STROUDSBURG - Coming in as the fourth seed in the Mountain Valley Conference baseball tournament, there's no doubt Lehighton was the underdog in its matchup against top-seeded Stroudsburg.
The Indians, however, were riding a four-game winning streak coming into the contest in which they had outscored their opponents 26-5, which certainly created a sense of hope and optimism heading into the game.
But just as they had done twice before this season, the Mounties claimed a victory over the Indians, this time an 8-2 decision that puts Stroudsburg in the MVC final against Pocono Mountain East.
The Mounties' set the tone from the outset, scoring two runs in the first on the strength of Philip Stokes' RBI single and Mike Nikorak's RBI groundout.
Stroudsburg (18-3) kept it rolling in the second, scoring four runs as Stokes again made an impact at the plate, this time with a two-run single.
Stokes had another RBI in the sixth, which pushed the Mounties' advantage to 8-0 heading into the final inning.
Lehighton (13-8) tried to rally in the final frame, as Jordan Knappenberger and Nick Hill hit back-to-back one-out singles. After an Anthony Farano line-out, Brady Niehoff roped a two-run single to get the Indians on the board and spoil Dillon Donne's shutout bid.
Donne finished with eight strikeouts in seven innings of work and held Lehighton hitless through the first three innings.
Lehighton coach Brian Polaha felt his squad's slow start is what doomed the team on this day.
"We didn't play well early," Polaha said of his team's struggles. "We were kind of lethargic; they (Stroudsburg) had a base hit to the outfield and they ended up getting to second base standing up.
"There are plays we could have made earlier in the game that we didn't. They're a good team and they made us pay."
Stroudsburg's fast start and timely hitting are the primary reasons it is moving on and also proves why the program is one of the best in the district.
"They're the best team in this league for a reason," Polaha said. "They kind of overwhelmed us, but we knew what we were getting into.
"Did I think we had a shot to win? Sure, if we would have played well and did everything almost perfect. We would have had to play an almost perfect game and get clutch hits. But we didn't do that and they jumped on us early and kind of coasted from there."
Polaha's counterpart had just as much praise for him and what the Indians have accomplished this season.
"I think Brain (Polaha) does a real nice job with his team," Stroudsburg coach Phil Stokes said. "You've gotta respect that the kids are in this playoff game for a reason and I don't think we were counting on that."
What the Indians' are counting on now is moving on to the district playoffs and trying to recapture some of last year's magic, when the team went to the District 11 Class AAA Championship game.
"We're not satisfied with where we're at," Polaha said. "It was a great regular season and we exceeded expectations, but at the same time, now we have new goals.
"We're just taking it one game at a time. We'll be excited for districts and we'll be ready to bounce back from this."
Lehighton 000 000 2 - 2 8 2
Stroudsburg 240 002 x - 8 9 0
David, Kern (3) and Nalesnik; Dunne and Van Orman. W - Dunne. L - David.