After finishing the regular season with the best record in the Colonial League and earning the number one seed in the league tournament, the Northern Lehigh Bulldogs had visions of capturing consecutive Colonial League championships.
The semifinals were scheduled to start earlier in the week, but a number of rainouts caused the entire tournament to be played on Saturday at Limeport Stadium. The winner would have to embark on a journey of winning two baseball games in the matter of eight hours.
Northern Lehigh survived the first half of its long day by routing Southern Lehigh, 14-0, in the semifinals. That put the Bulldogs into the championship game against Pen Argyl, which defeated Salisbury in their semifinal matchup, 7-4.
Unfortuately for Northern Lehigh, it wasn't able to complete the Saturday sweep and it fell, 2-1, in the title game.
It looked as if Northern Lehigh would come out victorious once again through six innings, but a lot can happen in an inning of baseball, and that was certainly on full display Saturday night.
"Baseball is a funny game," said Northern Lehigh head coach Erv Prutzman. "An inch here, an inch there and those are outs instead of hits."
The Bulldogs got their only run in the third inning on Chad Mazepa's RBI ground out.
Northern Lehigh held that advantage through six innings of baseball as both starting pitchers were superb. Both Pen Argyl's Dylan Evans and Northern Lehigh's Jake Kern put on a pitching clinic and refused to be outshined by the other.
Pen Argyl entered the top of the seventh inning with the middle of their lineup due up. Down 1-0 and with their backs against the wall, Pen Argyl never gave up and pulled off the unthinkable.
Consecutive singles to start the inning by third baseman Ryan Dejesso and and right fielder Conor Gum landed Pen Argyl batters on second and third with no outs. After a strikeout, third baseman Zach Miller's infield hit scored two runs and gave Pen Argyl their first lead of the game.
Northern Lehigh had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runners on base with two outs, but the Bulldogs, could not bring the runners across the plate.
It was the Green Knights first Colonial League championship since the 2003-04 season.
Kern had a great performance in a losing effort, tossing a complete game while allowing seven hits. He struck out six and walked two.
Coach Prutzman praised his pitcher's performance, and noted how valuable he has been the entire season. Kern, who received a scholarship for football at Cornell University, has been a key part of this pitching rotation over the season.
"He's 7-1 coming into this game," Prutzman said. "He has an ERA of 1.49. He's a heck of an athlete."
Pen Argyl's Evans pitched a complete game as well, allowing one run on just five hits. Evans had eight strikeouts and walked two.
With the Colonial League tournament over, the Bulldogs will now focus their attention on districts. Northern Lehigh will host Pine Grove in the quarterfinal round on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
When asked about his team's preparation for Districts next week, coach Prutzman's response was simple - "We're ready to go."
Pen Argyl 000 000 2 - 2 7 1
Northern Lehigh 001 000 0 - 1 5 1
Evans and Young; Kern and Bender W-Evans. L-Kern.
No. Lehigh-So. Lehigh
Eric Snyder was the pitching and hitting star for Northern Lehigh in a 14-0 mercy rule victory over Southern Lehigh in the semifinals.
Snyder tossed a five-inning no-hitter and had three hits at the platefor the Bulldogs.
So. Lehigh 000 00 – 0 0 4
No. Lehigh 074 3x – 14 13 2
Long, Flores (3), Lee (4) and Iversen. Snyder and Bender. W-Snyder. L-Long.