Legion comes up short of league playoff berth
Just last week, Salisbury's hopes at earning the eighth and final spot in the Lehigh Valley Legion baseball playoffs looked bleak.
But two quality regular season wins over the past week set up a one-game playoff against West Allentown for the last spot in this week's double-elimination LVL Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, their two-game win streak and playoff aspirations came to an end on Monday night, 5-3, against West Allentown.
"The kids showed me something by how hard they played and how much they wanted it," first-year head coach Chris Rapp said after the West Allentown game. "My kids stuck with it. They got timely hits, and they played better defense than we have most of the year in those two games. The concentration was a lot better when they had something to play for."
A 3-3 tie in the fourth was broken up by West Allentown and it never looked back. But the team fought until the end, including Jeff Trexler, who pitched the final two innings after suffering an injury earlier in the game.
Needing a win to force that one-game playoff, the Falcons had to get by Northern Valley on Sunday, a team that blanked Salisbury 9-0 in mid-June.
After the Chargers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth, the Falcons were left with six outs to keep the playoffs in sight. And it was Tama Anoa'i's two-out, two-run double to right field that propelled the Falcons to a 3-2 win.
An interference call on Northern Valley's Josh Williamson in the batter's box hindered the Chargers' comeback attempt, leaving a leadoff base runner stranded to end the seventh.
"Coach always told me throughout the whole season to be confident and have fun," Anoa'i said. "Going up there, I didn't worry about being nervous. The ball was down the middle, and I just drove it to the right side."
Northern Valley scored right away when leadoff batter Dante Salerno scored on a Collin Breidinger RBI-single into left field in the first. But the desperate Falcons responded with a run in the third. Trexler's RBI brought Carlos Santiago across home and tied it at a run apiece.
Zach Moll looped an RBI-double into left field that scored Brandon Miller and gave Northern Valley its 2-1 lead.
"Throughout the whole season, coach gave us speeches and told us that we have to make the plays," Anoa'i said. "He can't do anything for us. We realized toward the end of the season that we have to win."
Starting pitcher CJ Tocci kept Northern Valley's relatively in check all game. Despite allowing nine hits in six innings, the Chargers were able to plate just the two runs.
Tocci also got plenty of help from the defense. The Falcons recorded two inning-ending double plays, including one in the fifth that got out of a bases-loaded jam.
"It made me very excited because I knew my team had my back," Tocci said. "They were all helping me out, and they were there for me. I'm glad they were there, because if they weren't I would've let up so many more runs."
An eight-game losing skid put the Falcons behind the eight ball with six games to play. But a 3-3 finish in the regular season, including back-to-back wins against Emmaus (4-0) and Northern Valley gave the Falcons a fighting chance.
The change: the team's growing confidence.
"It's more of our mood so to say," Tocci said. "We were getting all of these losses, and we were saying we're not good enough and we're not going to make the playoffs. But once we learned we had a chance and needed to win two more games, we got our mood all set up."
Rapp was pleased with all of the support the team received all season.
"I would like to thank the parents of the kids who helped us this year," Rapp said.
"It was a tough year for Salisbury; we almost didn't have a team. But for those who came out and continued the legacy of Salisbury legion, I was proud of those kids."