Due to the recent bad weather, Pleasant Valley and Lehighton's baseball teams have only played four and three games respectively in the last three weeks. It showed on the diamond Thursday.
Both Mountain Valley Conference powerhouses made a number of errors in their contest, both offensively and defensively. Each head coach attributed their team's sloppy play to a lack of getting outside and practicing on an actual baseball field. Although Lehighton may have committed a few more mistakes than Pleasant Valley, the Indians pulled out a dramatic 8-7 walk-off victory.
"To be honest with you, I think this is two good baseball teams," said Lehighton head coach Brian Polaha. "But with this being early in the year with all of the bad weather neither of us played well. Pleasant Valley seemed to make every play last year and that wasn't the case today. I mean we started off the game by reaching base on an error, but both teams played poorly.
"The thing is, since I have been here, this team just battles to the final out and I saw it again today. I certainly didn't like the way we played because we made a lot of mental mistakes, but I love the way we compete. We had six or seven come-from-behind wins last year. This is one early this year, but it is a huge one."
The man of the day was Lehighton's Jager Ziegenfuss. After the Indians gave up the lead in the top of the seventh on a costly error, they got themselves back together and went to work in their last at-bat. Jacen Nalesnik got things started by singling to right with one out. Tyler Hill and Tyler Harris then followed with consecutive singles to load the bases. That was when Ziegenfuss stepped to the dish.
Ziegenfuss delivered with a bomb to right-center field that bounced at the base of the fence. Nalesnik and Hill came around to score as Ziegenfuss touched second base giving the Indians the win.
"I got down in the count and I was getting a little worried," said Ziegenfuss, who finished the day 2-for-4. "But when that fastball came in everything was perfect. I came around and I could tell as soon as it left the bat.
"It feels great. We made a couple of errors but our defense eventually held them. We came in, picked each other up and came out with the big sticks when we needed to."
It was a climactic ending to an otherwise anti-climactic day. The two teams combined for five official errors, but made some other miscues as well. Lehighton had trouble laying down some sacrifice bunts and dropped some easy fly balls. Pleasant Valley (2-2, 1-1) had a few base-running blunders and threw away a potential inning-ending double play ball that allowed the Indians to plate two more runs.
"It's tough when you get on the field once or twice every week-and-a-half," said Pleasant Valley head coach Karl Rentzheimer. "You can take a thousand ground balls in a gym, but it doesn't resemble the speed or the bounce that you are going to get out on the field. Hitting too. Hitting inside all of the time is so much different than coming outside and having perceptional issues. We will be fine though. We just have to get outside and play a little more."
For Lehighton, Nalesnik went 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and three runs scored. Harris connected for two singles and two RBIs. Alex Storm also knocked in a run.
Driving in runs for Pleasant Valley were Drew Borger, Derrik Walling, Travis Raseley and Joe Wiesmeth. Raseley collected three hits and scored three runs.
Lehighton stays perfect on the young season at 3-0 (2-0). Although it is still early in the year, Polaha admitted that the win will be a big boost for his team going forward.
"This was gigantic," Polaha said. "They were the only team we didn't beat last year. I preach to the kids to not get too high after any win or too low after any loss, but for us to have this one is big for our confidence moving forward."
Pleasant Vy 003 111 1 - 7 7 3
Lehighton 100 230 2 - 8 11 2
Hammond, Baldino (6) and Wiesmeth; Hill, Harris (4) and Nalesnik. W - Harris, L - Baldino.