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Ligenza homers help power Raiders

You had to see it to enjoy it.

It - as in Mason Ligenza’s home run power.

The lanky junior, who is a University of Pittsburgh baseball-commit, had fans buzzing after he helped lead Tamaqua to a 6-4 Schuylkill League victory Saturday over Lehighton.

Ligenza blasted two homers, one to right and another to center, as the Blue Raiders improved to 4-0 and 2-0 in Division 1.

“Gosh, I wish we had more men on base,” said Tamaqua head coach Jeff Reading, chuckling about Ligenza’s solo shots.

“It’s great the way we’ve started, and I hope we can continue to get better,” added Reading.

Saturday’s contest was a battle of two undefeated. With the loss, the Indians fell to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.

“Hey, give them all the credit,” said Lehighton mentor JC Dietz. “What more can you say about Mason. He really stung those two (home runs). It was a great ball game. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win.”

The visitors did gain an early 1-0 lead in their first at-bats, taking advantage of an error, and back-to-back singles by Adam Bastone and Brady O’Donnell.

But the Raiders quickly responded, plating four runs in the bottom of the first.

Ligenza led off with a sizzling single and Lucas Kane later delivered an RBI hit. Starting - and winning - pitcher Cooper Ansbach helped his own cause by driving in the go-ahead run, while Lucas Kamant also contributed an RBI hit during the frame.

After a shaky first inning, one that saw Ansbach throw 30 pitches, the right-hander seemed to settle down. Still, he had to work his way through a number of jams.

In the third, the Tribe threatened to score as a lead-off walk and a hit put two runners on base with no outs. Ansbach, however, struck out the next two batters and induced an inning-ending ground out.

“I thought Ansbach did a really nice job, considering it was his first varsity start,” said Reading. “That’s a pretty good team, and for Cooper that (being) his first varsity start against a team like that, is a good way for him to start (the season).”

In the fourth, Tamaqua extended its advantage when Ligenza lit up the sky with his first round-tripper. He slammed a first-pitch offering that cut into the teeth of a swirling wind from left to right and deposited it over the fence in right field.

Lehighton managed to get back into the game by pushing across a pair of runs in the fifth. Ansbach hit a couple of batters and an error allowed a run to score before Wyatt Steigerwalt relieved the Raider starter. Mike Yeakel chased home another run with a single to cut the deficit to 5-3.

The Indians pulled even closer in the sixth, but missed out on scoring more runs. Aiden Rarick singled, stole second and eventually scored to make it 5-4. Lehighton had runners on first and third and was looking to do more damage until Tamaqua nabbed both runners on the bases.

The runner on first broke for second on a stolen base attempt. The Raiders faked a throw to second and the Indian runner on third got caught in a rundown. After he was tagged out, the runner that was originally on first tried to make it all the way to third but was thrown out to complete a double play.

“We go over that every day in practice,” said Reading. “That’s why you do those things. It’s a teaching moment.”

Ligenza gave the home team a bit more breathing room in the home sixth when he went deep for the second time, this one going to center. The “never-a-doubt” blast left the field in a New York minute.

That extra run looked like it would be huge as the Indians again threatened in the seventh. Yeakel doubled and Noah Barndt drew a walk, but Steigerwalt shut the door without giving up any runs.

“I felt the difference in the game was in the first three innings,” said Dietz, whose team stranded 12 runners. “We set the tables, had runners at second and third. We couldn’t manufacture those runs. We’re a team where we have to play the small ball. We (have to) make sure we knock our runs in when we have the opportunities.”

QUOTABLE … “He got into them pretty good,” said Reading about Ligenza’s homers.

RUN BABY RUN … Dietz loves the running game. No matter what the situation, his approach is to put pressure on the opposition.

AT THE PLATE … The Tribe out-hit the Raiders, 11-8. Rarick led Lehighton with three, while Yeakel and Brandt both finished with two - a single and a double. Ligenza ended with three hits for the Raiders.

Lehighton 100 021 0 - 4 11 2

Tamaqua 400 101 x - 6 8 2

Birnbaum, Albert (2), Keiser (5) and Light; Ansbach, Steigerwalt (5) and Kane. W - Ansbach L - Birnbaum. HR: Tamaqua - Ligenza 2 (4th, none on; 6th, none on).

Tamaqua's Wyatt Steigerwalt reaches to take a throw while Lehighton's Adam Bastone slides into second. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS