Blue Mt. blanks Lehighton
bob ford/times news Lehighton catcher Jacen Nalesnik puts the tag on Blue Mountain's James Bromwell at home plate. Bromwell was out on the play.
ALLENTOWN - Giving up nine walks over the course of seven innings, most of the time you would be on the losing end by a ton of runs.
That wasn't the case for the Lehighton baseball team on Wednesday at Coca-Cola Park when they faced District 11 3A defending champion Blue Mountain.
The No. 2 seeded Indians, who defeated Saucon Valley two years ago for the district crown, never gave up.
Neither did Binghamton-bound pitcher Jake Cryts, however, who threw a four-hit shutout at the Indians giving the Eagles a 3-0 win and their fourth district title in the last five years. It was also the seventh straight victory for the Eagles, who at one point were 6-10 on the year.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, the Indians loaded the bases thanks to a Joe Oriel double and walks to Anthony Farole and Steve Shanton. Cryts got an infield groundout and two outfield fly outs to pitch out of the jam.
"If you would have seen us play early in the year, we' ve gone from being ugly ducklings to swans," said Blue Mountain head coach Tom Kramer. "You have to give Lehighton credit. Coach (Brian) Polaha has done a respectable job there. They weren't the second seed for no reason.
"What you saw here today is the goal. That's why we practice. To play that type of baseball. Fortunately for us, we had a horse on the bump for us in Jake Cryts. We had to jump on Jake and ride him. That's pretty much what we were hoping for. I was hoping he would be on and when he is, he's tough to beat."
The Eagles had a ton of chances to put the Indians away early. They loaded the bases in the first inning, but Lehighton starting pitcher Josh Kern settled down and got out of the jam without giving up a run.
In the third inning, the Eagles managed to push a run across with two out, but Farole fielded a double by Casey Watson in centerfield, hit A.J. Wenrich, the cutoff man and he fired a strike to Lehighton catcher Jacen Nalesnik, who applied the tag at the plate to nail James Bromwell for the third out.
Blue Mountain added another run in the fourth inning, when Shane Grapsy drew a leadoff walk and scored on a bases loaded walk to Dean Stramara to take a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles scores an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Cryts drew a leadoff walk, courtesy runner Pete Harding was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a single by J.R. Kirchner and went home on a sacrifice fly by Bromwell.
Every Blue Mountain runner that scored reached base on a walk.
"I was just hoping we could turn the lineup over one more time," said Polaha about his team's late chance. "I knew we wouldn't go quietly and knew we would battle until the last out.
"This wasn't our day today. That's why I was fearful of (Jake) Cryts. He's the best pitcher we've faced all year. Especially when it was near the end of the game and the counts were 3-1 and 3-2. He just kept battling and battling, throwing strikes. And he won most of those battles.
"Unfortunately, they only had three hits. The nine walks are the story of the game. Every single run they got reached base on a walk. That's why we had to make a move quick. They weren't really hitting Kern, but he had five or six walks in three innings. We went to the bullpen and for the most part, Parker (David) did a good job.
"When you get that many walks you only need three hits. They came up with them today and we didn't."
Cryts kept the top of the Lehighton order in check for the most part as the first four hitters in its lineup went 0-for-13.
Kern, David and Farole all had singles to add to Oriel's double for the Indians hits.
Blue Mountain now advances to Monday's PIAA first round contest against District 1 champion Phoenixville at Pine Grove (4:30).
Blue Mt. 001 100 1 - 3 3 0
Lehighton 000 000 0 - 0 4 0
Cryts and Harding; Kern, David (4) and Nalesnik. W - Cryts. L - Kern.