Measured by longevity, championships, or just last weekend's results, two teams will enter the LV MSBL's first televised game with plenty of momentum.
The Gabelsville Owls and DM Palmisano Sanitation Rangers face off on television Friday night in the Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League Game of the Week. The action starts in-person at 6 p.m. at the renewed Sam Balliet stadium in Coplay, Pa., then the game will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. on RCN-TV.
It's an historic night for the MSBL -- the first televised game in league history. And these teams know all about history. The Owls can trace their lineage to the early 1960s, the Rangers were founded more than two decades ago, and combined the teams own at least 24 championships.
Not to take away from their recent success. The Owls are defending champions in the LV MSBL's elite Tri-County Black & Blue Division, the Rangers won that division two years ago, and the Owls won the year before that. Recent success? Heck, both teams just swept doubleheaders this Sunday.
More than that, the Owls and the Rangers are two teams steeped in history. And now they're getting ready to make some more.
The Biggest Stages
The Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League has a long, proud history in its own rite. The league founded in 1988 is setting the biggest stages in Lehigh Valley amateur baseball.
With more than 40 teams and nearly 1,000 players in four age groups and nine divisions, the LV MSBL is Pennsylvania's largest amateur baseball league. It boasts the best infrastructure and stability in local amateur baseball, and its size and depth provide teams a combined variety and quality of opponent that other local leagues struggle to match.
The LV MSBL All-Star Games held at Coca-Cola Park draw the largest in-person crowds of any Lehigh Valley amateur baseball event – by far. Each year, thousands of fans attend the LV MSBL All-Star Games at the 10,000-seat home of the AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
Friday’s game can become the most watched event in LV MSBL history. RCN-TV will deliver Rangers-Owls to hundreds of thousands of homes.
'Excited to Battle'
The Rangers and Owls are two teams perennially peppered with collegiate-level talent and, effectively, they boast decades-long win streaks. They also each have win streaks in the more immediate sense.
The Rangers (9-2-1) are winners of 5 straight, a streak that has vaulted them to first place in the Tri-Co B&B. They swept a doubleheader against the Tri-Co B&B Rays on Sunday.
“The guys are excited to have the opportunity to battle against another great ball club. We have some good momentum coming in, a bit banged up, but ready to go and get it. Whether it’s a pitchers’ duel or a high scoring shootout, it should be a good one,” Rangers Player-Manager Jason Gonzalez said.
The Owls (4-4-1) are experiencing modest success by their lofty standards, but enter the RCN-TV matchup in third place after sweeping the Tri-Co B&B Washington Nationals.
"Our goal every year at Gabelsville is to bring home a league title. We expect to be in the thick of the playoff hunt each season," said Owls Manager Matt Danner, attributing the merely good start to future stars still learning in their Owls debuts.
The Owls bested the Rangers in the 2016 Tri-Co B&B Championship series.
"The Rangers have a great team and great coach and they always play us tough. As the league continues attract top level teams to the Tri-Co Black & Blue Division, we hope we will be a showcase for the LV MSBL to continue to attract even more great teams to our division and the Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League overall," Danner said.
Intensity, Drama Mark the Season Series
True to form, the last time the Owls and Rangers got together, it was intense.
In a doubleheader on May 21, the Rangers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 1 only to squander it and then eke out a 6-5 victory.
Game 2 was even more dramatic. With the score tied 4-4 and the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, Gabelsville lifted a fly ball to Rangers outfielder Eric Howell. Howell caught it for the second out then fired home to nab the tagging runner – a field-and-fire double play at the plate that ended the game in a 4-4 draw.
Hoo Dat? Champions, Mostly.
No matter how you count the years, they’ve been successful.
The Owls own 17 titles, including 15 in the former Tri-County League from 1984 to 2010. It was a 27-year stretch in which the Owls never went more than three seasons without hoisting the trophy. The title count also includes two LV MSBL Tri-County Black & Blue titles in the three seasons since Tri-Co joined the MSBL.
The Owls began play in the Tri-County League in 1981. And through their sponsor, the Gabelsville Athletic Association, they can trace an even deeper history. Gabelsville A.A. has sponsored an adult amateur baseball team since the early 1960s.
Whatever you consider the Owls beginning, there is no denying their dominance. The team comprised primarily of former Boyertown Area High School Bears is universally recognized as a powerhouse in Greater Lehigh Valley Area baseball, averaging a title essentially every other year for 36 years.
Titles Always Within Rangers Range
The Rangers history isn’t quite as storied as the Owls. Maybe it’s only a matter of time.
Founded in 1995 in the former Pocono Mountain Baseball League, the Rangers own 6 titles in 22 seasons. It’s not quite Owls territory. But it’s a championship every three or four years for more than two decades. That includes a three-peat from 2010-12 and one MSBL title in 2015.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to showcase the Rangers, the Owls, and the Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League in a televised game,” said the Rangers Player-Manager Gonzalez, also crediting RCN-TV for bringing the Lehigh Valley’s best amateur baseball league to the airwaves.
“Both teams have a ton of alumni and always look to keep the winning ways going,” he said. “Two great clubs. Two great histories.”