Panther Valley opens PIAA playoffs on Monday – Times News Online

Published on Jun 04, 2022 00:01

As summer approaches and spring draws to a close, the temperature has risen – as it almost always does.

The warm weather has certainly been good for the Panther Valley baseball team as the Panthers’ bats have warmed up in the playoffs.

Panther Valley averaged eight points per game in the District 11 playoffs and put up an impressive 11 points on the board in their win over Palmerton in the championship game.

The Panthers (18-6) have four players with 20 or more RBIs this season in Stephen Hood (24), Michael Pascoe (23), Hayden Goida (23) and Cody Orsulak (20). Matt Engler is close behind with 19.

“Once the weather started to warm up a bit, I think you really saw our roster come to life,” Panther Valley head coach Rich Evanko said. “Once you are able to constantly train outside and work outside, it really makes a difference.

“We have a team that’s just playing for each other right now and whether it’s bottom of the order – which was great against Notre Dame – or middle of the order – which was fantastic against Palmerton – everyone is ready to do what’s best for the good of the team Once our guys got that this season, that’s when we started playing our best baseball.

The Panthers will face Lake Lehman (18-5) Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the PIAA Class 3A playoff opener at Misericordia University in Dallas. The Black Knights have won the Class 3A District 2 title three times since 2019 and beat a tough Scranton Prep team 4-1 in the title game.

Lake Lehman will also bring a powerful attack to this one with Graedon Finarelli (.519), Cole Kaiser (.469), Cole Morio (.378), Ty Federici (.373) and Mike Sholtis (.362) all leading the Black Knights in the batting department. Going into the championship game, Finarelli led the team in several offensive categories, including hits (42), RBIs (43), and home runs (6).

There’s no doubt that presumptive Panthers starter Stephen Hood will have his work cut out for him on Monday. But Hood has proven throughout the season that he’s more than capable of stopping even the best attacks. He enters the game with a 5-3 record, 2.39 ERA and 88 strikeouts.

While Lake Lehman’s offense has been good this season, it was Nick Finarelli who stole most of the headlines. Finarelli has signed to play baseball next season for Division 1 Virginia Tech. He held the talented Preppers to just one point earlier this week in the D2 title game, and entered the title game with a 5-2 record, 1.07 ERA and 66 strikeouts. and only 11 marches in 39.1 innings.

“Lake Lehman has really built a great baseball program there and they have a very talented team with quality ballplayers throughout their roster,” Evanko said. “Their pitcher is impressive. He throws at high speed and has a quality curve and shift to keep hitters off balance.

“We just have to be ready to play and also play in a composed and balanced way. We have to play through the ups and downs and everything will be fine. »

The Panthers have been at their best in the face of adversity this season.

After losing three of four games during a regular season streak, Panther Valley bounced back to earn six straight wins. The Panthers then finished the regular season with an upset loss to Lehighton and a tough loss to Pine Grove in the Schuylkill League semifinals, but they bounced back from those losses to earn three straight wins in the district playoffs – including including the school’s first district title. since 2004.

“I kind of saw us turn the corner when the guys really came together and stopped worrying about individual accomplishments and focusing more on team accomplishments. The numbers will always be there when the team is playing well,” Evanko said. “When we lost some tough guys there in the middle of the season, I think that’s when it really felt.

“These kids have the tools. They just need to play for each other and trust the tools their teammates have – and that’s what they’ve been doing lately.

Panther Valley’s Brad Hood and Cody Orsulak celebrate after the Panthers won the Class 2A District 11 Championship on Tuesday. RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS SPECIAL

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