North Parkland wraps up Youth Legion season
Parkland athletes are used to being a part of rivalries and nail-biting contests that leave spectators and players alike on the edge of their seats until the final play.
However it was a bit odd for a few of them when they were locked in an extra inning playoff game with, their brethren.
The North Parkland Buffaloes finished the regular season strong with an 8-4 record that earned them the fourth seed in the Lehigh Valley Youth Legion Baseball League's double-elimination playoffs. Although they beat some of the best summer baseball squads in the Valley, the Buffaloes didn't have to travel far to meet up with their first postseason opponents.
North Parkland hosted South Parkland and their fifth seed at Orefield Middle School back on July 13. When these two teams met in the regular season North Parkland took the victory with a final score of 7-4. After this one there was the same victor, but this time it took a lot longer to get one.
After 10 innings of baseball North defeated the South by a score of 8-7. It was a thrilling contest to watch and be a part of. North Parkland head coach, Jason Marakovits, said it was one for the memory banks.
"That game against South Parkland was one of the best and most exciting games that I have been a part of in my entire baseball career," he said in a phone interview last week. "The highs and lows of the game were some of the most extreme I've ever seen in one single game. They took an early lead and we came back and tied it. Then we had a pretty comfortable lead after Isaac Neal hit a grand slam and then they came back and took the lead. Jared Afflerbach threw five innings of relief for us and stopped them every time they tried to score and we finally got one across in the tenth."
Afflerbach's extensive outing coupled with Neal's five innings on the mound to start the game made for some great pitching, but it set the Buffaloes back as far as innings logged per pitcher. In addition their best hurler, Tanner Stufflet, suffered some arm trouble heading in to the tournament that prohibited him from being used in their second contest of the playoffs, which was against number one-seeded Freemansburg.
North Parkland's second game against the top team in the league got away from them quickly. The bats of Freemansburg matched with some good pitching led to an early night for both teams as Freemansburg defeated them 11-1 in five innings due to the mercy rule.
That loss sent them into the loser's bracket where they played against the number three seed in Quakertown. The game at DeSales University had everything riding on it for the Buffaloes and Marakovits, without Stufflet, sent out another Tanner to try and keep their season alive.
Tanner Vitovitch, who has been a key pitcher all season, went four innings in what ended up being a loss to the eventual champions by a score of 9-1.
Marakovits had a lot of praise for Quakertown when reminiscing about the game.
"They are a very good team. They hit the ball very well for a youth legion team. The first time we played them [in the regular season] they were hitting the ball all over the field. We knew their lineup would be tough and their hitters were doing everything they could to score runs."
With only one returning player to this season's squad there was a lot of youth on the youth legion team, but Marakovits loves the experience and skills his players showed in the playoffs as nine of them are eligible to return with him for next year's season.
With another season under his belt Marakovits said that he always loves the relationships one builds with their assistants and the players and he cannot wait to start it all over again in 2014.