It’s been a long time since a Parkland tennis team has started the season 1-2. So long in fact that coach Michael Hingston isn’t even sure when it was, but it definitely hasn’t been in the last 10 years. After all, the Trojans had not had a losing season since 1978, and in most of the years since, they’ve barely lost more than two or three matches a year.
Coming into the season, Tom Eshelman was a good pitching prospect for the Phillies, but he was overshadowed by pitchers like Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Nick Pivetta.
For pitcher Jose Taveras, he was among the group of top pitching prospects, but he was in the lower levels of the minors and thought to be at least a couple, if not three years away from reaching the majors.
Things changed for both pitchers in 2017. Eshelman is now among the elite group of pitching prospects, while Taveras moved through the organization at a pace faster than anyone expected.
The Hellertown Royals took the first two games of their BML semifinal series game against the Iron Financial Orioles, putting them in a commanding position in the best-of-five series. Before game three, Hellertown manager Bob Zerfass talked about a playoff series years ago when he was part of a team down 2-0 that knew it needed just one win to catapult it to a win in the series, and told his team to stay ready because the Orioles would be looking for a catapult of their own, and found it with a 7-6 win in game three.
South Parkland isn’t a team that worried much about having its backs to the wall. In the regionals, after the Trojans first loss of the double-elimination tournament, the players basically shrugged their shoulders and went about their business to win the tournament and reach the Pennsylvania American Legion Tournament.
If not for one very questionable call, South Parkland may have worked their way through the Region 2 Tournament without a loss. Instead, the call helped give Souderton a 6-5 win over the Trojans in 11 innings, sending them to the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament.
In the end, it didn’t really seem to matter to South Parkland as they got right back on track in their next game and didn’t seem to let anything bother them. Extra innings? No problem. Having to come from behind? No problem.
Throughout the regular season and the Lehigh Valley Legion playoffs, teams play seven inning games. Advancing to regionals adds a degree of difficulty for teams in that they now need to have enough pitching to cover nine-inning games. Of all of the teams in the Region Two Tournament, South Parkland may be best suited for the added wear and tear on pitching.
Not only has the pitching staff handled having to play nine-inning games, but its also had a couple of extra-inning games thrown in for good measure and has handled the workload just fine.
The South Parkland Trojans did pretty well for themselves in Lehigh Valley Legion play this season, putting five players on the roster for the annual all-star contest against a team of all-stars from the Schuylkill-Berks League. Pitcher Nate Leaswitch not only was named the Lehigh Valley League Pitcher of the Week for the final week of the regular season, but was named to the pitching staff for the all-star game.
It was hard to know at the time, but when North Parkland faced Carbon County in the play-in round of the Lehigh Valley Legion playoffs, the Buffaloes were facing a team putting everything together at just the right time.
Carbon battled its way through to the championship round after having won just six games during the regular season.
North Parkland, which finished the regular season with five wins, was hoping that its run would turn out much like Carbon’s did, but with a much younger team, the Buffaloes’ task was even tougher.
Last year, South Parkland went to the championship round of the Lehigh Valley Legion playoffs only to lose two straight one-run games and miss gaining a trip to regionals. This season, the Trojans came into the championship in the same situation, needing just one win to become league champs and they didn’t want to take any chances.
Dylan Peiffer threw a complete game and some timely offense led the Trojans to a 5-3 win over Carbon County, sending South Parkland to the Region 2 playoffs, which begin Saturday in West Lawn.
South Parkland wrapped up the regular season schedule Sunday night knowing that its spot in the Lehigh Valley Legion playoffs was secured. With that in mind, the Trojans were somewhat relieved because they were without four top players for the finale.
Even without those players, South Parkland beat Emmaus 4-1 and finished the season 10-6-1 for fourth place in the 10-team league.