Northampton Family Helps Kids Grow Into Champions

Aug 15, 2017 4:53 PM
Douglas B. Brill

The close-knit Northampton Kids win a second consecutive LV MSBL title.

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The Kids have grown into back-to-back champions by keeping their baseball family close.

The Northampton Kids claimed a second consecutive Lehigh Valley Mens’ Baseball League championship on Sunday in a sweep of the Alpha Braves in the LV MSBL Games of the Week.

The Kids are champions in the 18 National Division a year after claiming the 25 American Division crown. The third-year club changed divisions to play against younger players and potentially tougher competition, and proved up to the challenge in a pair of comfortable wins in the title series.

Many of the Kids developed their skills in the baseball programs that feed and include Northampton Area High School, where the LV MSBL Kids still play home games. The team still wears its alma mater’s colors. And the familiarity has fostered a comfort among players that appears to help them win ballgames.

“The difference is when we have all our key players from under the same umbrella from childhood to high school we all know what to expect out of each other and play the game that we were coached to do,” Kids Manager-Player Vinnie Eiden said. “Playing at our high school field and wearing the black and orange is a big deal to all these guys. This team is built on Northampton alumni and K-Kid pride.”

The Braves had a sparkling return to the LV MSBL after a year away but came up just short.

“Our guys played tough and with heart, we just didn't make enough of the routine plays in either game,” Braves Manager Ted Vegh said. “Northampton played good, sound fundamental baseball and made all the routine plays. They hit the heck out of the ball in key situations which is what you're supposed to do. Northampton was the better team this weekend, congrats to them."

Kids' Family Ties

It was a Ruff outing.

In Game 1 at on Saturday at Northampton Area High School in Northampton, Pa., Kids pitcher Cody Ruff mostly silenced the Braves bats in a complete game. The Kids took the opener 12-2.

In Game 2 on Sunday at John Dolak Field in Alpha, N.J., Eiden took the mound before turning it over once again to Ruff, who hurled the final two innings in a 13-7 win.

Cody Ruff, Kyle Ruff and the team’s “black bat” award winner Erik Ruff keyed the Kids’ offense throughout the series. It was all part of those Northampton family ties.

“This is a very special team, I am proud and honored to be a part of this team,” Eiden said. “So many players have stepped up to help our team be successful, with Jason and Jeff Erschen making sure the field is perfect to the Ruffs playing many different positions, and that feeds to the others players to want to become a success and want to win.”

Eiden said the Kids planned to celebrate at the Gin Mill & Grille, the Northampton establishment that sponsors the team.

Braves' Bashes Not Enough

The Braves put runners on base, and trotted two of them around the bases, but couldn’t seem to get the key hits.

A 2-run homerun from Mike Kromar and a 3-run shot from Chris George spurred the Braves offense. George and Eric Drzewiecki each had four hits in the series. Zach Vegh and Pete Liloia also had multiple hits and took a free pass apiece.

The Braves deployed six pitchers but struggled to find the right mix with the defense performing less optimally than coach Vegh had envisioned.

“We had too many errors and defensive mishaps,” Vegh said. “A couple times in Game 1 we didn’t get the timely hits. And again, we didn’t make the routine plays, which killed us."

Vegh has his eye on 2018.

"We're going to build from this and hope to get back to this spot next year," he said. "But finish the job next time.”

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