Varsity baseball: Southern Lehigh rallies for five in the sixth, wins Colonial League title with 10-9 thriller (2022)

The Southern Lehigh High School nickname is officially Spartans, but according to senior Will Woodring “we’re just a bunch of dogs who battle.”

Southern Lehigh scrapped back from a 9-5 deficit after 5½ innings, scoring five times in the bottom of the sixth and then finally had a 1-2-3 top of the seventh to close out a wild 10-9 win over Notre Dame-Green Pond at DeSales University’s Weiland Park.

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The comeback gave the top-seeded Spartans (19-3) their first league title since 21018 when they beat Palisades 4-1 for the crown.

Varsity baseball: Southern Lehigh rallies for five in the sixth, wins Colonial League title with 10-9 thriller (1)

This one was quite different, but just as equally satisfying considering Southern Lehigh found a way to win a game that wasn’t close to its best.

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The Spartans made four errors that led to seven unearned runs. Two miscues in the top of the sixth helped produce a four-run inning by Notre Dame that broke a 5-5 tie and gave the Crusaders a four-run cushion. It wasn’t enough.

“We were down 9-5, but I don’t think anyone in our dugout was nervous at all,” said Woodring, whose two-run double pulled the Spartans within 9-8. Matt Tankred was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score the first run of an inning that featured 11 Spartans batters.

“We put up about 12 runs per game during the season, so seeing them put nine runs on the board didn’t make us too nervous,” Woodring said. “We were putting hard-hit balls in play, so we knew eventually the balls would start falling. The great thing about this team is we swing it. We go up there and everyone is aggressive, everyone wants to get a hit. One through nine, no one lacks.”

Certainly, Luke Lea didn’t lack anything when it mattered most. Lea, a sophomore, who tossed a 7-hit shutout in Southern Lehigh’s 7-0 semifinal win over Northwestern Lehigh on Tuesday, was 0-for-3 with a strikeout when he came up in the seventh with two out.

He singled sharply through the middle to deliver the tying and go-ahead runs.

“We were in a situation where there’s no tomorrow and we just had to barrel it up and fight and good things might happen,” Southern Lehigh’s veteran coach Todd Miller said. “If we had gone down four a couple of weeks ago, we might have folded up shop, but they believed in each other and stayed loose.”

Miller, remembering last year’s District 11 5A title team, said he asked the guys recently what that team had that this one didn’t.

“They had the ability to stay loose, and whether they were up or down, they just kept coming and coming and that’s what these kids did today,” Miller said.

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Miller said he was disappointed in the team’s defensive effort, but wasn’t surprised.

“Honestly that’s been our Achilles heel all season,” Miller said. “We’ve struck out a lot of guys, popped up a lot of guys, but when we’ve had to play the ball it has been a struggle. We’ve moved some guys around and moving Tankred to third has helped build the left side of the infield. But tonight, we got just enough defense. I’m not happy with the errors, but we got just enough.”

Notre Dame-Green Pond (18-5) didn’t quite have enough offense or the ability to get the third out since Southern Lehigh scored its last seven runs with two out, including two on Landon Bealer’s triple in the fifth which briefly tied it at five.

“We thought it might come down to the last at-bat, you never know,” Bealer said. “Notre Dame is a really good team and we knew we’d have to battle until the end. Eventually, we came out with the win. We’ve been working hard for a long time and finally get a league title is a really good feeling.

The Crusaders got three hits and an RBI from Collin Quintano and a run scored by the first seven players in the order.

“We just couldn’t get the third out in those last two innings,” said Notre Dame assistant Tim Hurd, who was filling in for head coach Mike Bedics who is battling an illness. “I thought if we scored nine runs, we’d have won this game. I thought five runs would win it because we thought it would be a pitcher’s duel. It didn’t happen that way.”

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Hurd said his team was going to use pitcher Ben Moyzan as long as he could go and Moyzan went 5⅓ innings and 92 pitches before leaving with an apparent injury.

Varsity baseball: Southern Lehigh rallies for five in the sixth, wins Colonial League title with 10-9 thriller (2)

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Zach Rodgers had worked three scoreless and hitless innings against Southern Lehigh in a 6-4 loss at Limeport Stadium on April 22, but the Spartans had a better idea of what to expect this time around.

Both teams will advance to the District 11 tournament and will go immediately into the semifinal round — Southern Lehigh in 5A and Notre Dame in 3A.

Varsity baseball: Southern Lehigh rallies for five in the sixth, wins Colonial League title with 10-9 thriller (3)

The semis in both brackets are tentatively scheduled for May 28 and are likely to be held at DeSales.

“I told the kids that if we play with this kind of energy and heart in districts, we’re going to walk away with gold medals,” Hurd said.

Southern Lehigh, meanwhile, wants more gold.

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“The job isn’t finished,” Woodring said. “We’ve got districts left and we want to go even further in states after getting to the second round last year. We’re confident going into districts and we just want to keep the momentum going.”

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