Braves base runner David Gehman slides into third safely in Saturday's opening game of the Eastern Regional Playoffs in West Lawn against Newmanstown. Upper Perk won the first three games of the series before losing Tuesday night to Delaware Valley.
With a core of returning players from last year’s team, the 2013 Upper Perkiomen Braves Youth Legion baseball team entered this season with high expectations. After suffering the pain of being on the wrong end of a walk-off, two-run homer in last year’s Twin County League playoffs that all but brought their season to an end, the returning players to this year’s squad were determined that things would be different this season.
Their quest to be the best started over the Memorial Day weekend when the Braves were crowned the William C. Smith Tournament Champions. They won the Twin County League regular season championship on July 8 when they defeated Phoenixville in the last game of the season.
Then they went on to win three straight games in the league playoffs, which earned them the title of Twin County Playoff Champions, and with that came a trip to the Eastern Regional Tournament in West Lawn.
The Braves faced the Newmanstown Maroons from Lebanon in game one of the tournament last Saturday. Both teams struggled early as each committed multiple errors in the first two innings. Upper Perk took advantage of three misplayed balls by the Maroons’ outfielders and three clutch two-out hits by Jake Breyer, Tom Aaron and Grant Templeton to take a 4-1 lead heading into the third inning.
In the top of the fifth with one out, the Braves loaded the bases against the Maroons starter, lefthander Jack Mays. Braves Head Coach Perry Breyer went to his bench and called on the left-handed hitting Elias Gabel-Tripp to pinch hit.
“I was a little surprised when coach called my name because it was a lefty-on-lefty situation,” Tripp said after the game. “I wasn’t really nervous or anything I just went up there looking for a first pitch fastball that I could hit hard somewhere.”
Tripp got what he was looking for and ripped the first pitch he saw into left centerfield, plating a pair of runs. The Braves would bat around in the inning, sending 12 men to the plate on their way to an 11-1 win in five innings.
Sunday, in their second game of the tournament, it would be the Braves who would score only one run. But thanks to a stellar performance on the mound by Erik Stalford, it was enough as the Braves defeated the Central York Panthers, 1-0.
Stalford went the distance, allowing just three hits while striking out 13. He also drove in the only run of the game for Upper Perkiomen.
Monday the Braves downed tournament host West Lawn 9-5, leaving them as the only remaining unbeaten team in the tournament. It also meant a guaranteed trip to the tournament championship game on Wednesday. The only question remaining was whether someone would need to beat the locals twice on Wednesday or whether it would be one game, winner take all.
That question was answered Tuesday night when the Braves fell to Delaware Valley by a score of 7-4.
Upper Perk played the winner of the loser’s bracket finals game between the West Lawn Owls and Delaware Valley yesterday in a game that was too late for this week’s edition. The winner of that game will take a trip to the state championship tournament in Homer City-Indiana, Pa. For the loser it will mean an end to a great baseball season.