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There's a clear new in command of the LV MSBL's top division. But the champions aren't letting it phase them.
The Alpha Braves swept the defending champion DM Palmisano Sanitation Rangers in a doubleheader Sunday in Premier Division Action in the Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League Game of the Week.
The Braves took Game 1 in convincing fashion, 15-5, and Game 2 in comeback fashion, 9-7, at Reeders Field. Alpha now leads the division by four games in the win column with five games left on its schedule.
Alpha (14-1) can clinch the regular division title as early as this weekendif everything breaks their way.
"We came into the game with a chip on our shoulder because we were playing the top dog in the Rangers at their house," said Braves Manager Zach Vegh, recently also named head coach of the Premier Division All-Star Team. "We're a hungry bunch of guys and the end of the season is coming soon and we only have thing in mind: a championship."
Rangers Manager Jason Gonzalez was taking the results in stride and looking at the baseball left to be played.
"It's not fun to watch but you get through it. We have enough experience to reverse those scores," Gonzalez said. "I'm confident we will see them if they handle their business in the playoffs, because we will handle ours."
The teams meet again this weekend, this time at Phillipsburg High School.
The Rangers (8-4-1) can mathematically still catch the Braves in the standings, but it would take a nearly perfect run of outcomes over the course of more than 10 games. If the Rangers are to overtake the Braves, it's going to have to be in the playoffs.
Hits Keep Coming
The Braves cruised in Game 1, scoring the first 13 runs, with ace Colton Langworthy on the mound.
"Hitting, hitting, and more hitting. We hit the ball really well as a team," Vegh said.
The Rangers for their part got to Langworthy more than any other team has this season. The five runs are the most allowed in one game for Langworthy, who now has allowed 13 runs, 11 earned, in 61.2 innings pitched.
Gonzalez said his team took note of Alpha's stolen base attempts and a squeeze play with a wide lead. Vegh seemed to acknowledge that it was unorthodox but necessary for the caliber of opponent.
"It was only the fourth inning and you never know what can happen especially with their line-up," Vegh said.
Heat Takes It's Toll
The Rangers staked out a 3-0 lead in Game 2 but the Braves tired out the Rangers pitcher with a heat index approaching 110 degrees on the hottest July 1 ever in the Lehigh Valley.
The Braves overtook the lead in fourth inning and never gave it back.
"Ran out of gas in the fourth," Gonzalez said.
HR Leaders Add More
The league's top two homerun hitting teams added some more. Alpha and the Rangers combined for four homeruns in the doubleheader.
Kevin Sensale of the Rangers hit his second and third homers of the season. Henry Concepcion hit his first, giving the Rangers now nine homerun hitters on the season. That includes league homerun leader Joe Wernimont, who has six.
Mike Kromar homered for the Braves, his second. The Braves have five homerun hitters led by Eric Drzewiecki, whose three blasts are tied for second in the league.