The LV MSBL's top division has a new top team.
Behind one of the gutsiest postseason pitching performances in Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League history, the upstart Alpha Braves defeated the defending champion DM Palmisano Sanitation Rangers this weekend to claim the LV MSBL Premier Division Championship.
In their first taste of the Premier Division, the No. 1 seed Braves wired the competition with the league’s top record from start to finish, then crescendoed with a thrilling win in a do-or-die game on their home turf.
Alpha ace Colton Langworthy channeled his inner Jack Morris and threw a complete game shutout in the do-or-die clincher against the No. 3 seed Rangers. He also won Game 2 with the Braves facing elimination. In all, he threw 13 innings on Sunday afternoon while picking up the win in the series equalizer and the clincher.
"Best pitcher in the league," Braves Manager Zach Vegh said of his ace, who led the league in innings, wins, and strikeouts. "Colton is the Cy Young and MVP in this league, no question about it."
The perennially powerful Rangers were seeking a repeat title, which would have been their eighth championship. They took Game 1 on Saturday at home at Reeders Baseball Field with an extra-inning walkoff win and reasonably could have expected to see at least one Langworthy-free game for a Sunday clincher, but it never came.
"The Rangers were the best competition for us all year and they built a tradition and dynasty for so long and for us to beat them five times in six tries this season speaks volumes to the progress we have made as an organization," Vegh said.
The Braves didn't just stand around and watch their ace dominate.
Langworthy was far from his statistical peak, recording only two strikeouts in each game -- in other words, 35 of the 39 outs were converted by the defense. Dylan Sapir at third base, Anthony Ciavarella in centerfield, and Tyler Weiss at first base were among the standouts gobbling up a ceaseless stream of balls in blay.
The bats went off too, at least for one game. A 15-run outburst in Game 2 covered for Langworthy, who allowed four runs in six innings, and the Alpha relief pitching, which allowed three runs in one inning, in the 15-7 win.
Mike Kromar tallied five hits in the series, including a homerun. Eric Drzewiecki also added five hits, and Zach Vegh and Weiss tallied four apiece.
"Hitting throughout our whole lineup, 1 through 10," Vegh said. "When we do that we are very tough to beat."
Langworthy scattered nine hits and five walks across his baker's dozen innings on Sunday afternoon. He seemingly got stronger as the afternoon wore on, allowing only four baserunners in the clincher.
Mike Ciesla and Josh Codis soaked up all 11 pitching innings in Game 1, and Ciesla's seven innings were just two outs less than he had thrown all season. While Game 1 was a 6-5 Braves loss in 11 innings, the pitching pair gave Alpha chance after chance to win -- and spared Langworthy's arm for the signature moment on Sunday.
"Mike Ciesla pitched a great game in Game 1 and ate a lot of innings for us that allowed us to keep Colton fresh," Vegh said.
After falling to the Northampton Kids in the 18 National Division Championship Series in 2017, the Veghs vowed to retool the Braves and come back stronger.
"We're going to build from this and hope to get back to this spot next year but finish the job next time," assistant coach Ted Vegh said after the 2017 defeat.
"I said last year ... that this year we would be back in the same place but hopeful to finish the job and we did just that," Zach Vegh said.
Now they'll look to get even stronger with a target on their back.
"Our guys are still hungry for more championships, so we're going to keep our team and add some more pieces for next year because we know that everyone will be gunning for us next year," Zach Vegh said.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Rangers win Game 1 by a score of 6-5 on Saturday, August 18, at Reeders Baseball Field in Reeders, Pa.
- Braves win Game 2 by a score of 15-7 on Sunday, August 19, at John Dolak Park in Alpha, N.J.
- Braves win Game 3 by a score of 4-0 on Sunday at Dolak.