Panther Valley holds off Tamaqua
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Panther Valley's Thad Ogozalek slides safely into home behind Tamaqua catcher Matt Roberts in the Panther's four-run, third inning. Watching the action is the Panthers' Zach Stanko.
Stephen Gulla has been making so much happen for Panther Valley's baseball team.
Two weeks ago he threw a no-hitter against Lehighton, toppling the Indians from the unbeaten ranks. Earlier this week he hit a grand slam that helped his Panthers overcome a big deficit against Minersville.
Yesterday, against Tamaqua, he went the distance on the mound and contributed a two-run homer to lead the Panthers to a 9-8 win at home.
He said he never lost his confidence; not even when Tamaqua went up 3-0 in the top of the third, or after he delivered two wild pitches which helped the Raiders score two runs in the top of the seventh and come within one.
Regarding the early lead by Tamaqua, Gulla, a bulky senior, said, "I knew we were going to come back. We have a good group of guys here."
He said his wild pitches came because his back was tightening. The problem never became critical enough to have him quit.
On the mound, Gulla gave up 14 hits, including a second inning homer to Carl Wittig. He struck out two and walked one.
The shot over right-center field fence for Gulla, his third home run of the year, happened in the bottom of the third and measured over 350 feet. It gave PV a 4-3 lead.
In the fourth, the Raiders (7-6) tied things up in the fourth when Derek Linkhurst belted a double, and scored on an RBI single by Matt Roberts.
Three runs in the lower half of inning four by PV (3-7) put them in the lead for keeps.
Panther coach John Cooper said he never lost confidence in Gulla.
"He battles," Cooper said of his pitcher. During the fifth inning, Cooper visited the mound, but said it was only to check if Gulla was tired. At the time, Gulla had just given up three straight hits and Tamaqua had crept within one - 7-6. "He said he wasn't tired and had something left," the coach remarked of his pitcher. "He wanted to keep the ball."
"I asked him if he was done, and he said 'No. I want to keep going,'" Cooper noted.
At the start of the seventh, Cooper again asked Gulla if he wanted to keep pitching. "He said he wanted the game," Cooper said.
Coach Cooper admitted that in the seventh, he was considering relieving Gulla.
Both Gulla and Cooper said it was teamwork that provided the win.
Gulla went two for four with two RBIs.
Catcher David Marouchoc went two for three with one RBI.
Tamaqua scored in the first when Linkhorst became a leadoff runner due to an error, made it to second on a fielder's choice, and scored on a single by Mike Streisel.
Wittig hit a 320-foot solo shot over right field fence in the second inning.
Tamaqua scored in six of seven innings, and left six runners stranded.
The Panthers also stranded six runners during the game.
Linkhorst had the loss for the Raiders. He started strong, striking out four batters in the first two innings. He didn't have any more after that. He was pulled in the fourth after giving up seven runs - three of them in the fourth.
Mike Streisel releived him, and in his 2 innings on the mound, he allowed just two hits. In the sixth, though, he was hurt by a pair of passed balls that allowed two PV runs to score.
Tamaqua 111 120 2 - 8 14 2
Panther Vy. 004 302 x - 9 8 1
Linkhorst, Streisel (4) and Roberts. Gulla and Marouchoc. W - Gulla. L - Linkhorst. HR: Tamaqua - Wittig (2nd, none on). Panther Valley - Gulla (3rd, one on).