Buffaloes earn top seed in tournament
After going undefeated through the regular season and the Lehigh Valley Legion playoffs last year, North Parkland repeated as the regular season champion, finishing 16-2 this season.
The Buffaloes enter the postseason with an 11-game winning streak. Their only two losses came early in the season, dropping a 3-1 decision to Southern Lehigh and a 2-1 game to Coplay.
Those two losses spotlighted what was a chink in the armor for North Parkland early in the season: its offense.
While the team's pitching has been strong and deep all season long, the offense started the year struggling and showed just spurts of busting out to become stronger.
Now though, the offense is in full bloom and hase scored 50 runs in its last six games, making it one of the more prolific late-season scoring machines in the league.
"We've always been known for our pitching, but now, the offense is doing much better and we're a more rounded team," said manager Terry Stoudt.
Evan McAndrew has been a key part of both the pitching and offense for North Parkland this season. Besides throwing back-to-back no-hitters, McAndrew finished the regular season hitting .462 for the Buffaloes.
On the mound, McAndrew's stats were staggering. In 25 innings of work, McAndrew allowed just 10 hits and six walks, while striking out 15 and posting a 0.56 ERA on the season. He also threw complete games in three of his four starts.
Pitcher Walt Roland's numbers were right there with McAndrew. Roland struck out a team-high 25 hitters in 23 innings of work, giving up just nine hits and two walks and posting a 0.61 ERA. Roland also chipped in with a .327 average and was tied for second on the team in RBI with ten.
Roland and McAndrew helped lead North Parkland to a team ERA of just 0.95 on the season and their starters posted 10 complete games during the 18-game schedule.
"Those two are pretty much automatic," said Stoudt. "You put them out there and there's usually not much to worry about. You know they're going to give you a good game."
Offensively, Brett Kosciolek is one of the more consistent hitters for North Parkland. Kosciolek, who will be a senior at Tamaqua High School this fall, leads the team with 11 RBIs this season and hit .400 during the year.
Like Roland and McAndrew, it's hard to determine whether Kosciolek is more valuable to the Buffaloes at the plate or on the mound.
The big right-hander threw nine shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 14 batters. As a pitcher, Kosciolek didn't walk anybody and as a hitter, he didn't strike out.
"This is a fun group to catch," said catcher Danny Zaccaro. "They all throw strikes and have good pitches to work with, so it's fun to be back there and just watch them work. You know they're going to keep you in the game."
North Parkland enters the double-elimination tournament facing West Allentown, who had to defeat Salisbury in a Monday tie-breaker game to make the playoffs.
Southern Lehigh and Coplay, the only two teams to defeat North Parkland are the numbers two and three seeds, respectively.
"We're playing our best baseball right now, so I'd say our chances are pretty good," said Stoudt. "You never know what can happen, but this is going to be a tough team to beat."