a rally in the bottom of the sixth, but ended the game on an unorthodox double play. Casey Rother and Wassell reached base via an error and a single respectively before they each moved up on a wild pitch. A strikeout then left Tamaqua with just two outs remaining.
Josh Inama came to bat and laced a groundball to third. Stroudsburg's Jason Genovese went to first for the out, but as he threw Rother took off for home. Blaney received the throw at first and quickly went home. Catcher Jarrett Canfield did a great job of blocking the plate and tagged Rother out to end the game.
Zuber, Scherer and Matt Weaver each recorded RBIs for Tamaqua. Wassell was the only local with multiple hits.
Tamaqua will now play Pennridge in the first round of the losers' bracket on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Franklin Township Little League field. The loser of that game will be eliminated.
Although it was a tough loss for Tamaqua, Kistler believes his team will be ready to go on Friday.
"We will bounce back," Kistler said. "They are tough kids. We had (Stroudsburg) on the ropes most of the game. That's what stinks."
Stroudsburg 410 003 - 8 9 6
Tamaqua 500 110 - 7 6 2
Kaiser, Blaney (5) and Canfield; Wassell, Zuber (2) and Inama. W - Blaney. L - Zuber.