Bears survive scare from Tribe
bob ford/times news Pleasant Valley's Jordan Caffrey (1) puts the tag on Lehighton's Brad Niehoff at first base. Niehoff was out on the play.
Pleasant Valley starter Howie Stevens was practically un-hittable for three innings.
It wasn't until the Bears decided to pull him after the third inning that Lehighton started to chip into its nine-run deficit.
Down 9-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Lehighton's offense began to wake up. The Indians managed to make it a six-run game before heading into their final at-bats. They would score four runs in the seventh and had the tying run at the plate, but couldn't keep the rally going as Dylan Pasnak got Brady Niehoff swinging to end the game. With that the Bears held on to win the Mountain Valley Conference match-up, 9-7
"It was 9-0 at the time and we have a huge week this week," explained Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra. "We have a lot of confidence in Chris (Burke) and we looked at it as an opportunity to have Howie come back later in the week. I think if you have confidence in your guys and you have a 9-0 lead then you should be able to win with anyone on your staff.
"I told our offense if they do their job then our pitchers throw less innings and it would keep setting us up for the rest of the week. As it turned out our bats went quiet and Chris struggled a little bit."
Lehighton (6-3, 3-2) dug itself into a big hole in the first two innings by committing four errors in the field. Of the seven runs Indian starter Anthony Rossino allowed, only two were earned.
"We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't quite get out of," said Lehighton manager Brian Polaha. "The four errors were key. It's not like we were playing a 1-7 team and thought we had time left. We had opportunities to pick ourselves up and we didn't.
"Good teams like Pleasant Valley make you pay when you give them extra outs. This game was big and I am disappointed. We played the worst three innings of the year early on, but I think we played our best four innings at the end."
While his team kept crossing the plate, Stevens was busy dealing on the mound. He faced just one batter over the minimum in his three innings of work. Lehighton's Jacen Nalesnik was the only one to get a good swing on Stevens, as he doubled to left in the first. Unfortunately for the southpaw, he was not able to earn the win since he did not pitch at least four innings.
Burke relieved Stevens and immediately got into trouble. He loaded the bases in the fourth, but was able to see his was out of it. Lehighton finally got to him in the fifth when Nalesnik delivered with a two-RBI single. Niehoff knocked in another run in the sixth on a fielder's choice.
Things then got very interesting in the seventh. Burke allowed the first three batters to reach before getting the first out of the inning. Nick Hill (single), Thatcher David (fielder's choice) and Vince Mele (single) then knocked in three consecutive runs to bring the Indians to within two. The comeback attempt ended after that though, as Pasnak came in and recorded the last out of the game.
The Pleasant Valley and Lehighton contests have become quite the rivalry over the last few years. The Indians circled Monday's game as a big one, and although they didn't play as well as they would have liked, are able to come away with some positives.
"We consider Pleasant Valley one of our biggest rivals," said Polaha. "We played horribly on Saturday and were sloppy and unfortunately it carried over into today. We made some uncharacteristic errors.
"This is something I was worried about. If we made some errors, would we be able to hit ourselves out of trouble? Today we showed signs of that. This was the best we hit for four innings."
Stevens picked up two RBIs for the Bears (8-1, 4-0). Dan Hrbek (two runs), James Shank (3-for-4), Nick Domenici (2-for-3) and Burke each had RBIs as well.
"If you told me at the beginning of year we would be 8-1, 4-0 after nine games I'd take it," said Inserra. "I think these next 2-3 games will really tell us where we are at. We have our pitching lined up against Pocono Mountain East and Stroudsburg and we will know by Friday where we stand."
Pleasant Vy 340 200 0 - 9 10 1
Lehighton 000 021 4 - 7 7 4
Stevens, Burke (4), Pasnak (7) and Shank; Rossino, Rex (4), Hill (6) and Nalesnik. W - Burke L - Rossino S - Pasnak.