Farole keeps Tribe alive
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's A.J. Wenrich looks to first after tagging the base to force out Southern Lehigh's Connor Vanin during Tuesday's District 11 Class 3A quarterfinal.
Lehighton head coach Brian Polaha knew that Anthony Farole was "dialed in for a strong at-bat."
With the game tied, the winning run in scoring position and a full count against him, Farole responded in the best way possible by driving the game-winning hit down the third base line that scored Billy Angst and allowed the Indians to play ball another day.
Southern Lehigh (10-11) rallied to score the tying run in the top of the seventh to set up those late-game heroics. The hosts, however, came through for the 3-2 win in the quarterfinal round of the District 11 Class AAA playoffs and will now advance to play Pottsville on Thursday in a 4:30 p.m. start at Tamaqua.
"We're one of four teams left and we realize how lucky we are to be playing," Polaha admitted afterwards. "Offensively, we're struggling and not hitting as well as I thought we would be at this point of the season. But our defense has been great and our pitching has come through."
Both teams' pitching was impressive, as Solehi's Petey Long and Lehighton's Josh Kern were relentless with stifling their opposing batters. They both scattered six hits apiece throughout the contest and allowed only one earned run each.
The Tribe put up the initial score in the bottom of the first as Alex Storm hit a fly to center that a sliding Pat Rhoads couldn't handle and Darrin Wanamaker raced around to plate the run on the error.
That score stood until the visitors threatened in the top of the fifth. With runners on second and third with one out, Preston Amato got a hold of a ball that rocketed past James Farano at short. However, the lanky sophomore jumped up, stabbed at the ball, and gloved the second out. Instinctively, Farano relayed it to third, drawing a double play to end the inning and the threat of some Spartan scoring.
"Obviously, that was the play of the game," Polaha smiled. "He was just the right man at the right spot and made a great play."
In the bottom of that inning, momentum yielded some insurance for the Indians, as Jacen Nalesnik laced a double with two outs. Wanamaker followed by hitting a solid grounder, but the throw was off, and the error scored Nalesnik for the 2-0 lead.
However, that's when SL began their comeback, as in the top of the sixth, Rhoads had a two-out single. Consecutive walks loaded the bases and a balk plated Rhoads, but the ensuing threat was ended as Nalesnik tug out the next batter, Trevor Musselman. After an odd-looking and controversial 'swinging bunt' stayed in play, Nalesnik intelligently snared the ball and tug out the motionless Musselman.
In the top of the seventh, Southern Lehigh eventually tied the game up. An infield single by Nikos Milios started things off and Jacob DelPriore then followed with a perfect sac fly to right that plated the tying run.
The drama of the bottom of the seventh got kicked off correctly, as senior Billy Angst layed down a bunt and outraced the throw to first for a single. Farole came to the plate and on a hit-and-run attempt, he darted for second and stole successfully. Farole managed to fend off a full count and nine other pitches before he laced the winner up the line.
"I just kept calming myself down," Farole reminisced. "I felt I needed to step up and I just really wanted to make sure that it wasn't my last at-bat of my career."
"We just didn't execute today, at all, I felt," Southern Lehigh head coach Todd Miller mentioned. "We tried to hit-and-run five times and we just didn't do it successfully. But give credit to the pitchers for making that happen."
In the game, Lehighton got two singles from Angst and a run scored. Nalesnik had a double and scored a run, while Storm had a RBI.
So Lehigh 000 001 1 - 2 6 2
Lehighton 100 010 1 - 3 6 1
Long and DelPriore; Kern, Farano (7) and Nalesnik. W - Kern, L - Long, S - Farano.