Northampton Press

Saturday, December 14, 2019
 Copyright - Digital_Media_Magic_LLC_Nazareth_PA Copyright - Digital_Media_Magic_LLC_Nazareth_PA

Legion rolling along

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 by Jeff moeller Special to the Press in Sports

With three games remaining on their schedule beginning the week, Northampton’s Legion team has their sights set on the top spot in Northampton County Legion (NORCO).

Having a seven-game winning streak and an overall 13-2 mark can provide plenty of reassurance.

Northampton finished a streak of eight consecutive games and nine in 10 days Wednesday.

“We have been winning and everything is going well,” said head coach Mike Bodnar. “We beat the first-place team (Wanderers) and we have the tie breaker in the head-to-head. If we win two of our final three, we should finish no lower than second.

“I really want us to finish first.”

Northampton rarely has missed a beat all season. Its last loss was against Freemansburg (7-3) June 17 and their first loss was against Banko’s (7-2) June 9. They began the season with a 5-0 start.

On the mound, they recently have been infused by the performance of Evan Zwolenick, who led the varsity with a 7-1 mark and also helped lead the Lehigh Valley Carpenter Cup entry to the final.

Zwolenick recently threw a complete-game, seven-inning, four-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory over the Wanderers June 27 in which he struck out 10 and walked two over a 102-pitch performance. He began 3-0 with three complete game victories, and he hadn’t allowed an earned run in 21 innings in which he recorded 30 strikeouts and just three walks.

“I feel like I have picked up right from the high school season,” said the junior. “I have been hitting spots and staying hungry. We won a (league) championship with the high school team and I believe we can win a championship with this team.

“I will continue to get better and give everything I have every day that I’m on the mound.”

Bodnar has cherished his moments.

“He (Zwolenick) changes speeds so well,” said Bodnar. “He hasn’t gotten into trouble at all. He threw a sick knuckleball with two on and two out (against the Wanderers) to end the inning.

“The kid just froze, and I don’t think anyone could have hit it.”

Jared Hunsberger also has been solid on the mound as he had a 1-0, 2.33 mark with 24 strikeouts in 21 innings. He had a perfect game in his last start June 26 against East Stroudsburg going into the six innings until his throwing error opened the door for two hits in a complete-game, 9-2 victory.

“Jared (Hunsberger) hasn’t picked up a baseball from the end of his season until the beginning of Legion,” said Bodnar. “But he has really threw well. He fielded a bunt and turned toward first base, caught the sun and threw high.

“He has everything together for us right now.”

Offensively, Northampton recently has been paced by Andrew Kovalchik, who has raised his average from .200 to .421.

Mike Kuzio (. 415) and Zach Lambert (. 429), who both have paced the team all season, have continued their consistency.

“Andrew (Kovalchik) really has been raking it for us lately,” said Bodnar. “Kuzio and Lambert have hit around .500 all season, and I think they got a little tired recently.”

Bodnar also has been impressed by his team’s defense.

“I thought we might be a little sharper and crisper,” he said. “We have given up roughly an error a game and that’s good for legion.

“We had some four-error games and our pitching pulled us through them.”

Northampton could have a first-round bye when the playoffs begin Sunday due to the fact that there may not be eight teams with records above .500. They were third after the regular season last year.

“We’ll have to see,” said Bodnar. “We would like a bye to rest. But we are on a pretty good roll and want to keep it going.”