coming into focus
By Ted Meixell
Of The Morning Call
The weather is heating
up hereabouts. Just ask players for one of the Lehigh Valley's 52 amateur
But if the fields they
play on are cookin', so, too, are most of the league and divisional races as
their postseason playoffs approach.
league-by-league sneak peek:
Liberty High School's
charge to the Class 3A state championship game brought a huge dose of
excitement and exultation to Bethlehem baseball fans.
It also gave the
Northampton County Legion League (especially three teams: Bath, Lehigh-West
Bethlehem and The Jeffs) a huge migraine. With those three clubs faced with
squeezing all 22 of their regular season contests into 25 days (and rainouts
a constant threat), Norco made two moves to ease the pain: It extended its
season by three days to July 16 and went to an eight-team double-
elimination tournament playoff format.
In the past, Norco's
playoffs involved three rounds of best-of- three series among its four
division champs and four wild cards.
The playoff tourney is
tentatively slated to begin July 19.
Through Tuesday, only
The Jeffs (7-1-1) seem to have survived Liberty's long playoff run. Bath
(4-7-0) and Lehigh (2-9-0) have struggled and must climb mountains to make
Nazareth (10-2-1 for 21 points), Freemansburg (12-1-0-24) and The Jeffs (15
points with 13 games to play) look like the three pre-tourney favorites.
The North Division
will be a race to the wire between Kemp Post (7-6-2-16) and East Stroudsburg
(7-7-1-15). The East Division is a three-team wild goose chase among Wind
Gap (7-6-2-16), Easton (7-8- 0-14) and Wilson (6-6-1-13).
In the South,
Hellertown (8-6-0-16) will battle with The Jeffs and Freemansburg's Blue
Barons. And, in the West, only Northampton (6-6-0-12) has a chance to
Norco's top two
tournament finishers will advance to the Region 2 Tournament from July
30-Aug. 3 at Quakertown. This year's state tourney is way out west at St.
Norco notes: Perennial
North Division champ Birches (3-12-0) has already been eliminated from
playoff contention (a .500 record is a must, and they have only seven to
play). In the league 16 years, Birches has never before missed the playoff
The Jeffs and The
Wanderers have been co-tenants at Northeast Middle School for 20-plus years.
They'll play each other there for the last time on July 14. And The Jeffs'
contest with Freemansburg a day later will be the last game ever on the
field (exclusive of playoffs). Both teams will have to find new fields for
the 2003 season; Northeast is being rebuilt, and construction there will
eliminate the baseball field.
Bobby Frey, a senior-to-be at Moravian, leads a double summer life. He also
plays first base for the Blue Mountain League-leading Limeport Dodgers when
his legion team is idle. Luckily, he's had only one conflict.
The LVL pared its
schedule down to 19 games this summer and will finish its regular season
Tuesday. Defending league champ North Parkland and South Parkland are
deadlocked atop the South Division at 13-2. Lehighton is third at 10-5 but,
with only four games left, has little chance to catch the Parklands.
Lower Macungie (13-3)
has already clinched the South Division crown and a berth in the
best-of-three regular season championship series (probably opposite one of
the Parklands) July 14-16.
The two division
champs will draw byes into the LVL's eight-team double-elimination tourney
While all that's going
on, the league's other 12 clubs will meet in six best-of-three series, with
the six winners joining the two division champs in the tourney.
The LVL will be
allowed only one regional qualifier this year. So, in the event the regular
season and tournament champs are not the same team, each winner will meet
July 24-26 in a best-of-three playoff for the regional berth.
The defending champion
Limeport's Dodgers (15-3) and 2001 runner- up Hellertown (15-5) have picked
up where they left off last season; They've been running neck-and-neck for
the regular season title since the season opened.
In the last week,
they've managed to put a little space between themselves and the three teams
chasing the last two playoff berths - - Bethleon (12-8), Catasauqua (10-7)
and Lower Nazareth (11-8).
Although the season is
far from over (the teams have between 12 and 15 games remaining), the bottom
four clubs (the MCS Cardinals (7- 10), the Polysteel Orioles (5-12), Martins
Creek (5-14) and Northampton (3-16) are long shots at best to sneak into the
playoffs, which will begin on or around Aug. 2.
The 13-team Tri-Co,
which is up to 13 teams (from 12) and to 36 games (from 32), is looking at
great races, both for the regular season title and the playoff bye that goes
with it, and for the seven playoff berths.
As of Tuesday, only
five games separated the first-place Lehigh Township Brewers (20-7) and
seventh-place Cetronia (15-12). And neither the Northern Yankees (12-14),
Upper Perk Chiefs (9-13), Jordan Creek Gators (10-16) nor the Lower Nazareth
Cardinals (8-15) can be counted out yet -- although all four need to get hot
The Brewers roared
from the starting gate with 13 straight wins. They've cooled off, going only
7-7 since then, but they're still hanging onto a one-game lead on defending
champ Gabelsville (17-6).
The two hottest clubs
in the TCL, however, are third-place Limeport (17-7) and fourth-place
Tri-City (16-9). The Bulls, who began the season 5-7, have won 12 straight;
the Fleetwings, at one time 8-9, have notched eight straight wins.
Amazingly, the 2002
Tri-Co winner could have as many as nine or 10 defeats -- although the
expanded schedule would play a role in that.
All-Stars: The BML and
Tri-Co All-Star game will be played at 7 p.m. next Friday at Limeport
From The Morning Call --
July 5, 2002
The Morning Call