The first game of the season is usually guaranteed to feature some sloppiness and the Lehighton-Jim Thorpe baseball game was no exception. However, with the two teams being rivals and the importance of a first-game win motivating both sides, the outcome was the most important factor in this season opener.
After a slow start, the Tribe got things in order and pulled out the come-from-behind 11-5 win over the Olympians to start their season off in fine fashion.
Nine hits and some timely pitching by reliever A.J. Wenrich highlighted this win for the Indians, as a huge five-run fifth inning proved to be the momentum changer.
The big fifth inning began with the Indians trailing, 5-1. Three straight walks and a two-run single by Wenrich started the comeback. An error ensued that scored Alex Storm and a little later, Steve Shanton came up with might have been considered the biggest hit of the game, as he produced a two-run single to put his team ahead for the first time.
"I was impressed with that hit," Lehighton head coach Brian Polaha said. "He's a veteran and he showed it there because he struck out three times up to that point and he easily could have given up, but he came up with that hit. You have to give him credit."
That's all Wenrich needed on the mound as he pitched the final four innings and limited the hosts to one hit and three walks while striking out seven.
"(AJ Wenrich) came in and did a great job for us," Polaha said. "He really held them there for the rest of the game and thankfully, our offense picked up later in the game."
Polaha was referring to the final two frames for his squad, that produced two insurance runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh.
Jacen Nalesnik led off the Indian sixth with a single, stole second and later scored on an error. Another JT miscue produced the other tally to make it 8-5. In the final frame, Nalesnik padded his team's advantage with a RBI single. He finished the game, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Early on, Jim Thorpe's Dane Ciavarella started the season right, as his first at-bat yielded a two-run homer to help his cause on the mound. However, as his pitch count started to mount, the Lehighton bats started to gain confidence.
"I thought there were definitely bright spots in this one," Olympian head coach Gary Heydt said. "I thought Dane played well, but overall, I think we need to work on our communication as a team, in order to move in the right direction."
For the game, Ciavarella led the hosts, going 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and two RBIs. Justin Kaminski also had a base hit in the second inning that eventually turned into a run scored.
Lehighton got a big game from Wenrich, as he had the nice outing on the mound and also went 2-for-5 with the bat, yielding four RBIs for the winners.
"We know we have a lot of work to do because we made a couple of silly errors and had mental lapses that we just can't do this season," Polaha related. "The Mountain Valley Conference is tough and we're going to have to fix some of these problems that we had tonight."
Lehighton 010 052 3 - 11 9 2
Jim Thorpe 311 000 0 - 5 6 4
David, Wenrich (4) and Nalesnik; Ciavarella, Sterling (5) and Devigneaud. W - Wenrich. L - Ciavarella. HR: Jim Thorpe - Ciavarella (2nd, one on).