Northampton Press

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Baseball team gets their bats going

Thursday, April 4, 2019 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel always referred to warm weather as “hittin’ season.”

Well, the weather hasn’t warmed up that much yet, but the Northampton Konkrete Kids are finally coming into a bit of their own ‘hittin’ season.’ It took the Kids 14 innings until they picked up their first hit of the season in the seventh inning against Emmaus in what turned out to be a 2-0 loss that got the team off to an 0-2 start in the EPC. Since then, Northampton has scored 20 runs in two games to even up their record at 2-2 overall and move to 1-2 in the EPC.

On Saturday, Northampton built a 6-0 lead over North Pocono and then had to hang on in a 6-4 victory to get their first win of the season. Phil Vooz started against North Pocono and threw five shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks. To get through the final two innings, Northampton coach Mike Sugra went to Ayden Hughes, Jeffrey Erschen and Cameron Cooper out of the bullpen, with Cooper getting the final two outs to record the save.

The Kids followed that up with a 17-hit attack to down Allentown Central Catholic 14-4, giving them their first EPC win of the season. Northampton put up six runs in the seventh inning to lock up the game. Mike Kuzio went 3-for-5 at the plate for Northampton to lead the offense, with Andrew Kovalchik, Isaac Tucker, Terry Graver, Cameron Eaton, Vooz and Justin Taylor all picking up two hits in the game. Evan Zwolenik allowed one run over five innings, picking up six strikeouts, with Graver and Tyler Antonis coming in from the bullpen to finish off the Vikings (0-4 overall, 0-2 EPC).

After running into Parkland (4-0, 3-0) ace Adam Smith in their season opener, Northampton ran into Louisville recruit Kellan Tulio its next time out against Emmaus (4-0, 3-0). Tulio had a perfect game going until the sixth inning when he issued a walk to Taylor and an inning later, Graver picked up the team’s first hit with a one-out double. Emmaus pitchers struck out 13 hitters on the day with Taylor and Zach Angerman being the only two hitters to not go down on strikes for Northampton.

“I’m upset because we don’t want to be 0-2, but it’s early in the year and hopefully, we take something from these losses,” said Sugra after the loss to Emmaus. “We’re seeing the best pitchers in the area and faced a guy who could potentially be drafted this year, so sometimes you’re going to run into that. I think we’ll be all right. It’s early and trying to adjust to guys of that caliber early on is tough; you can’t prepare for that in a gym.”

Sugra knew coming into the season that finding some offense was going to be the key for his team and with the explosion over the past couple of games, it seems that he was right. He was excited to see his team against slightly less than the best pitchers in the area because he thought they were swinging the bats well, but just coming up short. He also believes that the situation could be different if they face Smith and Tulio later in the season after his team has had a chance to build some confidence with the bats.

“We told them coming into the week is that we can view facing these guys as pressure or as opportunity. We could face these guys and hang our heads and just fold or we can see it as an opportunity where we get to face some of the best pitching in the area and learn from it. We haven’t seen sulking and we realize we have a long way to go,” Sugra explained.

Over the next week, Northampton has three road games at Pleasant Valley (4-0, 3-0) Friday, at Pocono Mountain East (1-2, 1-2) on Saturday and at East Stroudsburg South (0-4, 0-4) on Tuesday. They’re back home against Nazareth (2-2, 2-2) next Thursday.