PHILADELPHIA Tri-Cape had plenty of opportunities to stifle the Lehigh Valley Monday morning in the Carpenter Cup semifinals, but every time the door opened, the LV squad shut it quickly.
The Lehigh Valley took advantage of errors, played great defense and used quality pitching to knock off Tri-Cape 4-1 at Citizens Bank Park to reach their second final in three years.
That takes place this morning against the winner of the Mercer County vs. Jersey Shore matchup, which was suspended in the seventh inning Monday due to lightning. That game will be continued at 9:30 am Tuesday morning with Mercer County holding a 2-1 lead. The championship will take place approximately one hour after the completion of that semifinal contest.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, the Lehigh Valley evened the score in the second and then took command in the middle third of the ball game to give Ted Plessl's squad a shot at their fourth championship in franchise history.
"That's our goal every year when we come down here and our kids are playing good ball," said Plessl. "This is twice now that we've given up a run in the first and come right back. Our pitching was superb today and we talked to our pitchers that closing this game might come earlier than the ninth and that happened today."
Pen Argyl's Tyler Buskirk scored the tying-run in the second inning off a Tri-Cape error and then belted the go-ahead in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI double to score Bethlehem Catholic's Pat Mergel for the 2-1 lead.
The Lehigh Valley then added two runs in the sixth, collecting three of their eight hits in the contest during the frame, but also capitalizing on two of three Tri-Cape errors on the day.
A wild-pitch helped move LV runners to second and third, while a passed ball on the following pitch scored an LV run. Whitehall's Tyler Sweeney then knocked a dribbler up the middle to see it botched by the second baseman, which allowed Parkland's Brad Vasilik to score for the 4-1 advantage.
It was the little things that added up against Tri-Cape, a team made up of players from the Tri-County Conference and Cape Atlantic League in New Jersey, that eventually led to their demise. It was the first time since 2006 that Tri-Cape failed to reach the final.
But just as much as errors didn't help their cause, neither did the lack of key hits they failed to capitalize on with runners in scoring position. Tri-Cape stranded seven runners in the contest and batted into two double plays when Tamaqua sophomore Brett Kosciolek came into the contest in the fourth inning, after a stellar start by Central Catholic's Walt Roland.
Kosciolek found himself in trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, giving up a walk in the fourth and then a lead-off triple in the fifth, but he shut the door with the help of his defense by registering inning ending double plays in both frames.
He had two runners on in the sixth as well before ending the inning with a strikeout and ground out. Parkland pitcher Tyler Duff entered in the seventh, but only saw three batters, as Tri-Cape jumped on him for two singles to pull the plug on his morning. His teammate, Gabe Mosser, who has worked well into his closer role for the team throughout the competition, came in and made quick work of his opponents for the third straight game.
Mosser did not allow a man on base and retired eight straight with two strikeouts to give his team a chance for another title.
"I just wanted to throw strikes and get the ball in play so the defense can do their job," said Mosser. "I work at a fast pace and throw a lot of strikes. I'm not really wild and I like to have batters chase me. It was a little intimidating coming in here because this place is so big, but it's just a great experience."
Pleasant Valley's Danny Hrbek went 0-for-3 in Monday's game.