It was a rough start for the Lehigh Valley squad Friday afternoon, but it ended up being a smooth finish, as they knocked off Olympic/Colonial 7-5 at FDR Park in the quarterfinals of the Carpenter Cup Classic.
After giving up two runs in the top of the first and another run in the second, they battled back for a 3-3 stalemate through six innings and burst through for three runs in the bottom half of the sixth to pull away and reach Monday's 9 am semifinal at Citizens Bank Park against the winner of Tri-Cape of South Jersey or Suburban One American/Continental.
Damin Muth (Parkland) knocked in the go-ahead run for the Lehigh Valley in the sixth and was followed by two more RBI singles by Phil Stokes (Stroudsburg) and Chris Rabasco (Parkland) to build a 6-3 lead that was never severely threatened.
"We just battled back after falling behind and our pitching came through for us," said Muth. "We had 15 hits in the first game [of the tournament] and we know we're a good hitting team. We felt like we were going to put together an inning like we did in the sixth and thankfully we were able to."
Walt Roland (Central Catholic) started the game on the mound for LV but gave up two early runs and found himself yanked after one inning of action. Stroudsburg's Mike Nikorak came in for relief and teamed up with Tamaqua's Brett Kosciolek for six straight innings of precise pitching to keep O/C bats in check.
Kosciolek was the star on the mound in his three innings of work, as he allowed a single to his first batter, and then retired nine straight, before being replaced by Parkland's Tyler Duff in the eighth.
The 6-foot-7 Kosciolek struck out three batters during his time and allowed the LV to take command of the contest.
"I felt pretty good in the bullpen and I was locating my pitches pretty well," Kosciolek said. "I had good control and my curve ball was working. I played on the team last year and felt comfortable when they put me out there in that situation."
The comfort level for the LV squad became a bit uneasy following Kosciolek's departure, as Duff allowed two hits to put runners on second and third. O/C got back into the game when a ground ball was hit down the third base line, only to have Rabasco's inning-ending throw to first sail wide. Both runners scored to draw within 7-5 after eight innings of work.
Ryan Long of O/C started the top of the ninth with a lead-off double to prompt another pitching change, as Parkland's Gabe Mosser checked in and made quick work in his closer role for the second straight contest.
He popped out his first two batters and struck out the last to send the Lehigh Valley into the semis on the Phillies home turf.
"I like the Red Sox, but it's pretty big that we're going to be playing in the Phillies stadium," Kosciolek said. "It's going to be a lot of fun and we're all looking forward to it.
Pleasant Valley's Danny Hrbek had a quality day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in the second inning, which started the Lehigh Valley's battle back from a 3-1 deficit.