Parkland tops Easton for the EPC baseball title
May 18, 2018

By Michael Blouse | Freelance Writer | Special to The Morning Call

SCRANTON — Kurt Weber informed his team that they'd be departing Parkland High School at 6:30 a.m. Friday for a long trip, and if all went well, a long day of baseball.

"We expected to hear grumbles," Weber said. "There were no grumbles. They were like, ‘OK, let's go.' We've been a pretty resilient team."

And now, the Trojans are resilient champions — thanks to a strong pitching performance from Adam Smith and lots of timely offense.

Second-seeded Parkland knocked off No. 1 Easton 8-0 to clinch the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship almost eight hours after the Trojans tamed Stroudsburg 8-3 in the semifinals.

Friday's EPC tripleheader was held at the University of Scranton's Charles J. Volpe Family Field, with the first of two semifinals starting at 9 a.m. and the championship game ending at 4:30 p.m. Conference officials opted to shift the semifinals and finals from Easton's Hackett Park to the six-week-old Scranton site after heavy rains postponed play for three consecutive days.

After Parkland topped Stroudsburg in the opener, players refocused and refueled while watching Easton eliminate Emmaus in the second semifinal. Then, Weber and the Trojans sent out Smith to square off against the EPC's other all-star pitcher — Easton's Eddie Olsen.

Smith stymied the Red Rovers for six innings, scattering four hits — three singles — and two walks. The junior struck out five.

Koby Staivecki entered in the bottom of the seventh inning and induced three groundouts to close out Parkland's second straight conference championship and its fourth in five years.

"Going into it, obviously they're a really good team so there were some nerves," Smith said. "But after an inning, we settled in and it was just another game.

"I was able to locate my fastball pretty well today. My curveball felt pretty good, too. I used it to try to keep them off balance. And the defense made all the plays to help me out."

Parkland (19-3) struck for two quick runs in the top of the second inning. Olsen walked William Algard and then hit Dylan Miller to ignite the Trojan rally. Matthew Ervolina scored both runners with a line-drive double into the left-center field alley.

A three-hit third inning produced another two runs for Parkland. Jeremy Piatkiewicz contributed an RBI single to the rally.

The Trojans scored another run in the fourth frame and three more in the sixth. Cullan Wadsworth went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Ervolina and Piatkiewicz collected two hits apiece, while Miller and Joseph Weber scored two runs each.

Easton's Chris Hess had two hits. The Red Rovers played without EPC co-MVP Cam Hubbard, who is out indefinitely with an injury.

"Every time there were guys on base we did our jobs," said Wadsworth, one of five senior starters in the lineup. "We kept scratching out runs throughout the game."

The story, though, was the combined pitching performances of Smith and Staivecki. They were in top form while Easton's Olsen struggled in the second and third innings.

"The No. 1 thing about Adam is he doesn't get rattled and he's very, very consistent," Weber said. "He's going to give you this type of effort every time he goes out."

"He did a great job," Easton coach Carm LaDuca said of Smith. "He hit the corners; he was efficient and effective. I was very impressed." LaDuca praised Parkland and offered no excuses after the long trip and long day.

"We're not going to use that as any excuse. Parkland had to play two games, too," he said. "Give Parkland credit, they came out ready to play and we didn't make some plays we needed to make. Quite frankly, we didn't look like a 19-2 team. No excuses. Parkland deserved to win the baseball game."

For Parkland, which earned the top seed for the upcoming District 11 Class 6A tournament, the win was especially satisfying after a long week of waiting out the weather.

Easton (19-3) will be seeded second.

"It was very annoying," Wadsworth said of the postponements. "We were always ready to play, then we'd find out it was cancelled. It was frustrating but it made us, I think, come out with a little more fire today."

Red Rovers rally past Pleasant Valley to reach EPC baseball semifinals
May 12, 2018

Photo courtesy of Rick Kintzel | The Morning Call. Easton right-hander Eddie Olsen struck out 16 batters in the Red Rovers' 10-2 win over Pleasant Valley in an EPC baseball quarterfinal Saturday

By Stephen Miller | The Morning Call
Photo courtesy of April Gamez | The Morning Call

An Easton lineup that bludgeoned its way to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference baseball tournament's top seed failed to produce a big inning in its first few postseason chances.

The relentless Red Rovers eventually took their toll on Pleasant Valley's pitching staff Saturday.

Zach Spray's RBI single capped a fifth inning he started with a leadoff walk. Easton sent 11 men to the plate in the six-run frame, lifting it to a 10-2 win in an EPC quarterfinal at Richards Field.

Luke Storm led Easton with three hits and three RBIs to help it rally from a 2-0 deficit against the eighth-seeded Bears (12-9). Spray added two runs and one RBI, and pinch hitter Matt Happel rapped a two-run double in the fifth as Easton overcame early adversity.

The Red Rovers (18-2 overall) have won 14 straight games against league opponents. They will face No. 4 Emmaus, a 10-0 winner over No. 5 Liberty in Saturday's only other quarterfinal, in Tuesday's second EPC semifinal at Hackett Park (7:15 p.m.) in Easton.

"We obviously were not our sharpest early on," Easton coach Carm LaDuca said. "Hey, maybe it's the type of thing where it's different; it's a playoff game. Give Pleasant Valley credit. They were here to play.

"Fortunately for us, we were able to do some things with our legs. I think Nick [Yannuzzelli's] hit was big to get us on the board and get us rolling. Luke had a couple of big hits. But then Matt Happel's hit as a pinch hitter down the line over there was huge to stretch the lead."

Storm missed on an early chance to give the Red Rovers a big inning when he flied out with the bases loaded in the second. He came through in his next at-bat, lofting a game-tying RBI double to make it 2-2 after four innings.

Storm added RBI singles in each of his next two at-bats. He has taken over as the Red Rovers' leadoff hitter since they lost Cam Hubbard indefinitely to an injury.

"I knew all year we've been putting up runs like this, and it was just a matter of time," Storm said. "Our team wasn't going to go down like that."

Pleasant Valley missed on its chance to build a big lead while Easton starter Eddie Olsen searched for his form early. It had a 2-0 lead after 2 1/2 innings but stranded five runners.

The Bears had no chance against him late. Olsen struck out 10 of the last 12 batters he faced to finish with 16 strikeouts in six innings. Pleasant Valley didn't have a hit after the third inning.

"The grip on my fastball started working," Olsen said. "I started to paint the corners that I really liked, and I just got my footing settled down on the mound. It was good to go."

Squeezing in Saturday's game despite the spotty weather will give Easton a couple of days to prepare for the semifinals. The Red Rovers beat Emmaus 5-3 when the teams played their lone regular-season game two weeks ago.

"Our message to the kids [after the game] was, 'You need to be ready from pitch No. 1,'" LaDuca said. "Today, I don't know if we were as sharp as we needed to be."

Olsen shines as Easton downs Emmaus
May 1, 2018

Photo courtesy of April Gamez | The Morning Call. Easton's Eddie Olsen (5) pitches against Emmaus.

By Stephen Miller | The Morning Call
Photo courtesy of April Gamez | The Morning Call

Eddie Olsen and Kellan Tulio forced a succession of hitters back to their dugouts shaking their heads.

Olsen gave Emmaus nothing for free. That set the senior right-hander apart Tuesday afternoon.

Olsen walked no one while striking out 11 Green Hornets over 5 2/3 innings. Easton, meanwhile, capitalized on Tulio's bouts of wildness to collect a 5-3 EPC interdivisional baseball win at Richards Field.

The victory solidified the Red Rovers (12-1 overall, 11-1 EPC) as the frontrunner for the EPC tournament's top seed. They have ripped off 10 straight wins, nine in the EPC, since a 4-1 loss to Freedom on April 10.

Easton has won most of its games with a relentless lineup. It entered Tuesday averaging 11.6 runs per game. It had scored at least eight runs in all but one game.

The Red Rovers managed only three hits Tuesday, two against Tulio. They turned them into four of their runs, taking advantage of the baserunners Tulio allowed via walks (five) and hit batters (three).

"We've had that discussion, that we were going to face some very good teams this week, starting with Emmaus," Easton coach Carm LaDuca said. "We know Emmaus is for real. Their pitcher was fantastic, one of the best around.

"We knew we would have to face them in a tough situation, and to get some key, clutch hits in some big spots against great pitching, and to actually hold that team down hitting-wise, Eddie did a great job."

Luke Storm and Cole Heitzman delivered Easton's needed hits. Storm rapped a two-run, opposite-field single in the first to put the Red Rovers in front to stay.

Emmaus had clawed within 3-2 after an RBI double by Tulio (two hits, two RBIs) and an RBI single by Adam LeMaster in the top of the sixth. Heitzman answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run double off Jude Negron. Heitzman's hit came after Tulio (5 2/3 innings, 11 strikeouts) had hit a batter and issued his final walk, both with two outs.

Olsen kept Emmaus in check with his control. He retired the leadoff hitter in each of his first five innings and didn't allow a runner past second base until the sixth.

"Coming out here, home field, everything mechanically felt good," Olsen said. "I just felt great throughout the whole day." Easton has three more games over the next four days after playing Monday and Tuesday. The Red Rovers have ample reason to feel good about their trajectory despite their schedule challenges.

"Our confidence, we're getting in teams' heads right from the start," Storm said. "We're putting up runs early, and that's really helping us."

Easton puts the hurt on Phillipsburg early in rivalry rout
April 30, 2018

By Kyle Craig | lehighvalleylive.com

Easton Area High School senior Zach Spray gave a fired-up message to his teammates before they took their first at-bats against Phillipsburg.

Those words quickly translated into runs and the Red Rovers turned an early advantage into a comfortable 11-4 rivalry victory at Hackett Park on Monday night.

Spray, a right fielder, wanted his team to be motivated without playing tight.

"In the beginning, everyone was nervous, I could tell," he said. "The environment here at Hackett is just unbelievable when it's Easton vs. P'burg. I got the team together and said, ‘We need to relax and play the game like we always do.'"

Easton (11-1) put pressure on the Stateliners immediately and scored its first run before recording an official AB.

Junior Cam Hubbard walked; senior Chris Hess put down a sacrifice; and Spray drew another walk. Ball four got away from the catcher, prompting Spray to sprint around to second, where an off-target throw allowed Hubbard to score.

A single by sophomore Luke Storm and an RBI groundout from junior Nick Yannuzzelli gave the Red Rovers a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

"It's a big rivalry; everyone knows that," Easton senior Eddie Olsen said. "We knew if we came out here pumped and ready to play, we'd get on them. That's what we did."

"The at bats in the first inning were really critical because we got (Tyler Diefenbach) to throw quite a few pitches in that inning," Red Rovers coach Carm LaDuca said. "We were able to get those runs early, which set the tone. That's sort of how we've been handling things this year. To get an early lead was really special. That was a really good pitcher who was on that mound tonight."

Easton's offense struck again when the top of the batting order started the third inning. Hubbard and Hess both singled and then stole their way into scoring position, where Spray drove them in with a two-run knock.

"My coach always tells me to choke up and put the barrel on the ball (with two strikes)," Spray said. "That's what I did."

Storm and Yannuzzelli both reached to load the bases for Olsen, who broke the game open with a bases-clearing, three-run double, giving the Rovers a 7-0 lead.

"There were less than two outs. I just wanted to get a ball in play and put some runs up on the board," said Olsen, the first baseman. "With two strikes, I just choked up on the bat and let it fly."

Click here to view highlights of the game, Courtesy of Jersey Sports Zone

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