Parkland Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY ROB MERCHANT Parkland catcher Zach Merkle threw out three Emmaus base stealers on Monday. PRESS PHOTO BY ROB MERCHANT Parkland catcher Zach Merkle threw out three Emmaus base stealers on Monday.

LVC baseball playoff picture begins to clear

Thursday, May 8, 2014 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in HS Sports

The playoff picture in the Lehigh Valley Conference is clearing up and Parkland took a big step toward clinching its place in the postseason with a 4-0 win over Northampton on Tuesday.

The win leaves only a remote possibility that the Trojans (10-3, 14-5) could be knocked out of the playoffs. For that to happen, they would have to lose their final game against Nazareth (2-10, 5-12), Whitehall (10-3, 14-4) would have to win their final game at Northampton (7-6, 10-9), Liberty would have to lose to Easton (8-5, 11-6) and Freedom (7-4, 10-6) and the Patriots would also have to beat Bethlehem Catholic (4-6, 7-9) and Emmaus (10-1, 15-1).

If it sounds complicated, it is, which means that the Trojans are in pretty good shape for at least a wild card bid in the LVC playoffs.

Meanwhile, winning the North Division is easy. Either beat Nazareth or hope that Whitehall loses to Northampton. If the Trojans and Zephyrs tie for first place in the division, the tiebreaker is head-to-head competition and Parkland went 2-0 against Whitehall.

As for where the Trojans would be seeded, the only spot that they can't hold is the number one seed, which has already been wrapped up by Emmaus.

The Hornets have clinched the West Division, while Parkland and Whitehall fight for the top spot in the North and Liberty, Easton and Freedom all have a shot at being the division winner in the East.

"Seeding really doesn't matter to us. It's more important to be playing well come playoff time than to worry about where we are seeded," said coach Tony Galucy. "We were the number one seed in the LVCs and the three seed in the district playoffs last year. We lost in the LVCs and won the District 11 Championship."

In the win over Northampton, Alex Flynn threw a complete game shutout, allowing just three hits. Jeff Strisovsky drove in two runs for the Trojans, while Zach Miller and Chris Rabasco each drove in a run off Northampton's Noah Durnin.

While the Trojans suffered a tough loss to Emmaus to start the week, there were some positives that came out of the game. Catcher Zach Merkle threw out three would-be base stealers and the defense continued to be strong for the Trojans.

"Pitching and defense is always our first prioritysaid Galucy. "If you can pitch and play defense, you will be in every game. It always helps to be strong up the middle and being able to contain a team's running game is huge. It forces teams to get three hits in an inning to score. Zach was a big reason why Emmaus only scored two runs."

Even though there's just one game left on the regular season schedule, Parkland is focusing on that game for now and Galucy hasn't worked on setting his pitching rotation for the LVC playoffs because he wants to wait to see who his team will be playing.

The luxury of a strong staff will help in the postseason, so there are no concerns there. Unfortunately, Galucy does have other concerns about his team that he hopes won't hinder the Trojans in both the LVC and District 11 playoffs.

"We have to do a better job offensively, and if we are not hitting well, then we need to do the little things better to generate runs: bunts, hit and runs, advancing runners," Galucy said.

The LVC playoffs semifinals are scheduled for Tuesday with the finals slates for Wednesday. The following week, Parkland will be in the district playoffs, no matter what happens in the LVC series.