Palmerton, NE Bethlehem end in tie
Palmerton’s Jacob Sutton slides into second base ahead of the tag of Northeast Bethlehem second baseman Lucas Azzoti. MIKE FEIFEL/TIMES NEWS
Matt Solt isn’t about to get caught looking ahead.
The Palmerton mentor knows there is still a lot of baseball to be played before his team wraps up its regular season Lehigh Valley Connie Mack schedule.
But Solt is also aware that with just a handful of games remaining, every outcome will go a long way toward determining what his club’s postseason prospects look like.
Palmerton helped its case on Friday, playing to a 9-9 tie against Northeast Bethlehem, a crucial result for two programs in the midst of a tight playoff race.
“We have to take it one day at a time,” Solt said. “We have a tough week coming up; we play four games this week, and everybody we play is over .500, so we have to get a couple of wins.
“I just told the guys this afternoon. I think if we can stay below six losses, I think that puts us pretty high up. We have four games left, and we have to make hay where the sun shines.”
Eleven teams entered the day separated by just two points. Throw in Coplay and South Parkland, who sit third and fourth in the standings, and Pleasant Valley, which is 16th, and there are 14 teams within six points.
Palmerton came into the contest tied with Wilson for 10th. Northeast Bethlehem was deadlocked with three other teams for sixth.
“I think they’re taking 12, and we’ve been there all year, so we don’t want to jinx ourselves now,” said Solt.
Palmerton (8-4-2) batted around and erased a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the second inning with six runs. An RBI double from Branden Kocher put Palmerton ahead 6-5.
Jacob Sutton and Randon Solt had two hits apiece and scored twice for the Bombers, while James Denicola added two RBIs and Lucas Heydt collected two hits and scored once.
“We get the point, and that could be big come playoff time,” Solt said. “I think going down 5-1, fighting back, scoring runs, taking the lead, and being able to shut them down and keep them down, shows the grit that our team has.
“That’s a good baseball team (Northeast Bethlehem) over there. We’re all right in it together. If you look at the points, it’s one point between all of us.”
The Bombers led until a two-out hit by No. 9 hitter Josh Gandia tied the game at 7-7 in the top of the fifth inning.
Palmerton pushed across two runs in the bottom of the frame on a passed ball and a groundout to go in front 9-7.
Northeast Bethlehem (9-6-1) took advantage of an error to make it a one-run game in the top of the sixth. Leadoff hitter Allan Burgos (4-for-5, three runs scored) delivered a two-out, two-strike single to score Gandia to tie the game at 9-9.
“He’s been doing it,” Northeast Bethlehem mentor Juan Cotto said of Burgos, who also started on the mound and pitched two innings. “He’s our No. 5 hitter, but our leadoff guy was not here, so I moved him up so he could get more at-bats. So it worked out really well today.”
Lucas Azzati had two hits, while David Espinal added two hits and scored three runs.
Palmerton went down in order in the bottom of the seventh inning. With darkness looming, the skies opened after the last out of the frame, and the game was called.
“I’m just proud of the way the kids went out and kept on chugging away,” said Solt. “They showed that they’re here to play, they’re here to win, and you’re not going to take the wind out of their sails. If you get them down, you better keep them down.”
NEXT MAN UP … Solt praised Denicola for his play behind the plate. “He’s not a high school baseball player. He played for us in spring and years before. He’s not a high school baseball player, put the gear on, and did a great job back there,” said Solt.
WEB GEMS … Kocher stabbed a hot shot off the bat of David Espinal for the second out in the top of the fourth to keep Burgos at second. After Daniel Espinal singled to center to score Burgos to cut Palmerton’s lead to 7-6, Solt laid out in center to make a diving catch to end the inning to keep it a one-run game.
NE Beth. 230 111 1 - 9 11 6
Palmerton 160 020 0 - 9 10 8
Burgos, Dav. Espinal (3), Hoffman (7) and Dan. Espinal; Kocher, Eitner (3) and Denicola.