BOYERTOWN — Jordan Morales was deep into Sunday’s game on a scorching 95-degree afternoon in Boyertown. Among the 18 outs recorded, 14 were strikeouts, matching a season-high for the Souderton left-hander.
Sitting atop a water cooler aside of the visiting dugout, Morales had one question: “Can I go back out there?”
Not Sunday, no, his 105 pitches prohibiting the chance at a complete game or upping his season-high strikeout total. But Morales and the Souderton American Legion baseball team do get to go back out there, just as long as they keep doing what they’ve done since March — winning.
They did on Sunday as Morales dazzled in his six innings of two-hit baseball while the eight of nine starters aided an 11-hit effort as Souderton eliminated host Boyertown, 4-1, during the Pa. Region 2 tournament.
Shortstop Conlan Wall led the Post 234 offense with a 2-for-4 day with a two-run double in the third inning. He also pitched a scoreless seventh inning to back up Morales’ gem.
Frank Pollock (RBI) and David Gulibon also had two hits apiece for Souderton.
Souderton, which is comprised almost entirely of the group that won the PIAA 6A championship during the high school season, advanced to Monday. Souderton’s opponent and game time was to be determined based on later games Sunday.
Boyertown pitcher Nolan Kline battled through seven innings, keeping Souderton to four runs despite 11 hits. He struck out four and walked none.
He kept the Bears within shouting distance, allowing the tying run to come up to the plate with runners on second and third in the final inning.
But with only three hits for the game, courtesy of Broc Babb, Ethan Martin and Caleb Harrison, a comeback was a bridge too far for the Bears.
The Berks County League runners-up acquitted themselves well in the tournament after falling to Fleetwood Post 625 on the opening night before bouncing back with a 6-3 win over Quakertown Saturday.
“It was a good season, in the league and overall, we played really great together,” Bears first baseman and pitcher Jared Waldman said. “We’ve played together ever since we were younger, from in town to 9-year-olds and all the way through. You never think this day would come, but now it’s here ... I won’t be picking up a baseball again because I’m not playing in college, so it’s kind of emotional. Time to reflect on a good career.”
“I think we were playing our best baseball now. I loved to see the team come together. This was the strongest bond I’ve ever felt with a team,” shortstop Chris Davis said. “Looking back on this season and the last three seasons, it’s been an incredible experience and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
For final-year players like Waldman and Davis, the significance of just suiting up for the Bears, an indelible fixture of summer life in Boyertown, wasn’t lost on them.
“I remember going to Mid-Atlantic games and to the one state title game when they won it and my first time out there (as a player) I was like, “This is it. I’m a Legion Bear.” This is all I’ve ever wanted since I was younger playing baseball.”
Souderton could be forgiven for not being big on sentiment as Post 234 bounced back for a 3-0 loss to Norchester Saturday night that was just their third loss of the campaign.
“We had our little setback, but we want to keep rolling and playing our game. Every day we come here and love playing baseball and love each other’s company,” Morales said.
It’s been a grind for Souderton, but it knows how to handle itself in the postseason.
“After winning the state championship and then coming right back here and playing 19 games in 19 days, it was kind of crazy,” Morales said. “It took a lot out of us. But at the same time, everybody showed up and put the time in.”
The teams traded runs in the first inning, Conlan Wall driving in Aaron Groller on an RBI single for Souderton while Chris Davis, who reached third on a two-base error on a pickoff attempt, came home on Martin’s two-out double.
Post 234 got its winning margin on run-scoring hits from Wall and Frank Pollock in the third for a 3-1 lead. Luke Shank’s infield single scored Gulibon for an insurance run in the sixth.
Morales’ fastball was explosive as the game progressed as he struck out the side in the sixth and ended with 14 strikeouts, tying the 14 he had in his first start of the spring high school season.
“Playing in playoffs, we’ve been in this atmosphere before and know what we have to do to be a good team out there,” Morales said. “There’s something pretty special about this team.”