Lehigh Valley blanked in Carpenter Cup opener
Ted Plessl has been around for quite some time, managing countless Lehigh Valley baseball teams in the annual Carpenter Cup Classic.
He looked at this year's team and had high expectations for his squad, due in large part to the pitching staff on the roster.
But sometimes things don't go as planned. Plessl didn't get to see that staff's full potential come to fruition.
Instead it was Tri-Cape that stole the show.
Tri-Cape's offense erupted for 19 runs on 12 hits in last Wednesday's first-round game against Lehigh Valley, securing a 19-0 shutout victory at UYA Showcase Field at F.D.R. Park. Tri-Cape's pitching rotation was just as impressive, allowing just three Lehigh Valley hits in nine innings of play to open the 30th Annual Carpenter Cup Classic.
"It was a day we didn't expect," Plessl said. "We actually, as a staff, felt this was a strong enough team, with the pitching that we had, that we were a contender for the title.
"I tip my hat off to the other team. They outplayed us in every phase of the game. And that happens."
Lehigh Valley, which has won three Carpenter Cup championships since its inception in 1986 and most recently in 2011, suffered its worst lost in its history. Lehigh Valley lost to SOL National 17-3 in 1993, marking their highest-margin of defeat before last Wednesday.
It was an outcome that no one had anticipated after Lehigh Valley had been a steady presence in the tournament's championship game in recent years.
"We've been one of the best teams down here over the years," Plessl said. "We've been to Citizen's Bank Park four out of the last six years. We've had two titles that we lost in the last game, and we won it three times. This one hurts because we didn't expect it. But we had really good ballplayers."
Starter Conner Higgins of Parkland walked three of Tri-Cape's first four batters, resulting in a quick 3-0 lead after two runs on wild pitches and CJ LaFragola's RBI-groundout.
When Higgins was pulled early in the second inning after walking the first two batters, Tri-Cape's bats didn't let up one bit. Pleasant Valley's Travis VanHouten walked the first batter he faced, and a three-run triple by Buddy Kennedy pushed their lead to 6-0. Anthony Harrold, LaFragola and Sean Carew added RBIs to make it 9-0 after two.
Tri-Cape scored six more runs in the third, added two more in the fifth and capped their afternoon with two in the eighth.
"They're a very talented team, so pitching against good hitters like that makes it challenging," said Salisbury's Chad Cooperman, who pitched 2 2/3 innings. "It was fun, too, to get out there and play against some of the best players from the New Jersey area."
Contrary to Lehigh Valley's staff, Tri-Cape's pitchers seemed unhittable for the entire duration. After starter John Murphy struck out five batters and allowed two hits in the first three innings, the next five Tri-Cape pitchers allowed just one hit the rest of the way. Lehigh Valley didn't send more than five batters to the plate in any inning.
"We weren't swinging at good pitches," said Northwestern's Tyler Schreiner, who played first base and walked in the eighth inning. "We were taking too many pitches. That sort of affected us because we wouldn't get any runners on and it was hard to hit from behind in the count."
But while the scoreboard shows the team's most-lopsided loss ever, the players were able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plessl commended his players for their play.
"Nobody here should be defined by what happened today," Plessl said. "This happens at every level of the game that you play in. Unfortunately today wasn't our day."
"It's fun playing with a lot of the best players in the Valley," Cooperman said. "Instead of playing against them, you get to play with them. It was a really neat experience in that aspect."
Two Whitehall players made the Lehigh Valley squad. Gianni Sinatore saw time in the outfield and went 0-for-2 at the plate, and pitcher Zachary Gilbert was also named to the team.
A total of three Northampton players were selected to the team. Ian Csencsits (1-for-2), Will Stackhouse (0-for-1 with a walk) and Jonathan Miller (0-for-0 with a walk) all started for the Lehigh Valley squad.
Three Bethlehem area players suited up for Lehigh Valley. Liberty's Logan Steidinger caught the final three innings and went 0-for-2 at the plate, and teammate Sammy Kraihanzel started the game in the infield and finished 0-for-2. Freedom's John Yocum rounded out the area's selections, going 0-for-3 at the plate.