Parkland Press

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

SP Connie Mack wins 12 straight

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 by CHRISTOPHER HIPPENSTEEL Special to the Press in Sports

In their second matchup, the South Parkland Connie Mack Baseball team walked onto the field hoping to rebound from a bitter 6-4 loss to Bethlehem Catholic in the season opener. The defeat had stung, especially for an experienced group of players who knew they had championship potential.

But the humbling experience must have awoken something in the team, because in the nine innings that followed, South Parkland blew away its opposition, Lehigh-Bethlehem, by a score of 13-3, dashing whatever doubt had crept into their minds following that game against Bethlehem Catholic.

The Trojans haven’t looked back since.

A little over a month into the season, South Parkland stands undefeated with the exception of that lone blemish in their season opener.

The team’s 12-1 record places them at the top of the Lehigh Valley League standings, three wins ahead of their closest competition. South Parkland’s success thus far isn’t enough to satiate the title-hungry players and staff, who are already looking beyond the regular season.

“Right now we’re in first place, so I’m sure our players’ goal would be to finish in the top four in the league,” said Trojan head coach Lon Barnaby. “But ultimately our goal is to make the state playoffs. We have a real deep team this year, a strong lineup from top to bottom.”

South Parkland’s experienced, well-rounded roster, in tandem with its sheer dominance on both sides of the ball, have been the driving forces behind their early victories.

On defense, an arsenal of pitchers provides the team with a rested arm for every contest, and solid fielding prevents the opposition from putting up more than a few runs per game. At the plate, South Parkland has proved itself a force to be reckoned with as seven out of 14 players are hitting at or above .300, a statistic that Barnaby calls, “a coach’s dream.”

Yet, even with such a potent lineup, Barnaby contends that no one player has been responsible for leading the charge; rather, the entire group has shared the spotlight, each player stepping up when his name is called and executing his assignment properly.

“We have a veteran team…[and] a strong leadership core,” said Barnaby. “I think from time to time everyone on the team has taken a leadership role, on or off the field. I’m hesitant to single out one or two.”

Nonetheless, South Parkland’s 12-game win streak hasn’t come without its challenges.

The team has narrowly escaped a handful of close calls in the beginning of the season, including two nail-biting encounters with Hellertown and Pen Argyl. Both games, which ended in scores of 2-1 and 3-1, respectively, came down to the last few innings in a showdown between each team’s starting pitchers.

“It was a pitcher’s duel,” Barnaby said, recalling the two close victories. “Both the coaches and the players all appreciated being in a game where pitching and defense dominated.”

Even with a strong defensive showing in their early matchups, including two shutouts against Northampton and Balliet, Barnaby would say his team’s greatest weakness would be on defense.

“We’re very solid defensively… [but] we’ve had some errors, which have come back to bite us a little bit,” the head coach said.

South Parkland has only a few games remaining on its schedule, but the coaching staff is reluctant to exhaust its resources with the postseason looming ahead. “Pitching depth is going to be key for us as we finish the season,” said Barnaby. “We go 10 pitchers deep, so we’re trying to keep the innings of our starters down to have strong arms come playoff time.”

The coach also expressed appreciation for his devoted assistants, which have been invaluable to his team’s success.

“I have a very deep and experienced staff,” Barnaby said. “I’d put my [coaches] up against anybody.”

Now, 12 wins later, that first loss against Bethlehem Catholic is barely a smudge in South Parkland’s rearview mirror. With a dozen consecutive wins behind them and tournament prospects ahead, the Trojans are charging on, looking to round off their summer with a few more victories that will put them in prime position for a championship run.