Bears encounter a few speed bumps

With the calendar’s now reading mid-June, the season is in full-force for the Legion Bears. The starters from the high school Bears have returned, and the team is in the heart of its Berks County League schedule.

The Bears got their season off to a flying start, winning their first four league games by an average score of 12-3. In the last of those games, the Bears routed Conrad Weiser, 13-1, to run their league record to 4-0 and their overall record to 8-2.

At that point, however, the Bears hit a bit of a speed bump – or two. The Bears hit these speed bumps in league games versus Norchester (their top competitor in the early stages of the 2014 season) and Twin Valley (their nemesis from last season). Or, perhaps more technically, the speed bumps occurred against Twin Valley and THEN Norchester.

This technicality occurred due to a new league rule. The Bears began their rescheduled game with Twin Valley on Monday, June 9, but rain forced the game to be halted in the middle of the second inning with the Bears trailing, 2-1. Under the old rule, these nine outs would have been erased, but under the new rule, the game was suspended, with the completion date set for Wednesday.

In the interim on Tuesday, the Bears squared off with Norchester and dropped a rare, 1-0 decision in a battle of “sort-of” unbeaten teams. The Bears managed only three hits off of Norchester ace Sean Esch. It was the same Esch that shutout the Bears on four hits over 10 innings in Boyertown’s epic state tournament game with Downingtown last season, but now Esch added a deceptive, side-arm motion to his repertoire of pitches.

Perhaps still a bit stunned from Esch’s pitching prowess, the Bears then resumed their game with Twin Valley . . . and lost, 3-1, again managing only three hits.

Having managed only six hits and one unearned run in two critical league games, the Bears received perhaps a well-deserved present from Mother Nature: two days of rain to wash away the memories of these lean offensive performances. The rains washed out scheduled games with West Lawn (Thursday) and Nor-Gwyn (Friday).

The rains also seemed to symbolically refresh the Bears and “cleanse” them from those two losses, as the Bears swept a pair of games on each day of the ensuing weekend. They began the four-game sweep by pounding league foe Daniel Boone, 12-2, in a game halted by the mercy rule in the seventh inning. Next, they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Hatfield, 6-4. The Bears then completed the weekend sweep by sweeping a pair of Sunday games in rare rematches with early-season exhibition foes North Parkland and Doylestown by the identical scores of 6-1.

Pitching was the strong point in these performances. Andrew Bauer held the Orioles to one hit over five innings in the 12-2 win over Daniel Boone; Tyler Bauman did the same over six innings in the win over Hatfield; Sean Pavlik limited the Buffaloes to two hits over six innings in the win over North Parkland; and the tandem of Brandon Griesemer and Luke Stong held the Tigers to five hits in the win over Doylestown.

Nevertheless, there were several offensive performances that were worthy of note. There was young Quinn Hair, a new starter in 2014, who led all Bears with a .583 slugging average and .563 on-base average in the Bears’ four league games last week. There was Brett Moyer, not necessarily noted for his speed, stealing home in the Bears’ win over Doylestown (“I don’t even remember stealing home,” he said after the game, adding that he simply continued home when it was unguarded on a steal of second by Luke Stong).

There was Cory Fox, who achieved a rare “base-running cycle” by stealing second, third, and home in the same inning versus North Parkland (“that’s pretty cool,” he commented after mentioning the rarity of the feat). And there were the Bears as a team, who stole a total of 13 bases in the two 6-1 victories on Sunday.

But most importantly, the four weekend victories got the Bears back on the winning track after the two cloudy losses.

“We’re still getting used to executing and we need to do a better job at that, but all and all I think we’re gonna’ be a good team,” said Luke Stong. “I guarantee we’re gonna’ get better, so I don’t have any worries.”

DUGOUT CHATTER: The Bears received much needed help in the standings when Norchester dropped decisions to Exeter (on a one-hitter by Jake Lloyd) and Twin Valley to fall to 7-2. Exeter then fell to 6-2 when they were routed by West Lawn. Thus, Norchester, Exeter, Twin Valley and Boyertown all have two losses . . . The Bears have a well-deserved night off on Monday, as this article goes to press. After a road game with the league’s lone winless team (Shillington), the Bears have a rain make-up with West Lawn followed by a big rematch with Twin Valley . . .