Grizzlies Defense Finally Bears Down to Take the Title

Aug 28, 2017 6:40 PM
Douglas B. Brill

The Macungie Grizzlies are champions of the LV MSBL 18 American Division as the up-and-down defense ends the season on up.

One team is almost back to the form it showed when it won three consecutive championships. The other hasn’t even been in the league for three consecutive years. The newcomers, however, proved too much to bear.

The Macungie Grizzlies rode solid pitching, just enough defense, and some big bats to their first Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League Championship in just their second season in the league. The Grizzlies are champs of the 18 American Division after sweeping the Kings, who enjoyed their best season since a threepeat from 2011-2013.

A Grizzlies defense that by Manager Josh LeMaster’s acknowledgment was too inconsistent all season long finally buckled down and did enough in the championship series to back two games of solid pitching and hitting.

“I told our guys from the beginning we’d be the best offensive team in the division, and we proved that,” with a division leading 154 runs scored, LeMaster said. “Defensively I said from the start we’d be sitting at the bottom and we proved that too. But we played like the best in the championship series, and I couldn't be more proud of our playoff defensive performance.”

Kings Manager Ramon Garcia tipped his cap to the Grizzlies and said he was proud of the Kings season.

“Congrats to the Grizzlies on the win. I am happy with the season we had. We did good all around this year. Most importantly we had fun this year and that's the number one thing. Look forward to next year,” Garcia said.

Grizzlie’s Defense Rises to the Occasion

Zach Fotta set the tone early in the series.

In Game 1 at the Southside Little League complex in Bethlehem, Fotta homered in the first inning to take some of the pressure off the pitchers and the previously up-and-down defense.

“Fotta’s homer sparked us and kept us up,” LeMaster said.

Matt Bocella allowed two earned runs in 5 innings pitched, Connor Healy allowed two more in 4 innings pitched. Joey Jacobs made a diving play, as did centerfielder Pedro Ciprian, squelching some of the Kings chances to get back into the game. The Grizzlies took Game 1 by a score of 10-4.

Ryan Atkinson took it from there. In Game 2 at the East Texas facility in Lower Macungie, Atkinson threw a complete game allowing three unearned runs. The Grizzlies captured the title with a 6-3 victory in Game 2.

For the season that led to the championship, LeMaster pointed to Fotta’s hitting, Jacobs’ defense, his brother Jake LeMaster’s improvement, Tyler Boyle’s strong return to baseball after seven years away, and the dedication of right-hand man Tommy Limar.

Well-Rounded Kings Fall Short

For the Kings, Ramon Garcia tallied three hits, reached base five times, drove in three runs, and scored once in the championship series. But the bright spots were too few for a Kings team that in the regular season proved itself to be well-rounded if not always dominant.

The Kings lacked the power arms that some of its competition enjoyed yet consistently deployed a wave of solid strike-throwing pitchers. The top of its lineup featured a handful of star hitters while the bottom was full of complete at-bats. The athletic defense rarely beat itself, and coach Garcia instilled a camaraderie that brushed aside most adversity.

It just wasn’t enough in the championship series.

“Much love and respect to the Kings. They deserved to be there. Great defense and consistent hitting,” LeMaster said. “Also much respect to everyone in the division. Great competition. It was a fun year and I'm excited for next year!”

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