South Parkland repeats in LVL
South Parkland pitcher A.J. Palumbo’s mastery over Salisbury in the Lehigh Valley Legion Championship game July 12 at Parkland High School was so complete it could be bottled and sold.
Palumbo, of course, wasn’t the sole reason the Trojans won the game 7-0 along with their second consecutive league title, but he was undoubtedly the lead actor of a two-hour horror show for Salisbury’s batsmen. His 101-pitch, three hit, seven strikeout performance displayed all the aspects of superior pitching: Blazing velocity, late movement and pinpoint control.
“What makes a successful pitcher is honestly command,” said Palumbo after the game. “If you don’t have command but you have velocity, you can’t do anything with the pitch. You can throw it everywhere but the mitt. If you have good stuff and command you’ll be successful. You don’t have to be throwing 95. You can be throwing 75 with good breaking stuff and you’ll be successful.”
The Trojans wasted no time jumping on Salisbury starter Taylor Linn in the top of first.
Palumbo slapped Linn’s first pitch up the middle for a ground-ball base hit. Adam Mellinger kept the party going when he deposited a 2-1 hanging curve ball for an RBI triple down the right field line for a 1-0 South Parkland lead. Offensive star Cullen Wadsworth then launched a sacrifice fly his 3 RBIs for the game and a 2-0 Trojan lead.
“I always look fastball and just adjust to anything else,” said left-handed hitting Wadsworth. “I’m just waiting for them to throw it in the zone and attack it early and be aggressive.”
Linn managed to throttle South Parkland bats for the rest of the frame.
Salisbury mounted its best threat of the game in the last of the first, catching Palumbo before he was able to settle in. Linn smartly led off with a walk and Joe Galantini followed with single before a passed ball the runners to move up.
The game, and the entire championship, could well have been decided in the rest of the frame. Ryan Miller slapped a sharp ground ball that South Parkland third baseman Adam Smith swept up like and fired home to cut down Linn. Undaunted, the Falcons later juiced the bases and it was here Palumbo probably displayed his finest hurling of the contest.
Using his repertoire of pitches, he whiffed Nino Encarnacion before getting Quinn Warmkessel to harmlessly fly out to retire the side.
“It just didn’t look like we had the intensity that we had yesterday (during the 14-12 comeback win over North Parkland),” said Salisbury coach Scott Heppenheimer. “When you’re facing a kid like that (Palumbo), who is throwing 3-0 curve balls and 3-1 curve balls for strikes it’s tough. You have to tip your hat to him.”
South Parkland added runs in the third and fifth innings, chasing Linn in the process.
Palumbo continued to dole out nasty pitches leaving Salisbury hitters mostly stirring up air at the plate.
“You need to have the mentality when you come into a game,” Palumbo said. “You need to have the drive that no matter what they’re not going to beat you and that you’re going to beat them. Mental toughness.”
The Falcons applied heat to Palumbo in the sixth as three Falcons reached base. However the mound master stayed cool, squelching the uprising with two ground ball outs.
Salisbury’s exhausted pitchers, who managed to limit Trojan scoring to four runs through six innings, broke down in the seventh as the floodgates opened and South Parkland plated an additional three runs off relief pitcher Cole Warmkessel.
Palumbo didn’t need the additional support as he struck out the side to the end the affair and claim the trophy for the Trojans.
“As the game got deeper I got more energy,” Palumbo said. “As we got toward seventh inning my confidence was very high.”
The Trojans will make their second straight trip to the Region 2 tournament. They face the second-place team from the Bux-Mont League in Friday’s first round at Muhlenberg Township’s Gochnauer Field in Laureldale.
“I grew up with a lot of these guys,” Palumbo said in describing what it mean to be on this championship team. “It’s fun. I have a lot of fun playing with these guys. We’re a great group.”