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Royals, Yankees in BML finals

What was good for the Hellertown Royals on Saturday was good for the Northern Yankees on Sunday in the third game of the Blue Mountain League championship final, a best-of-five-series in local men’s baseball, when the Yankees beat the Royals 11-4 at Egypt Memorial Park in Whitehall after the Royals defeated the Yankees 12-5 at Dimmick Park in Hellertown.

“We’re a confident group, and we’ve been scoring runs all postseason long, and as far as today, we were back at home, feeling pretty good about it,” said Yankees manager Brian Polaha. “They did this to us yesterday where they jumped on us early, and in the seventh, though, we got four runs, and I felt it was a little momentum, and that we weren’t going to roll over and die.”

Chad Cooperman led off with a double to left field in the Yankees’ six-run first inning on Sunday, followed by Jacen Nalesnik, who reached first base on a Royals’ error.

“Anytime you can start a game off with an extra base hit, it really sets a tone for the first inning and the rest of the game offensively,” Cooperman said. “To be able to do that and come out of the gate was good for our team. It was just a good day seeing the ball, and our team capitalized on some mistakes they made.”

Derek Holmes had the Yankees’ first RBI with a double to right field that was almost caught by Logan Winchester who just missed getting to the ball in time.

“I kind of just put a bat on it and saw it had a shot, and luckily it got down and scored a run,” said Holmes, who had two hits and a walk. “It was a good day and the bats were hot for everybody. Yesterday, we let one or two innings really kill us, so we knew if we played our game and kept swinging the bats like we had been, we were going to be fine.”

The Yankees added five more runs on a combination of walks, a wild pitch, two RBI ground outs, and a hit-by-pitch.

In the top of the second, Pat Morrisey’s line drive to left field scored the Royals’ second run of the game, but Cooperman was just starting his defensive show for Yankees’ fans when what appeared to be a quick ground out, initially took a high bounce in front of the second baseman.

“It was a pretty routine ground ball that took a bad hop. I jumped up and was able to get the edge of my glove on it, got him out at first base, and I think that was kind of a momentum shift for us,” Cooperman said.

Base hits from Quinn Warmkessel and Jake Haas in the bottom of the third set up a 2 RBI opportunity for Cooperman whose double reached the fence in left center, and the Yankees led 11-2, a nice cushion for pitcher Caleb Calarco.

“I was struggling the first two innings to find my location, but my fastball was able to start locating. Then, toward the end of the game, it was my changeup. I was actually able to make that a strikeout pitch. Curveball, breaking ball, just to keep them off balance, but it was my fastball-changeup [that was working],” Calarco said. “With a big lead like that, you’re just trying to collect outs, and let the defense do their job, and they were fantastic.”

Calarco was just as fantastic, going the distance for the Yankees.

“We needed this effort out of him, a 1-1 series, and I figured we’d get his best effort today. It helps, too, that we batted around in the first inning and got six runs for him,” said Coach Polaha. “He did a great job, and we needed him to give us length after yesterday. They took it to us pretty good, and we needed to save some pitching, so him going the whole distance today is huge.”

Calarco’s experience was also beneficial in the Yankees winning game three.

“I believe that, and I’ve been a pitcher for awhile now, so I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help because of what it means. Everybody’s in on it, and it’s my job to keep the score down, and the guys got a bunch of runs for me to keep us in this game,” the 36-year-old veteran said. “Really, game threes are pressure, and I’ve pitched a few playoff games in my time, so I knew to let that stuff stay on the outside and focus on hitting Umby’s (catcher Allen Umbenhauer) mitt and do my job out there.”

Calarco retired the Royals in order in the fourth inning, forcing two ground outs, one that resulted in a double play.

Cooperman saved a single in the sixth inning when he stopped a hard grounder by Jake Welsh at second base.

“He was unbelievable. He was everywhere today,” said Coach Polaha. “He was the star of this game. That’s for sure.”

Calarco gave up a two-run homer by J.J. Ganzaroli in the fifth, but forced two ground outs and a pop-up to finish the game.

“This was my first complete game this year, and I’m glad I was able to give them a full game, rest our pitchers, and have a full slate of pitchers for the next two games,” Calarco said.

Game four is scheduled for Tuesday at Hellertown, past Press deadlines.

“We’ve played in a couple championships, but we’ve never come home with one,” said Cooperman. “This could be the first, and I think we’re all looking forward to it.”

Editor’s Note: The BML finals concluded on Tuesday with the Yankees knocking off the Royals. The Press will have more coverage in next week’s issue.

Press photos by Mark Kirlin Dave Toth of Northampton and the Yankees connects on a pitch.