PINE GROVE - The Schuylkill League has certainly established itself as one of the most competitive in high school baseball, with multiple teams capturing District 11 championships in the same year in six of the last seven seasons
That trend continued for the third straight year this season, as Tamaqua (AAA) and Tri-Valley (A) each captured district titles.
On Saturday evening at Stump Stadium that talent finally came together on the same field in the inaugural Anthracite Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game, with the Division II squad defeating the Division I team by an 8-1 decision.
After a highly competitive regular season, the game was a nice sendoff for the participating seniors and a chance for them to gain a different perspective on some players they competed against all year.
"It's definitely a big honor to represent the school," said Marian's Nick Kweder, who had a double and scored a run for the winning Division II team. "It's really all about having fun and meeting a bunch of guys that you maybe have rivalries with during the regular season."
Weatherly's Kevin Hinkle, who started and earned the win for the Division II squad, echoed Kweder's sentiments.
"I think it's just a lot of fun and a good way to end the year, just playing with kids you've been playing against all year," Hinkle said of his experience. "We've never actually played a game before so this was really exciting to come out and actually be with other kids.
"It was a really good time and I hope that they will keep doing it in the future."
Even in a losing effort, Jim Thorpe's Pat Duvignead, who went 1-for-3 in the contest, enjoyed his experience playing for the Division I team.
"This is all about just having fun with the guys and coming out for one last hurrah before we all go to college," said Duvignead. "I hope they keep this game going because it's a really nice way to send the seniors out, just like they do in football."
Panther Valley's Richie Smith joined Duvignead on the Division I team and also had high praise for the first year event
"It's the same thing as the all-star game for football," Smith said, noting the similarities to the more established football all-star game. "You come out here and you get to play with guys that you played against all year, archrivals, then you're all on the same team.
"It's just a great atmosphere with the big crowd. Nobody cares if you make mistakes or errors; if you strikeout or if you hit the ball; it's all about just having fun."
The game also proved to be a diversion for Tamaqua's Jeff Reading, who was coaching the Division I team.
The next time Reading will be on the field at Stump Stadium, the Blue Raiders will be playing Franklin Towne Charter in the first round of the PIAA state playoffs.
"I think the event itself is a good thing," said Reading. "It allows kids that square off during the year against one another and battle each other for the top spot in the league to come together and have some camaraderie.
"I hope it does continue. For a lot of these kids, they're going to move and not play ball anymore and it give them the opportunity to give it one last hurrah."
The Tamaqua and Tri-Valley seniors did not play in the event since both will be participating in the PIAA Baseball Championships this week. Both teams' seniors were honored before the game for their accomplishments.
Those recognized from Tamaqua were Derek Rottet, Luke Matsago, Troy Reinhardt, Josh Zehner, Travis Miller and Matt Yeakle.
Division I All-Stars 001 000 0 - 1
Division II All-Stars 320 003 x - 8
W - Hinkle. L - Bressler.