Raiders fall to Bears in state title, clinch berth in Mid-Atlantic

Bears Ronnie Mauger signals he's safe at home on a wild pitch as Twin Valley pitcher Billy Reardon can't make the tag in time in the top of the third inning. Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury

By Rob Zambanini

For 21st Century Media

The Twin Valley Raiders legion baseball team may not have won the state championship, but they did accomplish their intended goal on the final day of action Saturday at the Pennsylvania State Legion Baseball Tournament. By defeating Region 4 champion Spring Grove 6-2 in the first game on Saturday, the Raiders clinched a berth in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament beginning on Thursday. The Raiders lost the subsequent championship game to Boyertown, but since Pennsylvania receives two berths in the Mid-Atlantics due to its having the most legion teams of any state in the country, the Raiders automatically qualified for one of the berths as state runners-up.

“That was our focus point,” said Twin Valley head coach Matt Royer in regards to the win over Spring Grove. “Our goal was to advance.”

To do so, however, Twin Valley had to defeat a determined, opportunistic Spring Grove squad who had already defeated the Raiders by a 3-2 margin on Day 2 of the tournament. In the crucial rematch, Spring Grove jumped out to a quick, 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, but Twin Valley rallied in opportunistic fashion, turning a pair of Spring Grove errors into a 2-1 lead.

The Raiders were hoping to stretch that lead in the top of the ninth inning, especially with the top of Spring Grove’s order due up in the bottom of the ninth inning. They loaded the bases with one out, but appeared to be stymied on what appeared to be a line-drive double play. Spring Grove, however, dropped the line drive and had to settle for a single out on the play.

Twin Valley then cashed in when Izzack Albright blasted the tournament’s lone home run, a grand slam that landed well beyond the fence on the grassy bank in right field.

“It was a change-up inside,” said Albright, after noting that Spring Grove had been pitching him away for most of the game. “I just stayed back on it” added Albright, who later was presented with the tournament’s sportsmanship award.

Perhaps spent in securing the national berth, and short of pitching, the Raiders were no match in the championship game for a Bears team that they had defeated in 5 of the previous 6 meetings (including a 5-2 win the night before), falling 11-1 behind adominating pitching performance by Boyertown ace Dan Woodley. Royer, however, was not in the least disappointed.

“I’m not upset at all – I’m thrilled,” said Royer. Noting that the team had to rally through the loser’s bracket after the initial loss to Spring Grove, Royer added “I was thrilled with the way we played to came back . . . we had to win three more games to advance and we were able to do that, against good teams, so I was very happy with it.”

The championship match-up with Boyertown marked the second consecutive tournament (both at Bear Stadium) in which the Raiders and the Bears faced each other in the tournament’s championship game. Perhaps appropriately, the Bears and the Raiders qualified as the two Pennsylvania entries for the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

When it was pointed out that the two teams were not only both from Pa. Region 2, but were from Berks County, Royer mentioned “That’s incredible. I’m really proud of that, and I know that Rick (Boyertown head coach Rick Moatz) and his coaches are, too. It says a whole lot and we had one or two other teams in our league that probably could have come here and competed and had a good showing.”

STADIUM BREEZES: Twin Valley opens the Mid-Atlantic Regional with a 9:30 a.m. game versus Delaware State champion Stahl Post. Boyertown plays the New York State champion in the next game.

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