PINE GROVE Last season, when the Tamaqua baseball team needed a clutch hit or big defensive play it just didn't seem to happen. The Raiders were young and it showed as they lost five one-run games in 2012.
This season, however, the Raiders are a much different ball club. When the game has been on the line, it has brought out the best in Tamaqua. The Raiders showcased that yet again Monday night in the Schuylkill League semifinals against Williams Valley.
The Raiders got the hits they needed at crucial moments and got a solid collective effort from the mound to advance to the Schuylkill League Championship with a 4-2 win over the Vikings.
Good teams take advantage of the opposition's mistakes and that's exactly what the Raiders did on Monday night.
Tamaqua's four runs all came off of plays that should of or could of been made by Williams Valley as two deep fly balls by the Raiders were misplayed into doubles and two fielding errors also resulted in two runs.
"I was just pleased with the way we executed tonight. We did what we had to do to manufacture runs," said Tamaqua coach Jeff Reading. "We got guys on, moved them over and got the job done. They made some throwing errors and we were able to move some guys around the bases. We always preach to our guys to play errorless ball and take advantage of the other team's mishaps and we did that tonight."
Tamaqua (14-7) got on the board first in the top half of the first after Bo Rottet walked and stole second base. Matt Roberts hit a high fly ball to left field, which was misplayed by the Vikings outfielder. The Roberts' double brought in Rottet to give Tamaqua a 1-0 lead.
Williams Valley (17-4) answered back in the second after a wild pitch by Derek Rottet. The miscue would score Ben Rautzhan knotting the game up at 1-1.
Tamaqua then got some breathing room. A Brett Kosciolek fly ball to deep left field was lost in the lights and fell behind the Vikings outfielder, setting up an RBI opportunity for catcher Luke Matsago. The senior came through, belting a single to center field, scoring Kosciolek. A throwing error by the Vikings would then score courtesy runner Matt Yeakel, giving Tamaqua a 3-1 advantage.
"We've just been playing real well as a team this year and working together to pull out some of these close wins," said Tamaqua senior Derek Rottet. "Last season served as motivation for us to come out this year and play better. You can tell the difference in our dugout this year. We're all up and always motivating each other, which has helped us get some big wins."
Raiders' coach Jeff Reading had a tough decision coming into Monday night's match-up with Williams Valley. Which pitcher would start and how could he use his pitchers in a way that his top three guys could all be available for the championship game if they happened to win?
Reading's strategy worked to perfection.
Derek Rottet got the starting nod. Rottet pitched solid, giving up two hits, striking out two, and giving up a run in three innings of work. Then it was Josh Zehner's turn on the merry-go-round as he put together three nice innings as well. Zehner struck out five, giving up just three hits. Reading then finished off the Vikings with the "big cat" in ace Brett Kosciolek.
Kosciolek got himself in a little trouble, walking a guy and then letting up a base hit where there seemed to be some confusion in the Raiders infield. The Vikings had runners on first and second with just one out, but Kosciolek struck out WV standout Owen Daniel and then got Ron Daub to hit a dribbler back to the mound to seal the win for the Raiders.
"We were talking about who was going to throw, the whole weekend and it was a lot of 'what if's'?," said Reading. "We didn't really know the scenario, going back to the North Schuylkill vs. Pine Grove game. So, we got together and decided to throw a combination. We wanted to be able to get some solid innings out of Derek and Josh and then have Brett come in and close it for us. The whole idea was to give them different looks and keep them off-balance and it seemed to work."
Tamaqua's game vs. North Schuylkill for the Schuylkill League title will be held at Stump Stadium in Pine Grove on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Tamaqua 102 100 0 - 4 6 1
Williams Vy. 011 000 0 - 2 6 3
D. Rottet, Zehner (4), Kosciolek (7), and Matsago; Crider, B.Miller (4), and Daub. W - Zehner L - Crider.