Tamaqua dealt first playoff loss
Tamaqua had reeled off three straight victories to open the Schuylkill-Berks Legion Baseball playoffs, including an opening win over Valley View, a team the Blue Sox outscored 20-10 in their two meetings this season.
The Blue Sox entered Friday evening's rematch with the West Enders with momentum, needing one win to clinch a spot in the North Division final.
As the saying goes, however, that's what they play the games.
Shane Wert frustrated the Blue Sox on the mound, and Valley View made the most of its scoring opportunities to pull off a 4-2 victory on Tamaqua Area High School's diamond.
The first playoff setback for Tamaqua (13-5) has turned the double elimination tournament into single elimination.
Valley View (7-11), which has now won three in a row after the initial 9-5 loss to the Blue Sox, will host Southern Area, which eliminated Pine Grove 12-8 Friday, at 12 noon today at Tamaqua.
The winner will take on the Blue Sox about an hour following that game for the Northern Division crown.
Tamaqua doubled up on the West Enders in the hit department, 6-3, but Wert keep the hosts off balance. The crafty righthander struck out two but didn't walk a batter, keeping the hard-hitting Blue Sox in check.
"My splitter, change-up, slider/curve, fastball - everything was working," said Wert. "I've been walking people all season. This is the first time in Legion ball I didn't walk anybody."
"He (Wert) pitched an extremely good game," said Tamaqua manager Mark Streisel. "We had more hits, but he did what he had to do at the right time. He shut us down.
"I'm upset that we lost, but not with the way we played," added Streisel. "We played pretty good defense and got a couple double plays to get us out of trouble early."
The Blue Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first ending when Ty Rother smacked a two-out solo homer to right, and starting hurler Eric James blanked the West Enders through the first three innings, despite walking four.
In the fourth, Tanner Troutman was hit by a James pitch, stole second and went to third on a single by Wert. James was called for a balk, with Troutman crossing the plate to tie the score at 1-1.
Brandon Sedesse then singled to left to plate Wert to put Valley View in front 2-1.
Chris Pilla relieved James with one out in the fifth. Travis Hinkle drew a walk from James and swiped second, scoring on an error off the bat of Sam Spickler. Troutman's single to left plated Spickler for a 4-1 West Enders edge.
James cut the deficit in to 4-2 in the fifth when he stroked a one-out single, stole second, went to third on the overthrow and scored on Adam Smarr's double to right, but Smarr was left stranded at second.
In the seventh, Derek Linkhorst led off with a double down the line in left, but Wert registered the next three outs to preserve the complete game victory.
Rother homered and singled for the Blue Sox to go with doubles by Smarr and Linkhorst and singles from James and Jay Pilla.
Despite the loss, Tamaqua controls its own destiny and is one win from repeating as Schuylkill champion. The Northern winner faces the Berks Southern Division champ on Monday at Reading's First Energy Stadium for the first Schuylkill-Berks crown.
Valley View 000 220 0 - 4 3 1
Tamaqua 100 010 0 - 2 6 2
Wert and Troutman; James, C. Pilla (5) and Streisel, James (5). W - Wert; L - James. HR: T-Rother (first inning, none on).