Boyertown Legion Bears fall short of Berks League title

Boyertown starting pitcher Tyler Bauman delivers to the plate against Norchester during the Berks County Legion League final Tuesday at Bear Stadium. (Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury)
Boyertown's Luke Stong is all smiles after the Bears defeated West Lawn to reach the Berks County League championship game Tuesday. (Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury)

It was an interesting Berks County playoff tournament. It featured weather delays and postponements, exciting contests (including an upset), and, of course, some controversy. In the end, however, the Boyertown Bears came up just short in their bid for yet another Berks County Championship.

The playoffs began on a high note for the Bears. Taking on a West Lawn squad that had defeated them rather handily in a recent league contest, the Bears came out strong, defeating the Owls by an 8-1 margin. The Bears used a seven-run inning to secure the victory.

At that point, Mother Nature intervened and delayed Boyertown’s winner’s bracket game with second-seeded Exeter until Friday. In that time frame, fourth-seeded Twin Valley was upset by Conrad Weiser, adding to the intrigue of the tournament. When the Bears took the field at Exeter on Friday, they were the victims of a big-inning. The Bears did rally late, but ultimately fell short versus the Blue Jays and ace pitcher Jake Lloyd, 8-4.

Shaken, the Bears rebound in an elimination game versus Twin Valley, who had survived through the loser’s bracket after suffering their opening day upset. The Bears were one out from ending the game early on the mercy rule, but the Raiders took advantage of several Bear errors to prolong the game. The Bears finally won the game, 12-6, despite committing seven errors.

That set up a Sunday that featured a pair of incredibly exciting games. In the opener, the Owls looked listless for most of the game, trailing Exeter 6-2 for most of the middle innings. They managed to cut the deficit to 6-3, but as the ninth inning began, there was little to suggest that the outcome would change.

However, in the top of the ninth inning, the Owls incredibly rallied for six runs to take a 9-6 lead. Stunned, the Blue Jays went down in order in the bottom of the frame and were stunningly eliminated. The sight of stunned and distraught Blue Jays on the field is one that will remain in many people’s minds.

Then it was the Bears’ turn. Taking on undefeated Norchester in the so-called throwaway game, the Bears refused to die. They extended the Bulldogs to 11 innings and finally won the game, 10-7. There were plenty of heroes for the Bears in the game.

With that result, the Bears advanced to a rematch with West Lawn, with the winner to play Norchester for the title. Mother Nature, however, intervened once again, cancelling the Monday games and threatening to do the same on Tuesday. Somehow, though, the Bears managed to get in their game with West Lawn, and very nearly finishing the championship game with Norchester. The Bears defeated West Lawn rather easily in the early game, 16-7. In the championship game, however, the Bears could once again not solve Norchester ace Sean Esch, who handcuffed the Bears through six innings as the Bulldogs led, 2-0.

At that point, however, the Bears rallied to tie the game on a two-run single by Matt McCarney. Meanwhile, Mother Nature was growing impatient. With light drizzle falling the entire game, field conditions were turning sloppy. Many fans thought that the game should have been suspended earlier. Instead, the game proceeded into the bottom of the seventh, where the Bulldogs exploded for five runs. With two out and 0-2 count on the batter, the umpires finally decided to suspend the game.

And so, on Wednesday, the two weary teams returned to Bear Stadium for a rather anti-climatic, 27-minute conclusion to the championship contest. Little changed, as the Bulldogs added two more runs to win the title with a 9-2 victory

The Bears came up short, but certainly showed their mettle, surviving until the last game of the tournament. Head coach Rick Moatz reflected those sentiments.

“Through the course of a season, you have times when you’re playing well as a team and times when you’re not. The playoffs were not a time we were at our best as a team. With that said we managed to fight and claw our way to the title game of the double-elimination tournament. I’m proud of the way we fought through things and didn’t fold because we weren’t playing well.”

The big question, of course, is whether the Bears will be ready for the state tournament, with nearly two weeks of inactivity. Moatz, however, is confident that they will be.

“I’m confident this group of guys will come out prepared and ready to compete for another state title next week.”

And so ends another interesting Berks County playoffs. Despite the weather cancellations, and the unfortunate controversy in Game 15 - both during and after the game - it was a success.

“I thought it went well,” said first-year league president Anthony Fegely. “We really appreciate what Boyertown did for us. It was overall a good tournament.”

CHALK DUST: The Bears open the State Tournament on Tuesday, July 29, versus the Region 4 champions. They then play either the Region 6 or Region 8 champions on the second day.