Kids top LHS to win crown
Since he took over the program eight years ago, Mick Sugra has been looking for the trifecta of pitching, hitting, and defense to create the perfect season.
So far, he is getting his wish.
The Kids headed into Wednesday’s opening -round of districts as the top seed in the Class 6A bracket and hosted Emmaus. They captured their first East Penn Conference crown since 1979 with a 3-1 victory over Liberty last week.
Beginning the year with consecutive defeats against then presumed powerhouses Parkland and Emmaus, the Kids (20-3) remarkably have won 20 of 21 games. Their lone blemish: a second loss to Parkland that ended a 13-game win streak.
It has been a low-key, blue-collar approach that continues to reach epic proportions.
“That is the ideal situation and it has happened for us,” said Sugra. “We have had the pitching all season long and our hitting has been timely. We don’t have the big bats we had in the past, but our hitting has been consistent. Our defense has been there.
“It has been a model of consistency to get all three together.”
The Kids received another prolific effort from junior lefthander Evan Zwolenik, who twirled an 88-pitch, three-hitter, to raise his overall record to 7-0. He and senior righthander Cole Rufe (6-1) arguably have developed into the top duo in the league.
Rufe had a remarkable 68 strikeouts in 48.2 innings with a 1.15 ERA and allowed just 24 hits, while Zwolenik had 55 strikeouts in 62.2 innings with a 1.00 ERA and 49 hits allowed.
Zwolenik believes the Kids’ storybook season isn’t able to close anytime soon.
“Winning the EPC was a great accomplishment and we all knew we were capable of doing it,” said Zwolenik. “It felt like a dream and was speechless ... no words. I love my teammates and my coaches, but all know we are not done. We are capable of winning the district title.
“Winning the league title was hands down one of my best memories. I will never forget that day and my teammates.”
Senior Cam Eaton and junior Mike Kuzio also recognized the team’s work ethic and determination. Eaton is leading the team in homers (4) and RBIs (25) and hitting .384, while Kuzio has 12 RBIs and hitting. 375.
“Winning the league title showed how hard the program has worked as a whole this year,” said Eaton. “It showcased our team chemistry and how well we play as a unit. It was amazing, and a great accomplishment, but we are still hungry and want to do more in the district tournament.
“It was a great feeling to know that all our hard work paid off,” added Kuzio. “Our team was super excited and we still are. But we have to keep playing loose and refocus.”
Sugra had the luxury of pitching both Zwolenik and Rufe against Emmaus, as the winner wouldn’t play again until Sunday. The Kids met the Green Hornets for the fourth time this season, twice avenging an opening-season loss with the latest being a 2-0 shutout in the EPC semifinals in which Rufe recorded 10 strikeouts.
“Both of them pitched well against Emmaus,” said Sugra of his tandem. “They (Emmaus) have a potent middle of the lineup and are a very good team. We just have to play our game without any major mistakes.”