The Three Big Bad Bears
bob ford/times news Pleasant Valley pitcher Russell Baldino and catcher Joe Wiesmatch talk on the mound during a recent baseball game. The Bears' baseball, softball and soccer teams are all enjoying outstanding success this spring.
The spring sports season is going very well for Pleasant Valley and three of its athletic programs.
Pleasant Valley currently boasts one of the Mountain Valley Conference's best teams in baseball, softball and girls' soccer. All three teams have at least 11 wins and have already qualified for the District 11 playoffs. Furthermore, all three teams have a shot at securing the No. 1 overall seed in both the MVC and district playoffs.
The team with the best overall record is the Lady Bears' softball team. The Bears are off to their best start ever at 13-2 (6-2) and only recently lost to Pocono Mt. East and Stroudsburg.
Although head coach Steve Caffrey knows that league games matter the most, he is more pleased with his team's out-of-conference record - mainly against the Lehigh Valley Conference. The Bears are 7-0 against LVC teams with one more game remaining against Liberty.
"I think our big wins are any time we beat a Lehigh Valley team," said Caffey. "This is the first time in our history that we are 7-0 against them. I think that is impressive considering we lost seven girls from last year's district semi-final team."
Luck has been on the Lady Bears' side this season. Caffrey pointed out that his team has won five or six games by one run, but a win is a win. He credited his team's success to their pitching and work ethic and hopes it will lead to their seventh consecutive MVC championship.
"Work ethic is probably a big reason why we are doing so well," Caffrey said. "A lot of these girls have been doing things since October, including our pitchers and catchers. Our hitters have been working since December and have been hitting on their own on Sundays.
"We don't have any super stars on the team. It is a team effort. There seems to be some games where the younger girls will pick it up and some where the older kids will pick it up. Pitching is also key for us. With Meagan (Fitzgerald) pitching and Jordan (Borger) catching - they keep us in every game."
Their hardball counterpart, the Bears' baseball team, is doing just as well on their respective diamond. As of Monday, Karl Rentzheimer's squad was ranked No. 1 overall in the District 11 AAAA rankings with their 12-2 (7-0 MVC, 5-3 LVC) record. They have since lost to Stroudsburg to fall to 12-3, but have a shot to get back on track against PM West on Thursday.
Pleasant Valley has been receiving great hitting and pitching so far this season. The Bears have four possible starters in Pat Kregeloh, Xavier Hammond, Alex Jiminez and John Guadagna. What's even scarier is the fact that Kregeloh and Hammond, the two aces of the staff, have only thrown 18+ and 20+ innings respectively.
Offensively, the Bears have been on fire as of late. Prior to Wednesday, they had scored 51 runs in 13 innings, including a 19-9 win over Parkland on Saturday. Rentzheimer said that victory, along with Kregeloh's two-out, three-run walk-off homer against Easton, has given his team all the confidence they need as the district playoffs approach.
"It is kind of the philosophy that I try to instill in these guys and you have to have kids that buy into it," said Rentzheimer. "We have a mission statement with ten items listed. The first one on there reflects back to last year and not taking anybody or anything for granted. You play every day as though it is your last and you respect your opponents.
"And that is what these kids have done. With the exception of our very first game, where we may have gone in thinking it was going to be easy, the kids have done that. The overall approach that we have is that the season is a day-to-day process."
Last but certainly not least for Pleasant Valley is the girls' soccer team. The defending MVC-champs have a 11-4-1 (9-2 MVC, 1-2-1 LVC) record and sit atop the conference ahead of East Stroudsburg South. The Bears lost some key players from last year's team, including the school's all-time leading goal scorer, but have found enough scoring to stay ahead of the competition.
"Coming into this season we knew scoring would be an issue for us," said head coach Tim Hinton. "But there have been young girls stepping up in big games. A few that come to mind is our games against Northampton and Bangor. Also, any time we can get wins over league rivals its nice.
"In those games we have had underclassmen scoring game-winners for us (Juniors Sami Phillips and Kira Serve, sophomore Kaiti Forte and freshman Kayla Kishbaugh) - which is nice to see. Hopefully the girls have gained confidence from those games and are ready for the bigger games coming up."
The Lady Bears have won six of the last seven MVC titles and will play Stroudsburg on Friday with hopes of clinching the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. They are led by two other underclassmen in juniors Kayla Dorney and Maggie Patterson.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME ..... On Monday afternoon, freshman Dianna Connor felt at ease playing on the turf at Pleasant Valley High School.
Originally scheduled as a Mountain Valley Conference soccer game in Lehighton, the contest was moved to Brodheadsville to take advantage of PV's artificial turf in wet conditions.
Connor sparkied the Bears' attack with a hat-trick in a 6-0 victory over the Indians. The first-year varsity player scored two goals in the first half and later added another in the second.
In the same contest, senior goalkeeper Jackie Guiliano pulled off an unsual feat herself. Guiliano spent the first half in front of the Bears' net. Guiliano was then able to show her offensive abilities in the second half by coming out of the net and recording an assist.
JEFF AT THE BAT ..... Last week, Panther Valley senior Jeff Corby carried a hot bat into the batter's box.
The senior Panther increased his average to .320 by going 8-for-14 (.571 average) over the Panthers' three-game winning streak. Corby collected three singles, two doubles, scored eight runs and drove in 10 RBIs in the same stretch.
After starting the week on Wednesday with two home runs in a 10-4 win over North Schuylkill, Corby followed three days later with an encore in an 18-11 win over MMI. Against the Preppers, Corby was not only 4-for-4 at the plate, but again went yard twice. He started off with a three-run homer in the first and later added a solo shot in the sixth.
SCORING TEAR ..... In a span of four games in five days, junior Katie Hallingstad provided a huge spark for the Northwestern girls' soccer team by erupting for a total of 11 goals.
In those four wins, the Tigers easily outscored their opponents 31-2.
In two of those games (an 8-1 victory over Northern Lehigh and a 7-0 win over Pen Argyl), Hallingstad recorded four goals.
BETTER THAN BRO ... Jim Thorpe's Sam Lux called his consolation round victory over Wilson's Mike Nester in the District 11 Class AA Singles Tennis Tournament, "bittersweet."
Although happy with his performance in the bronze medal match, Lux was disappointed he wasn't playing for District 11 gold on an adjacent court.
Olympian coach Norb Lienhard did find another positive for Lux to take away from the tournament his third place finish put him one up on his older brother.
"Sam's older brother Brandon finished fourth in the District 11 Singles Tournament two years ago," said Lienhard. "I know Sam really had his sights set on a District 11 championship, but he has had a great season and his third place finish at least gives him some bragging rights in his family."