Bears jump on Indians
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Steve Shanton slides into second base safely as Pleasant Valley's Dan Hrebik takes a late throw. The Bears went on to a 10-0 victory.
Lehighton and Pleasant Valley entered their Mountain Valley Conference game with 9-1 and 3-5 records respectively.
However, after watching the events unfold Monday afternoon, one may have thought that the overall records were actually reversed.
Pleasant Valley took advantage of five defensive errors by the Indians and plated ten runs on seven hits in its 10-0 win. Meanwhile, the Bears' defense played great behind starter Howie Stevens, who allowed just two hits on the day, to help preserve the conference victory.
"Clearly that's one thing we haven't done as well as I would have expected," said Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra on his team's defensive play. "I think that was the difference in the game. When teams are putting the ball in play against you, and you are making every play, that is demoralizing to the opposing offense. When our pitchers throw strikes and we make every play we make it real tough on the other team."
Lehighton committed all five of its errors in the final two-and-two-thirds innings of play. All five contributed to runs eventually scoring, including the game-ender in which Alex Storm threw the ball out of play on a pickoff attempt. It is something that Lehighton manager Brian Polaha said has been going on for a few weeks.
"To this extreme, this is absolutely the worst we have played defensively," said Polaha. "The main this we have done so far this season is persevere and find ways to win. We have won a lot of ugly games and persevered. Today, (Pleasant Valley) played a clean game and we couldn't throw home without almost throwing it out of the stadium.
"I think some of our errors are starting to become mental. I think we are at the point where some guys are struggling defensively and almost hoping balls get hit elsewhere. When you are in that boat it stinks because the ball is going to find you. That's how this game is."
Bears' shortstop Dan Hrbek had a big day at the plate. The junior finished the afternoon 3-for-4 with five RBIs. He tripled in the first to drive in two. He then had a two-RBI single in the third before singling home another in the fifth.
"I feel like this was a huge game for me," said Hrbek. "I have been struggling at the plate. I just wasn't seeing the ball well, but today I came out a little more aggressive and saw the ball very well. I tried not to think about it, keep my swing simple and put the bat on the ball."
Jordan Caffrey (two singles) was the only other Bear to have multiple hits. He and John Guadagna each recorded a RBI.
While the offense was busy producing and taking advantage of its opportunities, Stevens was dealing on the mound. The left-hander surrendered only two hits, both to Lehighton's Steve Shanton, and struck out four while not issuing a walk.
"I felt great out there," said Stevens, who retired eight straight to end the game. "I just came out and wanted to keep our team in the game. Luckily we brought our bats today and scored a lot of runs. That made it a lot easier to throw strikes when I went out there. I tried to pound the strike zone and pitch to contact. The defense played great behind me. It was just a good day overall."
Lehighton drops to 9-2 (3-2) with the loss. Polaha said afterward that his team should not pay attention to its record with the way it has played as of late.
"I tell this to them and they know it," admitted Polaha. "Our record is a lot better than we are. A 9-1 team should not play like this. Yeah, sometimes a hard hit ball will get booted. Even good teams make mistakes. But there is no excuse for the amount of errors we made today. (Pleasant Valley) came to play and we didn't."
Pleasant Valley moves to 3-5 (3-1), but has two big conference games against Pocono Mountain East and Stroudsburg later in the week.
"We have been struggling with our out-of-conference games," Inserra said. "We had a nice effort Saturday and just came up short, so I thought we were starting to build some momentum. The two things we haven't done well so far this year, fielding the ball and hitting the ball, were two things we did well today.
"This is a big week for us and this is about as good as I could have asked in terms of a start."
Lehighton 000 00 - 0 2 5
Pleasant Vy 203 32 - 10 7 1
Kern, Storm (4) and Nalesnik; Stevens and Cardneas. W - Stevens. L - Kern.