Random quotes from the Sr. American legion state tournament in Boyertown

Boyertown Bears starting pitcher Brandon Griesemer delivers to the plate in the second inning of Boyertown's opening round game against Hummelstown in the Pa. State Legion Tournament on Tuesday night. (Kevin Hoffman/ The Mercury)
Boyertown Bears' Brandon Griesemer is forced out at second base by Hummelstown's Kaylor Kulina in the second inning of Boyertown's opening round contest in the Pa. State Legion Tournament. (Kevin Hoffman/ The Mercury)

25 Random Quotes from a Sr. American Legion state tournament that featured the first ever state championship for Region 5 – and one in which the Bears finished two runs short of a trip to Camden for the second year in a row:

1. “My priest used to tell me ‘Larry, don’t forget to walk with the Lord.’ And I told him ‘Father, I’d rather walk with the bases loaded.’” (Hall of Fame inductee Larry Bechtel of Bloomsburg at the pre-tournament banquet.)

2. “We just came out a little flat . . . We’re not too worried about it.” (Northampton coach Brian Collins after the Bombers lost the tournament opener to Swoyersville, 6-2. Northampton would ,in fact recover to advance to the championship game – also versus Swoyersville.)

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3. “Just lookin’ for something to drive, I knew the ball wasn’t carrying much, and I was trying to get something low to punch in the gaps, . . . and I got a good piece of it and hit it over him.” (Swoyersville catcher and tournament MVP Ryan Hogan on his bases-loaded, three-run double that broke a 2-2 tie and carried the eventual state champions to a 6-2 win over Northampton in the tournament’s opening game.)

4. “We played well as a team today, everybody contributed . . . and it just came together for us today.” (Zach Miller, West Mifflin shortstop, after going 3-for-4 with 3 rbis in West Mifflin’s 10-1 win over Region 8 champion Albion in Game 2.)

5. “I think we got all the nerves out today. We just have to have better at-bats in the game tomorrow.” (Albion first baseman Nate Noe, after going 3-for-3 with a walk in his team’s 10-1 loss to West Mifflin in Game 2.)

6. “I didn’t really know much about them, so I had to wait later in the game to adjust to some of their swings.” (North Parkland pitcher Walt Roland after tossing an amazing 12-inning shutout in a 1-0 win over Region 7 champion Murrysville in Game 3.)

7. “It was a good game all around … We gotta give the other kid a lot of credit, too. He did the same thing I did, pitch-for-pitch . . . It just came down to the last inning, the ball didn’t go our way.” (Murrysville pitcher Brett Myers, who matched Walt Roland’s incredible pitching with his own, but just came up short in Game 3 in a game that neither starting pitcher deserved to lose.)

8. “It’s ‘Kuh-LI-nuh,’ not “Kuh-LEE-nuh’ !” (Hummelstown fans correcting the pronunciation of shortstop Kaylor Kulina during Game 4.)

9. “We’re ready to go. We’re in attack mode right now. Had a great game right there, we’ll be ready tomorrow.” (Northampton shortstop Will Faccenda, after going 3-for-3 with 2 walks in his team’s 7-4 win over Murrysville in Game 5.)

10. “It was a good win for us, got us back on the track of winning.” (Boyertown third baseman Luke Stong after the Bears eliminated Albion with a 7-0 win in Game 6.)

11.“I like to keep a low pitch count – I haven’t had many games where I go over 100 pitches.” (Swoyersville pitcher Bill Gregory after his team’s 2-0 win over North Parkland in Game 7. Gregory threw only 82 pitches in a complete game, 5-hit shutout performance with no walks.)

12. “Ryan Kandsberger played his butt off today … He stepped up to the plate.” (West Mifflin assistant coach Jeff Smith, after West Mifflin beat Hummelstown, 3-0, in Game 8. Kandsberger went 2-for-5 at the plate, and in the field threw out both of Hummelstown’s attempted stolen bases.)

13. “It’s a lot more relaxed, and I can use more different pitches.” (Boyertown’s Sean Pavlik, discussing the advantages of starting as opposed to relieving, after a complete-game 6-hitter in Boyertown’s 11-2 win over North Parkland in Game 9. Pavlik did have a complete-game win earlier in the season.)

14. “They wanted to see me get more fast balls . . . and we actually changed my batting stance because I was too open.” (Boyertown center fielder Austin Madeja, discussing one of several key lineup changes for the Bears in Game 9. Madeja dropped from second to sixth in the batting order, but lined a bases-loaded triple in the first to propel the Bears to an 11-2 win over North Parkland.)

15. “I think it worked pretty well, we just had to try to clear out minds and get back in the swing of things.” (Boyertown’s Zach Moser, discussing the other major lineup change before Game 9: the switching of himself and Dalton Hughes between short stop and second base. Moser responded by going 3-for-3 with a walk with no errors in Boyertown’s 11-2 win.)

16. “I just want to do whatever works . . . whatever works, as long as we win games, sounds good to me.” (Dalton Hughes, discussing his role in the lineup switch, after Game 9.)

17. “It’s certainly a great honor being inducted into the Pennsylvania American Legion Hall of Fame.” (Hall of Fame inductee Mike Zientek, a truly classy person, during the wild winner’s bracket finale, an 11-8 Swoyersville win over West Mifflin.)

18. “I’ve always had confidence in myself, but this year has been really rough for me. But I know when I’m in the spots I just want to come through for my team whenever I can.” (Swoyersville’s Justin Montalvo, after Game 11. Montalvo went 3-for-3 with a walk and a steal, missing the cycle by a home run, in Swoyersville’s wild, 11-8 win over West Mifflin.)

19. “I had to sit back and watch that one.” (Swoyersville’s aforementioned Ryan Hogan, on his three-run homer in Game 11. Hogan finished with six rbis in the game)

20. “After this epic Game 11, both teams are 26-1.” (The author, after Game 11)

21. “Awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything better for us in this game.” (Northampton’s Tyler Callender, after unloading a grand slam home run in Northampton’s 9-4 win over West Mifflin in Game 12.)

22. “What these guys did in the last two weeks . . . we’re so proud of how far they’ve come. They worked their tails off.” (Boyertown head coach Rich Moatz, after the Bears’ season ended with a 2-1 loss to Northampton in Game 14.

23. “Ladies and gentlemen, an additional congratulations to Swoyersville as they become the first team ever to win a state title from Region 5.” (The author, in his role as public address announcer, after Swoyersville won the state title with a 6-2 win over Northampton in Game 15 – the same opponent and the same score as in Game 1.)

24. “This is unbelievable . . . this is two years of work with this group, great group of kids.” (Swoyersville assistant coach Gary Gavrish during the post-tournament celebration following Swoyersville’s state title.)

25. “Proud of these guys . . . played their hearts out, that’s why they’re state champs.” (Swoyersville head coach Sean Toole during the post-tournament celebration.)

It should also be noted that I wanted to also include quotes from the umpiring crew, including the outstanding work in particular by Jim Jenkins and Dan Dougalas, the tournament officials (in particular, new Region 2 director Barry Worley, and, most importantly, the grounds crew (Scott “Skinny” Moatz, Mark Hughes, Leon Madeja, Gary Griesemer, M.J. Weller, Paul Moatz, and Jim Hair). However, I was not able to gather these comments at press time.

DUGOUT CHATTER: With Swoyersville’s state title, Region 5 becomes the last PA state region to win at least one state title since the current format went into place in 1975 . . . Swoyersville opens the Mid-Atlantics with a 9:30 game versus Delaware state champion Stahl Post on Thursday. Northampton plays the West Virginia State Champion in the next game . . .