Raiders edge Tribe in opener
STEVE SHINKO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Tamaqua's Derek Linkhorst juggles the ball as Lehighton's Tyler Hill steals second base during Saturday's game at Tamaqua. The Raiders' Adam Smarr (12) backs up the play.
Tamaqua graduated a good portion of its line-up from last year's 18-5 Schuylkill League championship team.
The Blue Raiders still know how to win games, however.
Good pitching, smart baserunning and a timely RBI single by Mike Toth lifted the Raiders to a 3-2 non-league victory over visiting Lehighton Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both squads.
Both teams received solid outings from their hurlers, but the Raiders got a spark from the bullpen. Southpaw Jordan Heisler came on in relief of Mike Streisel and got out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth after the Indians had pushed across two runs to tie the score.
The Raiders manufactured the winning run against reliever Ty Harris in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Eric James walked, stole second and scored when Toth, who was 2-for-3, slapped a single past third base.
The Indians attempted to match it in the top of the seventh.
Dave Behler (2-for-4) rapped a one-out single, but Heisler was able to induce a grounder to shortstop Derek Linkhorst, which was converted into a game-ending double play.
"Our guys haven't played much varsity ball yet, but we're getting our feet wet real quick," said Tamaqua coach Jeff Reading. "It was good to see them step up and build the confidence that they can compete at this level."
Streisel, a holdover from last year, gave up three hits, struck out nine and walked four, throwing 112 pitches before giving way to Heisler.
"Mike threw well, but he got a little gassed in the sixth inning," admitted Reading. "The original plan was for him to go five, but Jordan came in and did an excellent job, throwing strikes and getting that double play ball at the end."
First year Lehighton coach Brian Polaha felt the Indians weren't as aggressive at the plate as they had been during their preseason scrimmages.
"I was a little disappointed, because we struck out looking way too much, on a lot of fastballs," said Polaha. "Our first two scrimmages, we were hitting the ball all over the place."
The Indians' Kyle Hunter struck out six and limited the Raiders to three hits in four innings of work, although he trailed by two runs.
Ryan Palsgrove got the Raiders on the board in the third when, with two out, he was hit by a pitch. Palsgrove stole second, ran to third when the throw went away.
In the fourth, James singled ahead of a Toth's long fly to center that ended up as a single. James eventually touched the plate on a wild pitch.
The Indians pulled even in the sixth. With one out, Hunter walked, and Jacen Nalesnik doubled. Hunter scored on an error at first base off the bat of Nic Storm. Streisel plunked J.T. Keer and Harris walked to force home pinch runner Anthony Farole before Heisler took over.
Palsgrove and Streisel added singles for Tamaqua, while Hunter also chipped in with a single for the Tribe.
"I would have liked us to hit the ball better, but we played a good Lehighton team today," said Reading. "Hunter has us off-balance, and Harris is also a tough pitcher. They should win some games in the MVC."
Lehighton 000 002 0 - 2 4 2
Tamaqua 001 101 x - 3 5 1
Hunter, Harris (5) and Nalesnik; Streisel, Heisler (6) and James. W - Heisler; L - Harris.