Buffaloes fall in Legion semifinals
North Parkland could pretty much taste a revenge opportunity against South Parkland. Just six outs separated the Buffaloes from earning a rematch with their rival as they held a six-run lead against top-seeded Salisbury last week in the Lehigh Valley Legion loser’s bracket final.
But that’s when North Parkland not only saw that possibility slip away, but also realized its season was coming to a heartbreaking end.
Salisbury scored eight runs over the final two innings to complete its comeback and end North Parkland’s season, 14-12, last Wednesday at Salisbury High School.
Nino Encarnacion’s three-run walk-off homerun sent the Falcons onto a championship game against South Parkland.
“It was like a football game—whoever had the ball last wins,” interim Buffalo manager Chris Peischl said. “That was like this game, whoever had the ball last. They were running out of pitching, too.”
Salisbury, which needed to win twice against South Parkland for the championship, fell to the Trojans the following day, 7-0. If things had gone a bit differently, it could have been an all-Parkland championship series.
South Parkland edged North Parkland, 1-0, to put North Parkland into the losers bracket against Salisbury.
The Buffaloes used a five-run third inning and scored three more in the top of the fourth to lead 9-2 over the Falcons. Colten Peischl’s RBI-single capped that five-run scoring spree in the third. John Barto’s RBI-double in the fourth continued the momentum and accounted for one of the three North Parkland runs in the inning.
Salisbury’s chances looked bleak after leaving five runners on base in the first three innings. But the Falcons never went away.
Ryan Miller’s two-run single got the comeback underway in the bottom half of the fourth. Miller would then score on a wild pitch, and the next batter, Kevin Cruz, scored on a Buffalo error to bring the Falcons within 9-6.
“Colin Duff was supposed to pitch,” Peischl said. “But he got hurt yesterday. He got a ball to the shoulder and he was our No. 1 for most of the year. So, we went with Drew [Sorrentino]. Drew pitched throughout the year and did well. He just struggled today. And then Jared [Kucharczuk] came in, and he wasn’t sharp.
“When you have a good hitting team and don’t pitch well, that’s what happens.”
The Buffaloes would get three of those runs back, however, in the fifth and sixth innings. Peischl scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to increase North Parkland’s lead to 12-6. But that’s the last run the Buffaloes would cross home.
Cruz’s two-run homerun in the sixth was a part of a three-run frame that got Salisbury within 12-9. Quinn Warmkessel ripped an RBI-single to right field later in the inning.
“They had 9-1-2 coming up to bat [in the seventh],” Peischl said. “We thought if we get that first guy out [we’d be in good shape]. That first guy is so important. It takes the wind out of their sails.
“They got that guy on, and the next thing you know they are even louder. We start to squeeze the ball even harder and all of those things start to magnify.”
Cole Warmkessel then kept the momentum on Salisbury’s bench with a leadoff double to open the seventh inning. And after Linn brought home a Falcon run in the next at-bat with a double of his own, things started to unravel for the Buffaloes even more.
Linn got Salisbury within one run after he scored from third base on a balk. After Joey Galantini was hit by a pitch and Ryan Miller singled, Encarnacion was set up for his walk-off heroics off a first pitch fastball.
“The kids battled all year,” Peischl said. “We had a string of where we struggled mid-year with vacations. We had a couple of kids had a school trip overseas. We couldn’t get that consistency we were looking for.”