Jackson Township - In Jim Thorpe's District 18 Championship it was the defense that stood out, holding a powerful Hazleton team to just one run on two hits.
This time it was Thorpe's offense that propelled it to victory in the opening round of the 9-10 Little League Section 6 double elimination tournament. JT scored 10 runs between the fourth and fifth innings, defeating Big Pocono 12-9 to advance on to play Warwick at Reeders Field in Jackson Township tonight at 5:30 p.m.
The heat was on Jim Thorpe early both literally and figuratively with temperatures reaching into the low 90s.
JT also found itself down 7-1 at the end of the third inning, with their offense looking stagnant at best. Thorpe's defense, which was remarkable against Hazleton also didn't look to have the same pop as in previous games.
However, good teams are notorious for fighting through adversity and JT did just that.
Thorpe got the bats going in the fourth inning, scoring seven runs, batting through their entire lineup in the frame. Adam Lauer carried the big stick in the fourth, coming up with two doubles and two RBIs in the frame. Gavin Fikentscher, Jared Marykwas, and Mike Day all had a hit and an RBI in the inning. Johnny Malarkey also had a hit for in the inning.
"We live and die by the bats, so when it's going good for us at the plate it really energizes us," said Jim Thorpe coach Ryan Hurley. "When we started hitting the ball better in the fourth and fifth it really changed the demeanor of our entire ball club. Our success on offense gave us more confidence and then we picked it up in the field as well."
Thorpe took the lead in the top of the fourth, but Big Pocono showed some resiliency of its own, answering JT's call, scoring two runs and taking a 9-8 lead heading into the fifth.
"Both teams battled the heat, I mean it was really hot out there today. I think we were both evenly matched and our kids kept fighting," said Big Pocono coach Joe Homza. "We just made a couple of mistakes and we left the bases loaded three times on the day. They took advantage of the opportunities they were given in the later innings and we left too many guys out there."
JT scored three more runs in the fifth to reclaim the lead.
Defensive wizard Jared Joyce got offensive in the fifth coming through for Thorpe with a double and two RBIs in the inning. Malarkey was responsible for knocking in Thorpe's other run, bringing in Day with a single.
"These kids didn't quit at all today. It was hot and they could've backed down when we were down a bit there, but they didn't," said Hurley. "They did everything we asked them to do in the late innings and we came away with it."
Lauer once again showed his merit in the fifth for Thorpe, but this time from the mound. The youngster came into a bases loaded jam and shutdown Big Pocono to allow Thorpe to get out of the inning unscathed. Carlos Magobet then relieved Lauer in the sixth, holding the Big Pocono bats at bay and grabbing the save for Thorpe.
All in all JT used five pitchers on the afternoon, something that Hurley and his staff didn't have to do until Monday's game.
"A lot of our guys pitched in the regular season for their respective team, but a lot of them haven't seen much tournament pitching time," said Hurley. "We had to go deep into the pitching staff today and we threw about three guys that haven't pitched yet, but they did a good job for us, they gobbled up innings and we got the win."
Jim Thorpe 010 731 - 12 11 3
Big Pocono 025 200 - 9 11 3
Fikenstcher, Joyce (3), Marykwas (3), Lauer (5), Magobet (6); Napoli, Goucher (4), Fardelli (4), Hazen (5). W - Lauer L - Fardelli.