North Pocono advances to Middle Atlantic Regional tournament

If the performance of this year's 12U all star team is any indication, then the future of North Pocono baseball appears bright indeed.

Under the direction of head coach Eric LaFave, the local lads are authoring an impressive diamond resume this summer in Cal Ripken competition.

The young Trojans battled their way to a runner-up finish at the 2017 District Five tournament, held June 22-25 at Valley View.

They followed that up with a brilliant showing at the Northwest State tourney last weekend in Lewistown. There, Coach LaFave's squad powered its way to the 12U championship.

"This is just a great group of kids," he said. "A bunch of them have been playing together since 9U and I've been coaching them for the past four years.

"They're all friends. They genuinely like each other and that's half the battle."

As a reward for their gold medal effort, the Trojans earned an invitation to the Middle Atlantic Regional event at Poughkeepsie (NY).

Weather permitting, North Pocono was scheduled to begin Pool Play on Wednesday.

The local lads would play four games, then hope to be one of the top six teams that qualified for the medal round.

Stay tuned to The Villager for an update in next week's edition.

On Their Way

North Pocono began its run with a silver medal showing at the District Five tourney.

The Trojans rolled to impressive wins over Honesdale, Valley View and Mountain View in Pool Play, but then ran into a buzzsaw in medal play.

Minooka dashed the local lads' championship hopes by winning back-to-back games en route to the crown. Fortunately for hometown fans, North Pocono still earned an at-large bid to states and made the most of it.

Coach LaFave's squad ran roughshod over its competition in Lewistown, winning 3-of-4 and securing a spot in the finals. Waiting for them there? Why, Minooka of course!

"We were happy to get another shot at them," he admitted. "They're a very good team, but we knew we could win if we played our best."

Title Tilt

North Pocono rocketed out to a quick lead, setting the tone in the early innings.

Noah West fired the opening salvo. The hard-hitting catcher crushed a solo homer to right center in the bottom of the second.

That round-tripper gave starting pitcher Gavin Chillot a lead he never relinquished. The fireballing righty worked 4.2 innings and piled up eight strikeouts on his way to the win.

Ashton Smith closed things out with 1.1 innings of stellar relief work and eventually earned a save.

Offensively, Ty LaFave provided clutch hitting all game long. North Pocono's first baseman and clean-up man enjoyed a perfect 3-for-3 night. LaFave's biggest at-bat came in the fifth when he blasted a two-run homer. He finished up with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

Randy Dougher contributed two RBIs, while Chillot helped his own cause wth three singles.

Defensively, several Trojans turned in Gold Glove plays to help preserve the victory.

Left fielder PJ Egner ran down a deep flyball at the fence in the top of the sixth to save at least one run.

Carson Battle anchored the infield with several slick plays at second base, while center fielder Nick Franceschelli continually frustrated Minooka batters.

"Players and parents both, this is the best group I've worked with," Coach LaFave said. "Whether we win or lose this weekend, I've enjoyed this experience so much."

Looking Ahead

Should North Pocono survive the Middle Atlantic Regional tournament, a berth in the Cal Ripken World Series awaits.

This year's edition of the event is slated for August 3-10 in Clemmons, North Carolina.

"This is the farthest we've ever gotten, so I just want the kids to enjoy the experience," Coach LaFave said. "We're goingto play hard, take it one game at a time and see what happens."