North Parkland, Bath advance in tourney

LAURELSDALE – Alex Flynn will drive to Temple University today for freshmen orientation knowing he did his part for the North Parkland team.

Flynn scattered seven hits in an impressive complete-game effort as the Buffaloes beat Pine Grove 3-0 during Day 2 of the American Legion Region 2 Baseball Tournament on Sunday at Muhlenberg Township's Gochnauer Field.

"I'm glad they were able to use me today," said Flynn, a Parkland High School graduate. "I won't be here [Monday] and I'm not too sure if I'll be here [Tuesday] so I wanted to help our team."

North Parkland, the Lehigh Valley League champion with a 22-2 record, advances to today's 7:30 p.m. contest.

Bath mauled Muhlenberg, 12-2 in seven innings, in one of Sunday's two elimination games and Birches also stayed alive in the tournament by besting Hatfield, 3-2, in the quadrupleheader opener.

The pitching performance of the day belonged to Flynn.

He retired the side in order only twice, but was in complete control throughout the game. Flynn stranded eight Grover baserunners, benefiting from three double plays turned in by his defense. He walked four and struck out six.

"I hadn't pitched on over a week," Flynn said, "so my arm was feeling pretty good. I was hitting my spots and my curveball was working well. And, I couldn't be happier with my defense."

North Parkland scored the only run it needed in the top of the second inning.

Aiden Flynn, Alex's older brother, led off with a single and moved to third on a double to deep left-center field by Jordan Jones. Aiden Flynn then scored on Evan McAndrew's groundout. The Buffaloes added two runs in the fourth inning thanks to McAndrew's infield single and two Pine Grove errors.

"I felt pretty confident when we scored our first run," Alex Flynn said, "then when we tacked on two more, I felt that three should be sufficient."

Manager Terry Stoudt said he considered removing Alex Flynn on several occasions but ultimately opted to stay with his starter.

"He's a competitive kid. I left it up to him," said Stoudt, who plans to start Brett Kosciolek in today's game. "Alex was excellent."

McAndrew and Walt Roland both contributed two hits for North Parkland.

Bath quickly disposed of Muhlenberg in Sunday's second contest.

Alex Specht's club scored seven times in the opening inning off A's ace Tyler Sassaman, who entered with an 8-0 record and a 0.90 ERA. All seven of the runs came with two outs and six of the seven were unearned. Tyler Erney and Connor Vanderbush contributed RBI singles and Matt Unangst capped the rally with a two-run double.

Tom Epsaro enjoyed a 3-for-4, two-run effort. The shortstop said the team's performance Sunday wiped away the disappointment of Saturday's 4-3 setback to Norchester.

"[Saturday] was real bad," Epsaro said. "It feels great to get this win. If we'd made a few more plays [Saturday] I think we deserved to win that one, too."

According to Epsaro, the Bath players were well aware of Sassaman's dominance this summer.

"I think everyone knew of their pitcher. But we approached him the same way we approach everyone else. We looked for good pitches to hit," he said.

James Downey started for Bath and allowed just an infield single in three innings. Mike Krawchuk relieved and went three scoreless frames for the win. Nick Caricari pitched the final inning.

Until they plated two runs in the top of the seventh inning, the punchless A's had scored just one run in their previous 35 innings.

Specht, in his first year as manager, said Mike Horvath will start today's game for Bath, which plays Schuylkill/Berks champion Pine Grove in the 4 p.m. matchup. Bath improved to 17-9 with Sunday's win.

The Northampton County champions survived to play another day in the Region 2 tournament – and so did the league runners-up.

Birches, after blowing back-to-back extra-inning leads in Game 2 of the NorCo finals and Day 1 of the region tournament, ended up on the happy side of a one-run thriller against Hatfield.

It scored three times in the seventh inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit – the tying and winning runs scored on an error, and reliever Chris Burke made the offense stand up.

Burke, who doubled during Birches' three-run rally, relieved starter Travis VanHouton to start the sixth inning. He yielded just two singles and a walk in four scoreless innings.

"It feels real nice to come out on top in a close game," VanHouton said. "I think this'll give us a lot of momentum."

Birches, with a 14-13-1 record, has created an unlikely wave of momentum in the post-season. It qualified for the NorCo tournament as the eighth seed – and is now picking up valuable experience for the future.

Only one player in Birches' starting lineup on Sunday, catcher James Shank, will not be eligible to return to the team next year.

"We battled the whole way which is all you can ask," manager Al Foust said. "We beat a really good, very experienced Hatfield team. I have a very young team and I'm really proud of the way we've competed in the playoffs."

Birches advances to today's 4 p.m. contest. It will play the loser of Sunday night's Norchester-Nor-Gwyn game.

See the linescores from today's wins on SPORTS 7.

Michael Blouse is a freelance writer.


Birches 000 000 300 – 3 3 3

Hatfield 100 010 000 – 2 5 1

VanHouton, Burke (6) and Shank. Carney, Coll (7) and Smink. WP: Burke. LP: Carney. Highlights: Birches: Chris Burke 1-4, 1 2B, 1 run, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1BB, 4 K; Travis VanHouton 1-4; Brett Hardy 1-2; Hatfield: Brady West 2-4, 2 runs.

BATH 12, MUHLENBERG 2, 7 innings

Muhlenberg 000 000 2 – 2 6 2

Bath 721 020 x – 12 13 0

Sassaman, Fidler (2), Keller (5), Miller (6) and Kuczawa. Downey, Krawchuk (4), Caricari (7) and Mergel. WP: Krawchuk. LP: Sassaman. Highlights: Muhlenberg: Cameron Weidner 1-2, 1 RBI; Joseph Rozzi 1-1, 1 run. Bath: Tom Epsaro 3-4, 2 runs; Matt Unangst 2-2, 1 run, 3 RBI; John McGeary 2-3, 2 runs, 1 RBI; James Downey 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K.


North Parkland 010 200 000 – 3 7 0

Pine Grove 000 000 000 – 0 7 5

Al. Flynn and Zaccaro. Fick and Zimmerman. WP: Al. Flynn. LP: Fick. Highlights: North Parkland: Evan McAndrew 2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI; Walt Roland 2-4; Alex Flynn 9 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6 K. Pine Grove: Kobe D'Agostino and Logan Levan 2-4; Austin Fick 9 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.

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