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 Friday, August 4, 2006




Resilient Fleetwings finish off Northern Yankees

Woodlawn comes from behind again, moves into semis.

Of The Morning Call


For Lehigh Valley residents who play baseball in the Tri-County League, the drive to Gabelsville is probably one of their least favorite things.

But the Woodlawn Fleetwings are thrilled they'll be heading south on Route 29 Saturday night.

That's when they'll begin their best-of-five semifinal series against the Gabelsville Owls.

Woodlawn earned the trip to Berks County on Thursday night, rallying for a 5-3 win over the Northern Yankees in the third and deciding game of their first-round playoff series.

Woodlawn, previously known as Tri-City, has qualified for the league semis six times in its eight-year existence, but is without a title.

The Fleetwings were swept by Gabelsville in last year's Tri-Co finals, but may be a more difficult 'out' this year.

The upstart Yankees had several chances to put the series away after taking the first game on Sunday night.

Northern, looking for its first playoff series win ever, led 8-3 going to the fifth inning of Game 2 on Tuesday, but saw that lead vanish into a 9-9 tie ended by darkness.

The Fleetwings won the replay, 9-5, on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Yankees fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth.

Once again, it didn't last.

''We had them in Game 2 and just couldn't put them away, and we couldn't finish it off again tonight,'' said Northern Yankees manager Brian Polaha. ''The difference is the Fleetwings have been in the playoffs every year and they just don't get rattled.

''We beat them 6-0 in the first game and led 8-3 in the second game, but they hung in there and earned their way back. As a young team not used to being in the playoffs, I don't know if we could have done the same thing.''

In the decisive bottom of the fifth, veteran player Dave Toth got things started with a single, and Arner followed with a double. Brian Martin's sacrifice fly plated the tying run and Tommy Williams' single to right delivered the go-ahead run.

The Fleetwings added insurance in the sixth when Scott Garger legged out an infield hit and moved to second on a throwing error. He went to third on Matt Marcks' grounder to second and scored on Justin Godusky's sacrifice fly.

Five different Fleetwings knocked in runs and five Garger, Marcks, Ben Swatsky, Toth and Arner had two hits apiece.

''Our bats came to life from the third inning of the second game on,'' Arner said. ''We're getting everybody back and everybody healthy. We can hit with anybody and our pitching has been great all year. We just need to make the plays in the field and we can compete.''

Arner admitted that Gabelsville ''has had our number.''

The defending league champs won three of four from Woodlawn during the regular season.

''Those games were lopsided and they were just better,'' Arner said. ''But we're a much stronger team than we were.''

The Owls earned a first-round playoff bye by posting the Tri-Co's best regular-season mark at 31-4-1. The Fleetwings are 26-13.

Limeport (26-9-1) hosts Coplay (27-10-1) tonight in the opener of the other best-of-five semifinal series.

And while Northern isn't advancing, its final 19-18-2 record gave the once-futile franchise hope for the future.

''I'm down now,'' Polaha said. ''In a month, I'll look back and feel much better about what we accomplished.''

Northern Yankees         000 030 0 3  8  3

Woodlawn Fleetwings   101 021 x 5 12 2

Grazer, Ziegler (5) and McCutcheon; Wiltrout, Bolasky (6) and Arner. W: Wiltrout. L: Grazer. S: Bolasky.



From The Morning Call -- August 4, 2006

Copyright 2006, The Morning Call