For the first time since 2009, and just the second time in the last 11 years, the Pleasant Valley baseball team will not be playing for the Mountain Valley Conference championship.
It turned out to be one of those days for Pleasant Valley on Tuesday. The Bears stranded several runners on base and made too many mental mistakes in the field to be able to pull out the win. In the end the third-seeded Cardinals from Pocono Mountain East knocked off Pleasant Valley, 6-3 to advance to the MVC title game against Stroudsburg on Thursday.
"It wasn't our day," said Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra. "When you get down to this part of the season it is about making plays. We didn't make enough plays. We had many, many opportunities to minimize damage and we didn't.
"We are the kind of team that has to fight for all of our runs. So if we were only going to score three runs today then we had to fight to keep (Pocono Mountain) at two. But give them credit. They are a team full of kids that battle all game long."
It was a tough start for Pleasant Valley (13-7) as East got on the board early. Following consecutive one-out singles, the Cardinals' Kevin Sensale connected for a three-run homer to left-centerfield.
Much like their game with Stroudsburg on Friday, the Bears responded right away and plated two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Jordan Caffrey and Dan Hrbek reached via a fielder's choice and a double respectively before James Shank stepped to the plate with one out. Shank hit a dribbler to second and forced East's second baseman to make a play. The fielder threw the ball away and allowed Caffrey and Hrbek to score to make it a one-run game.
Pleasant Valley had trouble manufacturing runs after that. Other than the one run the Bears scored in the fourth on a RBI double by Connor Cardenas, the locals' lineup failed to drive in seven other runners from second with less than two outs. They stranded a total of ten runners for the game.
"In order for us to score runs and win, we have to cash in on almost every opportunity we get," Inserra explained. "If we get runners in scoring position with less than two outs - we have to get them in. To leave that many guys in scoring position in unacceptable. You don't win too many games when you don't take advantage of your offensive opportunities and you don't make plays in the field."
East (13-8) pushed its lead to 6-2 in the fourth when it scored three runs on three hits and an error. Evan Fardella singled in a run prior to scoring with teammate Rick Brandes on an error by the Bears' second baseman three batters later.
Pleasant Valley made things very interesting in the seventh when it loaded the bases with two outs. However, Troy VanHouten flew out to center to end the game.
Adam Raseley (2-for-2), Hrbek (2-for-4, 2B) and Cardenas (2-for-3, 2B) were the only Bears to have more than one hit on the day.
Pleasant Valley has a make-up game with Whitehall on Friday before it will head into district play next week. Unfortunately for the Bears, they will have a long time to think about their semi-final loss.
"It is always tough," said Inserra. "I think when you make the playoffs in your league and you don't wind up winning you do have to regroup and find a way to refocus on the next goal. It stings and we will have to find a way to get re-motivated.
"As for as not being in the championship, I think sometimes people make the mistake of assuming teams will be in the championship. I think this league, over the last four years, has gotten much closer in terms of talent level. Anyone that assumes it is going to be anyone in the championship game is making a big mistake. I think it is an insult to teams like East, and even last year with teams like East Stroudsburg South and Lehighton."
PM East 300 300 0 - 6 11 2
Pleasant Vy. 200 100 0 - 3 8 1
Sheranko and Brandes; Stevens, Pasnak (4) and Shank. W - Sheranko. L - Stevens. HR: PM East - Sensale (1st, two on).