Brad Rauch had a pre-game talk with his starting pitcher before Northern Valley's opening round game against regular season nemesis Fullerton.
Whatever the words were that were exchanged between Rauch and Josh Kern, the message must have sunk in. Once Rauch put the ball in Kern's hand to start the game, the righty went on to have a stellar performance against the same team he had previously lost to nearly a week and a half ago.
Kern went on to toss five innings of shutout baseball, striking out eight, surrendering just one walk. He then received additional back-up from Cody Hallman on the mound, while his offense then pushed across the essential runs for the Chargers to come away with a 5-1 victory over Fullerton. The win advances Northern Valley further into Lehigh Valley Legion Baseball League playoffs.
"Fullerton beat him a couple of weeks ago 4-1 and they hit him well," said Rauch. "He was up in the zone with his pitches. He would get ahead in the count and he would throw an 0-2 fastball over the plate and they were ripping him. Today, I told him that he's got to rise up. He's got to show these guys that last time he had an off day. And, he did, he rose up and he accepted the challenge. He basically manhandled this team on his own today."
Instead of dwelling on the earlier setback loss to Fullerton, Kern rose to the occasion on Wednesday night and shared the secret to the role reversal this time around.
"We knew what they had, so we tried to hit their weak spots," said Kern, who finished with 45 strikes in the 75 pitches he threw in his five innings of work (28 of 39 pitches were strikes over the first three innings). "And, that's what we did today. I knew they hit me pretty hard last time where I didn't really have my change-up and stuff like that. So, I varied my movement, my pitches, and my location and it worked."
After a one-two-three opening inning by Kern on the mound, the Chargers helped his confidence level out by striking first on the scoreboard. Kris Seiler delivered by hitting a RBI-double, which scored Kern.
After that, Kern settled in with ease on the hill. Over three of the next four innings, Kern recorded two of the three outs himself by striking out Fullerton hitters. In fact, Kern only allowed a single hit in each inning the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Chargers could only do the same, but were able to find ways to post some insurance runs for Kern.
Collin Breidinger opened the fourth by reaching base on a walk and then eventually scored on a Brady Mengel sacrifice fly.
Then, in the fifth, Rauch saw the Chargers overcome a situation they have been struggling with lately.
"Our biggest problem this year has been scoring a couple of runs," Rauch said. "We scored the first run a lot of the times, but after that, we hadn't manufactured many runs and the other teams have been able to. Today, we got out front early and continued to stay on top. And, I told them, 'Win every inning.' If you win every inning, you're going to win the game. Today, they won all of the innings, but one. To win six innings out of seven, you're going to be productive and you're going to accomplish what you need to accomplish."
Collin Breidinger keyed the three-run fifth with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Tyler Dibilio added a sacrifice fly to finish the game's scoring.
It was a redemption win Rauch wanted to see for his Chargers. Now, they have another in line with North Parkland this evening.
"I told them earlier I wanted the best 21 innings of baseball that I could get out of them the next couple of days," Rauch said. "So far, they gave me seven. We got 14 more to play to get where we want to get to."
Fullerton 000 001 0 - 1 5 3
No. Valley 100 130 x - 5 5 0
M. Bonshak and R. Bonshak; Kern, Hallman (6) and Breidinger. W - Kern. L - M. Bonshak.