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Trojans win Region 2 title

If you were concerned about South Parkland’s loss to Souderton last Tuesday in the Regional 2 American Legion baseball playoffs, your fears were set aside one night later when the Trojans met up with the same Souderton team in a winner-take-all championship.

True to form, it was all about the pitching for South Parkland, which rode the arm of Adam Smith to a 3-0 win over Souderton, gaining a trip to states for the 24-1 Trojans.

The scary thing about the performance by Smith is that it wasn’t really his best outing. Souderton had him against the wall a couple times, but Smith simply found an extra gear and put away hitters at the right time throughout the game.

“We were bad in that first game,” said coach Tom Kahn. “We didn’t have the intensity and there was no real drive to us. It’s a tough spot, because the kids knew that no matter what happened in that game they were already in the finals, so how do you get up for a game like that?

“[Wednesday] was a lot different. We knew we needed this one or our goal for the year [winning a state title] was done, so we were back at work today.”

There were really only two innings – the third and the seventh – where Smith didn’t face some difficulties. He put Souderton down in order in those two innings, but scattered seven hits and two walks across the other five innings. A first-inning error didn’t help either, but it also didn’t hurt Smith as he turned the Souderton bats into Wiffle Ball bats when he got into a jam. Part of the remedy included getting two double-play balls at just the right time.

Offensively, South Parkland has always found a way to scratch out just enough runs to win games. In the five regional games, the Trojans scored a total of 13 runs and recorded three of their four wins by a margin of just one run.

Against Souderton, comprised primarily of players from the Souderton High School team that won a state championship this past season, the Trojans’ offense opened a tiny window in the fifth.

Joe Webber led off the inning with a flyball double to left and then found himself on third after a passed ball. Matt Ervolina, who was dominant at the plate during the tournament, then hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Webber on the play to put South Parkland up 1-0. An error and a single by Michael Morren put runners on first and third with two outs, but Parkland couldn’t push another run across.

The next inning, however, South Parkland again went to work. With one out, Koby Staivecki doubled to left and two errors on the play allowed him to circle the bases for a 2-0 South Parkland edge.

At that point, Souderton pitcher David Guilbon appeared rattled and surrendered a walk and hit a batter. Ervolina came to the plate and hit a groundball to short that was misplayed for the third error of the inning and gave a slightly larger insurance policy to the Trojans in the form of a 3-0 lead.

“Those runs were huge,” said Kahn. “You could feel things just get a little lighter and I think we all took a deep breath at that point. We know they can swing the bats, so that was big.”

Souderton did swing the bats in the bottom of the sixth when the first two batters singled against Smith to put runners on first and second. The recent Parkland graduate then struck out Guilbon for the first out and put down the next two batters without allowing either of the runners to advance. Parkland went down in order in the top of the seventh and Smith had a renewed approach in the bottom of the inning, recording three quick outs on eight pitches to lock down the win.

South Parkland will advance to the state championship tournament in DuBois to play Bristol, the Region 3 champion, in the first round. The game will be played Saturday at 4:10 p.m. Like the regional tournament, the state tournament is a double-elimination tournament, guaranteeing the Trojans games on Saturday and Sunday.

PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBSouth Parkland's Parker Swartz charges a ground ball during the Region 2 American Legion playoff tournament. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_