Just one day after being named the TIMES NEWS Basketball Player of the Year, Tamaqua's Brett Kosciolek made a strong case for himself to be considered the early front-runner for the TIMES NEWS Baseball Player of the Year as well.
With one swing of the bat, Kosciolek belted a no-doubt-about-it two-run homer over the right field fence to give the Blue Raiders a 2-1 Schuylkill League Division 1 victory over Blue Mountain.
The win stops a two-game losing streak and Kosciolek's home run snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak for Tamaqua (8-3, 5-1), who remains tied atop the Division with Pottsville.
"Getting this win tonight is a huge confidence booster for these guys and it hopefully puts us back on the winning track," stated Tamaqua head coach Jeff Reading. "Blue Mountain's always been a team that we seem to struggle with, so to beat them, it's a big win for us."
The Eagles (5-5, 3-3) scored their lone run of the game in the top of the second inning. After Luciano Valenti reached on a fielding error and advanced to second base on a balk, Blue Mountain's Adam Hull roped a single to center field which scored Valenti for a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Matt Roberts led off the inning with a single to left, which paved the way for Kosciolek's big opposite field blast. The two-run home run scored pinch runner Matt Yeakel and was the fifth home run of the season by the Tamaqua sophomore.
"The first pitch he threw me was a curve, so I was looking fastball on the next pitch," said Kosciolek. "It felt really good coming off the bat, but it feels even better being able to walk out of here tonight with a win."
"Matt led off with the single, and I was actually contemplating playing situational baseball by having Brett lay down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner," added Reading. "But he's been a clutch hitter all year for us, so I figured I'd just let him swing away. He saw the pitch he wanted and he gave it a ride."
Things then became very interesting in the top of the sixth inning. With a 2-1 lead and a storm on the horizon, Dean Stramara led off the frame with an infield single. Shane Grapsy then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but catcher Matt Roberts' throw sailed wide of first base and into right field. With the runners on the move, Tamaqua right fielder Matt Minchoff threw home and gunned down Stramara at the plate. Roberts then threw down to third where Grapsy was tagged out for the unconvential double play, that most likely preserved the win for the Blue Raiders.
"Talk about a weird play. We practically gave them the game and then took it away from them all on the same play. I don't think I've ever seen that before," lauded Reading. "You can say luck was on our side, but guys were just in the right place at the right time. It's a weird game sometimes."
Tamaqua attempted to add insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth; however, Matt Yeakel and Adam Bates were both tagged out at the plate trying to score from third base off wild pitches.
Blue Mountain then put runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh, but Josh Zehner struck out Zach Kirby to end the game.
Dean Stramara and Adam Hull had two hits apiece for Blue Mountain, which stranded five runners on base.
Two of Tamaqua's three hits came in the fourth inning (Roberts and Kosciolek), with Bo Rottet adding a single in the third frame.
Blue Mountain 010 000 0 - 1 6 1
Tamaqua 000 200 x - 2 3 3
Grapsy and L. Harding; Zehner and Roberts. W - Zehner. L - Grapsy. HR: Tamaqua - Kosciolek (4th, one on).