It seems like it's been forever, but Lehighton and Tamaqua finally hit the diamond yesterday afternoon for a local opening season match-up.
The Raiders came into their game with the Indians looking to improve from a 5-15 record a year ago. Tamaqua coach Jeff Reading had a talented, but inexperienced squad in 2012, therefore losing a lot of close ball games.
What a difference a year makes.
Tamaqua used last season's experience to their advantage, fighting back from a two run deficit in the sixth inning, scoring three runs, adding another in the seventh to top Lehighton 4-2 for the non-league victory.
"First of all it's nice to be out here and playing baseball finally," said Reading. "It's cold, but this is Northeastern Pennsylvania and this is what spring time is like. It's just good to get be out and playing the game."
It was a pitchers dual early with the Indians' Jake Kern and the Raiders' Derek Rottet battling the opposition.
Kern was strong for the first five innings he pitched, allowing just two hits and no runs in that span. Rottet also pitched well early, allowing only one hit and striking out six, but fatigue set in for him in the fourth. The most impressive pitching performance on the day came from sophomore Brett Kosciolek. The powerful 6-7 righty relieved Rottet in the fourth, striking out eight out of the 11 batters he faced, allowing no hits or runs.
All together Rottet and Kosciolek combined for one hit, one earned run, and 14 strikeouts.
"The one thing I was really proud of and impressed with today was between our two pitchers we threw a one-hitter," said Reading. "14 strikeouts as well, it's early in the season, it's our first game, it's their first game, so I knew the bats were going to be slow. Fortunately, we were able to string together some hits in the later innings to come away with it. It was definitely a nice win early on."
The Tamaqua bats were asleep for most of the ball game, but the sixth inning proved to be the Raiders wake up call.
After Bo Rottet and Ian Nicholls reached base on singles, catcher Matt Roberts hit a double to left center, bringing in two runs. Kosciolek would add a hit in the sixth as well and two batters later Troy Reinardt drove in Roberts with a sacrifice fly to give the Raiders a 3-2 lead.
"It was really big to get a win like this out of the gate and hopefully it sets the tone for a successful season," said Roberts. "As far as the at bat goes, I just got a good pitch to hit and I got a hold of it."
Tamaqua would tack on another run in the seventh with another Roberts' RBI and Kosciolek struck out the side in the bottom half to earn the win for Tamaqua.
The Indians are much like the Raiders last season in the fact that they have some inexperience on the roster. Lehighton lost a lot from their 16-8 team a year ago and coach Brian Polaha was concerned with how his inexperienced players would do at the plate.
"For the most part I was pleased with how we played, except offensively," said Polaha. "We had one bad inning there and unfortunately what I was worried about, which was us hitting, hurt us today. However, it's our first game of the year and we got some talented kids, so I believe we will get significantly better as the year goes on."
Jacen Nalesnik was 1-for-2 with two runs batted in for Lehighton.
Tamaqua 000 003 1 - 4 6 1
Lehighton 002 000 0 - 2 1 2
Rottet, Kosciolek (4) and Roberts; Kern, Hill (6), and Nalesnik. W - Kosciolek. L - Kern.