Moore Township wins state Connie Mack baseball title
The Connie Mack Baseball State Tournament final was worth much more than the price of admission for Moore Township fans who watched their Redhawks clinch the state championship with a 12-11, comeback win over Montgomery Township on July 30 at Limeport Stadium.
“To be down 11-4 and watch these kids battle back, it doesn’t surprise me, but it’s great to see,” said Moore Township head coach Jarad Haupt. “We were kicking the ball around. We were giving free passes. [Montgomery Township] had good at bats. I don’t want to take anything away from them. They played a great game.”
Montgomery’s five-run second inning was just the start for the Spartans who added two more runs in the third.
Enter Moore pitcher Brody Graff.
“First two guys didn’t have their best day today, and Brody came in, third in line, and threw a great game,” said Haupt. “He’s that crafty lefty and throws a fastball and a great curveball, mixes speeds well, and kept them off balance.”
Graff forced a fly out to right field, and Montgomery’s runner was called out at second base to end the inning.
“I just tried to throw strikes and relied on my team a little bit to make plays,” Graff said. “My curveball was really on. I was mainly throwing fastball, curveball, but my curveball, I had more control on, so I relied on that a lot.”
First baseman Jed Colyer made two tough catches in foul territory and made a throw to home after one of them, which may have saved a possible run.
Graff faced just three batters in the fourth inning and four batters in the sixth when third baseman Michael Jordan made a nice play to throw out Ryan Cantz at first base.
“My third inning pitching, I was feeling a little tired out there, and my arm was sore, but then we got that big inning going, and it changed everything,” Graff said. “We just kept to it, and now, here we are.”
Moore loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but the third out eluded Montgomery as the Redhawks scored twice on walks, once on a hit-by-pitch, and once on a wild pitch. Then, with a full count, Moore designated hitter Owen Laury tied the game on a two RBI single to right field.
“First, I put my head down and ran, so I wasn’t watching it the entire way. I knew it (was two RBI) as soon as the ball hit the ground,” Laury said. “I was really happy. We really wanted it, and we just needed to get on a roll.”
So, approaching the three-hour mark, both teams went to the last inning with an 11-11 tie to break.
“They had three, four, five up there, so it was a tricky point in their lineup where we knew we had to be big, and Brody sat them down one, two, three, so we used that momentum in the bottom of the seventh,” said Haupt. “I knew we had to get one guy on and then we had a chance, and once we got to second base, we had a very good chance.”
Jacob Nothstein walked, Jordan singled to left, Gabe Sanno pinch ran for Nothstein, both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and with two outs, infielder Sam Erschen approached the batters box.
“I was completely nervous. I just wanted to get a base hit for the run and win the game. [With runners on second and third] that made me even more nervous,” Erschen laughed.
On the third pitch, Erschen lined the ball toward third base.
“I thought the ball was foul, so I stopped halfway down the line, but they ended up saying it was fair. When I saw everyone starting to run, and everyone was cheering and running out here, I was like, oh, it’s fair. It was great, amazing,” he said.
Sanno headed home for Moore’s 12th run and the state championship.
“It was pretty cool, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It’s my first time being here, and to score the winning run was pretty cool,” Sanno said. “I was looking for a passed ball from the second I got out there to try and get on third, and the first pitch was a passed ball. Our original plan was to try and get a bunt down, but we scratched that, and then we knew Sam was coming up and figured he was gonna hit. The ball was right by me, really close. I just took off, knew there were two outs, and I had to go.”
After the medal ceremony, Moore catcher Isaiah Alicea was named the Connie Mack Baseball State Tournament MVP.
“I think I played a really good game today, and I knew I had a good tournament here. I didn’t miss an inning,” said Alicea, who was somewhat surprised by the honor. “I knew I played well, but there were a lot of guys here who deserved it. There’s great competition here, and I had fun. As soon as we started coming back with two outs in the sixth inning, I knew we were coming back to win this game. We got third place last year here at States, so it was good to finally get over the hump. This team’s resilient, and I love all these guys, and I can’t wait to get back at it.”
Also in the state final, Moore Township’s Mason Haupt had three hits in three at bats and two RBI, and Laury had three RBI. Montgomery Township’s Dominc Lupinacci had three RBI.
“I was told it’s been 17 years since a Lehigh Valley team has won, and it made me think, none of these kids were born 17 years ago,” said Coach Haupt, “so it’s so cool that they’re now part of a tradition and their names will be on that plaque forever.”
Their names are Sam Erschen, Mason Haupt, Jed Colyer, Isaiah Alicea, Owen Laury, Billy Stuhldreher, Aiden Maltese, Aaron Schmoyer, Jacob Nothstein, Michael Jordan, Brody Graff, Brandon Downey, Kaiden Gehret, Tommy Hensel, Ben Karc, Brayden Rader, and Gabe Sanno.