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With a 5-4 victory over Hamburg last week, the Oley-Topton Sr. American Legion Patriots improved to 12-2 in the Schuylkill-Berks League and clinched the Southern Division title. The Patriots scored two last inning runs to pull out the victory and earn their first division championship.
Not a bad accomplishment considering they have been missing three key players - Luke Erb (on a mission trip to Guatemala), Nick Distasio (with his family in North Dakota) and Tim Shores who is injured.
According to Head Coach Fred van Gulik, it’s the Patriots’ pitching depth that has made the difference.
“Our Pitching depth plus timely hitting puts us in a position to win against anyone,” said Van Gulic. “We played some top level eams last weekend at the Tournament at Boyertown and showed that we can measure up with any of them. Our pitching ERA of our starters is below 1.5 runs per 7 innings pitched in league competition.”
Those who were expected to make big contributions to this team have done just that. But in addition, some of the younger players have come through as well. Rookies like Zach “Pork Chop” Ernst, Hunter Renninger and Tyler VonHummel have delivered some key hits for the Patriots. Fifteen-year-old third baseman Dan Kristan has also been a pleasant surprise.
One of the highlights of the season came July 1 when Zach Eddinger pitched a no-hitter against Valley View in a 1-0 Oley/Topton victory.
“He stayed with his game plan,” said Coach Van Gulik. “Zach didn’t even realize that he threw a no-hitter until I told him after the game. Honestly, from what I saw, he didn’t even have his best stuff that night. I’ve coached this player now for almost four season and I’ve seen him grow every year and its
nice to know that next season Zach, Erb and Shores have another year of eligibility for us.”
Of course the Patriots’ record won’t help them much in the playoffs. They are all back to 0-0 as they try to get through the double-elimination tournament to the league championship game at Municipal Stadium in Reading.
But the Patriots are ready to go. They are on a roll and should get the three missing players back and playing when the playoffs begin. Are they confident going into the playoffs?
“Yes. We had one goal in mind this season and anything else
would be a big disappointment for our program,” said Coach Van Gulik.
The team is on a roll heading into the playoffs, but Van Gulik won’t let his team get overconfident. There are still things about the team that need improvement.
“We need to get everyone healthy and focused on the task at hand,” said the coach. “We still need to work on the little things and our players know what I mean by saying that.”