Mengels have rich history at Northwestern
Jason Mengel (left) a member of the 1989 Northwestern championship baseball team, and his son Brandon Megel (right), a member of this year’s Tiger team, pose with former Northwestern baseball coach Len Smith. The Mengel family has a long tradition of baseball excellence at Northwestern. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Those familair with that old six degrees of separation game where you can connect one person to any other person through an array of relationships can can apply that same concept to this year’s Northwestern Lehigh baseball team.
The very origins of the school’s baseball program in the late 1950s can connect through one family.
Second baseman Brandon Mengel is the brother of current Mansfield University second baseman Brady Mengel, who played second base and shortstop for the team from 2013 through 2016. Their father, Jason Mengel, was the shortstop on the 1989 team that captured the first District 11 championship in the school’s history. Take that back to Jason’s dad, Richard, who was also a shortstop for the team and connect it all to Brandon and Brady’s great-grandfather, Russell Stoudt, who started the program.
The connections show the roots of what is truly a baseball family.
“I grew up with baseball all around, I was kind of born into baseball,” said Brandon. “My brother played and I was always going to his games. It’s just sort of a family thing. I’ve always looked up to my dad and looked up to my grandfather, and they gave me a lot of advice while I was growing up.”
The fact that the entire brood came through the program as middle infielders is an interesting part of the connection —and one that wasn’t taken lightly for the family — it’s not simply a coincidence; but truly a part of the legacy.
“We grew up being middle infielders and that was it. There was never any thought for any of us moving to a different position,” said Jason Mengel of his part on the ‘89 team.
While the youngest members of the family don’t have much memory of the patriarch of the clan who literally started the whole thing, the legacy is well known in the family and a source of pride that has carried through the years.
“I don’t really remember him much, but I know about him and his legacy,” said Brandon about his great-grandfather and the origins of Northwestern Lehigh baseball. “I’ve heard many stories about my dad and my grandfather; there are some great stories. It’s really a blessing to have my dad and my grandfather and my brother all play for the same team and basically play the same position, it’s really something that I won’t get to experience again, so I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Another connection for the group comes from longtime coach Lenny Smith, who took over as the head coach in 1983 and remained until the 2015 season, having piloted the team to not just its first District 11 championship, but to four league championships, three in the Colonial League and one in the Centennial League. After retiring, Smith was away from the team for a few seasons before current coach Duran Porrino asked him to come back as a volunteer assistant coach. That gave Smith the opportunity to have not only coached Brady Mengel, but Brandon as well.
“It was cool for both kids,” said Jason Mengel of Smith’s tenure. “It was a sense of pride and a sense of longevity, and baseball is something that we take seriously and we take a lot of pride in. It’s just a huge honor to have Brandon coached by coach Smith, too.”
“I’ve always enjoyed my time here,” said Smith. “There is a real tradition behind the program and a real connection, and they’re part of that. You know you’ve been around a long time when you’re coaching the kids of former players.”
Smith isn’t the only one coaching the younger players in the family. Jason and Richard Mengel, who often attend games at Northwestern, offered plenty of direction to Brady when he was at Northwestern, and they continue to give Brandon critiques of his play along with stories of the good old days at Northwestern.
“The old days are all I hear about,” laughed Brandon. “As soon as the game is over, I have to hear a couple negatives, that’s how dads are and how grandfathers are, but I know that they know what they’re talking about and it helps improve my playing style to hear those things.”
Brady and Brandon are starting their own little connection in the college ranks. Having played together in high school for one season, the two will be reunited next season at Mansfield with Brady being a senior and Brandon joining the team as a freshman.
It’s way too early to start thinking about the next crop of Mengels to play for Northwestern. One has to believe though that when the time comes, there will be more members of the Mengel family running onto a baseball field and taking their positions as middle infielders for Northwestern.
BERTHS CLINCHED ... A number of area teams have already clinched berths in the District 11 playoffs.
Northwestern’s baseball team is 12-2, and is guaranteed a spot in the postseason. The Tigers currently own the top seed in Class 4A. Both the Northwestern and Palmerton softball squads are locked into a playoff spot. The Tigers, like their baseball counterparts, own a 12-2 mark and are atop the 4A rankings. The Blue Bombers, meanwhile, own an 11-2 record and are second in Class 3A behind undefeated Pine Grove.
One other area team has clinched a district berth. The Pleasant Valley girls lacrosse team boasts a 9-3 record and sits third in the Class 3A standings. Above them are Easton (7-2) and Freedom (10-2).
NO-HITTER DAY ... Last Thursday was no-hitter day for a couple area pitchers.
Pleasant Valley’s Dan McEvoy and Weatherly’s Alexis Wilkinson both tossed shortened no-nos.
McEvoy didn’t allow a hit in three innings during PV’s 22-0 rout of Allen, and helped his own cause with three hits and four RBIs.
Wilkinson, meanwhile, stopped Executive Education for four frames in the Wreckers 15-0 victory, recording seven of the 12 outs via strikeout.
ONE-RUN WONDERS ... Marian’s baseball team has been in many tight ballgames this season.
The Colts have played more one-run games — six — than any other area club. The team has split those six contests, going 3-3, with all three of its losses being by one run.
Palmerton is next in line withfive one-run games.
HIGHER, FARTHER, FASTER ... Several Times News area track and field athletes had strong showings this past week.
The Lehighton girls showed the form that has propelled them to an undefeated season to this point, recording three first-place finishes at the Allen Invitational last Thursday.
Kaia Slaw won the long jump with a mark of 17-8½. Slaw was also second in the triple jump (36-2) and fourth in the high jump (5-1) for the Tribe. Lehighton’s Isabelle Meckes (120-5½) and Abigail Meckes (107-5½) swept the top two spots in the discus, and Brittney Bartasavage won the 100 hurdles, crossing the line in 16.57.
Northern Lehigh’s Reagan Pender was second in the 3200 with a school-record time of 11:23.40.
In the boys’ competition, Northern Lehigh’s Zach Moyer won the high jump, clearing 6-2, after tying the school record of 6-6 the previous week. Northwestern’s Devin Thomas was second (6-1).
Palmerton’s Chris Fredericks won the javelin with a throw of 184-0, and the senior was also second in the shot put (45-0½).
Tamaqua performed well at the Mount Carmel Breslin Invitational, finishing second during the 13-team event, while the Tamaqua girls notched third.
Matt Kistler (200, 22.81), Derian Stianche (800, 2:00.54), and Barron Stauffenberg (triple jump, 42-1) all posted firsts for Tamaqua.
Jim Thorpe’s Lydia Wallace continued to build on what has been a strong season winning the 800 at ESU’s Red and Black Invitational, as the sophomore posted a time of 2:23.47.
Marian’s Emma McClafferty and Tamaqua’s Caitlin Smith both earned second-place finishes at Shippensburg’s 93rd Jake Roddick Invitational on Saturday.
McClafferty took second in the discus with a throw of 124-11, while Smith was runner-up in the 100 in a time of 12.84.
HIGH HONOR ... Northwestern’s Rafe Perich was selected as the Pennsylvania Player of the Week by Prep Baseball Report. Perich is hitting .614 (59 plate appearances) with 26 RBIs, eight doubles, three home runs, two triples and 22 runs scored. Perich was 2-for-4 with two home runs - including a two-run shot in a four-run first inning - three RBIs and two runs scored for the Tigers in a 7-2 non-league win over Hamburg on Friday.
SHOWDOWNS LOOM ... The race for the girls and boys Schuylkill League Division 1 titles will be front and center as the season hits the home stretch. The Lehighton (5-0) girls travel to Blue Mountain (4-0) today in a meeting of the top Division 1 programs. On the boys’ side, unbeaten Jim Thorpe (5-0) will host Blue Mountain (4-0) in the regular season finale on Monday. In Division 2, the Marian (4-0) girls close out the season against Nativity (3-1) and Shenandoah Valley (4-1) over the final two weeks of the season.
OPENING DAY ... Palmerton debuted its new softball field in style on Monday, picking up a 5-0 win over Wilson. Lexi Merkel tossed a four-hit shutout and struck out 16 to lead the Blue Bombers. Kailah Altemose had three hits and an RBI, while Megan Serfass chipped in with two hits and two RBIs.
CENTURY MARK ... Northwestern’s Emily Akelaitis had a big day in a 4-3 Colonial League win over Notre Dame Monday. The Tigers’ pitcher finished with 10 strikeouts, allowing just two earned runs. At the plate, she had three hits — including the 100th of her career, and two RBIs.