Seventh-inning run lifts Indians
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Tyler Crum digs the ball out of the dirt on an attempted steal.
With eyes on postseason play, Lehighton entered Wednesday's game knowing exactly what needed to be done.
Standing in its way was East Stroudsburg South and starting pitcher Zack Werner.
The Indians rose to the occasion, pushing across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to post an important 3-2 Mountain Valley Conference win.
The victory improves Lehighton's record to 9-6 overall and 5-4 in the MVC. It also practically assures the Indians a berth in the league playoffs.
Lehighton got a healthy pitching performance from senior Josh Kern, and some big hits from Jacen Nalesnick and James "Jimmer" Farano.
"It's a huge win for us," Nalesnik said. "We knew coming into the game, what we needed to do and we also knew (East Stroudsburg South) would be looking for blood."
Nalesnik's bat made the first impact. With the game scoreless in the third, his hard-hit grounder to short was temporarily shadowed by baserunner Anthony Rossino, limiting the chances of Cavalier shortstop Ryan Nazario to make the play. The ball zipped past the defender and two runs scored for a 2-0 lead after three frames.
"This group of players is fun to play with and it's a good group of guys that know how to get the job done, and play the game well," Nalesnik mentioned.
Up to that point, Kern was limiting his opposition to no hits, keeping them scoreless. But in the top of the fifth inning, South began its comeback.
An Indian error, a Kyle Furst single, and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third. Adam Hennessy stepped up with a RBI single to cut his team's deficit in half at 2-1.
In the top of the sixth, Nazario walked and Nate Bordigan had a single. A throwing error allowed Nazario to score from second to tie the game. Luke Monica followed with another single and another sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second and third with one out.
That's when Kern came up big as he fanned the next batter and managed to force a groundout to end the threat.
"I think I was struggling early on," Kern said. "But I just dug deep, concentrated on throwing some strikes and my defense really stepped up and did their job well today."
Kern scattered six hits and fanned four in the mound win.
"I thought it was a great game by Kern today," Indian interim head coach Matt Dierolf said. "That's a senior out there and he went ahead in his counts, threw strikes and had command of the strike zone all day."
After Kern dismantled any threat from the Cavaliers in the top of the final frame, his offense went to work with the bats in the bottom of the inning.
Tyler Crum put the ball in play and eventually got to second on a throwing error, Rossino advanced him to third on a fielder's choice, bringing Farano to the plate. On the first pitch, he drilled the game-winner, plating Crum, and finishing up the game.
In the contest, Nalesnik had two hits and two RBIs, Brady Niehoff had a hit and scored a run, while Farano was 1-for-3 with the game-winner.
For East Stroudsburg South (6-10), Bordigan had two hits.
ES South 000 011 0 - 2 6 2
Lehighton 002 000 1 - 3 11 2
Werner and Hennessy; Kern and Nalesnik. W- Kern, L-Werner.