Zephs had a strong second half
Whitehall’s 2019 baseball season was marked by a strong second half, culminating in appearances in both the league and district playoffs.
The Zephyrs postseason saw them contending for a district title this season, marking the second time in the last three years that they’ve been in the District XI 5A finals. After mounting a late rally, they fell to Blue Mountain in the D-11 Championships, losing 6-4.
It was quite an accomplishment for a team that was staring at a 4-7 record after losing to Stroudsburg on April 17.
But, they reeled off five wins the last two weeks of the season, defeating Emmaus and Parkland during that stretch.
The win at Coca-Cola Park against the Trojans helped propel them into the league playoffs, something that head coach Shaun O’Boyle emphasized as his team was preparing for that final push.
“That was a very big win for us,” said O’Boyle who guided the team to an 10-12 mark this year.
He said they needed to win at least three of their remaining six games, and the team delivered.
“That week was crucial,” said O’Boyle. “That was our goal and we wound up getting three.”
It put them in the league playoffs where they pushed Liberty, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference regular season champs, to the brink, losing on a bunt single in the bottom of the sixth. That was all the either team scored in a tough pitcher’s duel.
After that tough loss, they entered the 5A playoffs and had arguably the most improvable and exciting win in the semifinals against Southern Lehigh. What team can say that they won on a walk-off slide, a Houdini-esque play by Adin Hoderewski, who deftly avoided the catcher’s tag to score the winning run.
In order to make it to that thrilling win, they had to endure a rough start. O’Boyle said that it was something they needed to work through.
“We took our lumps early, which is expected with a young team,” he said. “They progressively got better throughout the year.”
He said that the most important aspect of that progression was their pitching started to shine. Andrew Snyder and Joe Lisicky, along with Jake Paashaus, Matthew Snyder and Connor Paashaus were giving them quality innings.
Their bats were solid all year, and once they got both in gear, they began to string together some wins.
O’Boyle said that you want to be playing your best baseball at the end of the year.
“I think we were doing that,” he said.
The Zephyrs will now say goodbye to seven seniors. Graduating this season will be Snyder, Hoderewski, Jake Paashaus, Ben Hudak, Ryan Schmidt, Kyle Saylor and Kyle Kralick.
Hoderewski was the team’s leading hitter last season, while Snyder and Paashaus were stalwarts on the mound. Hudak was a fixture at first, his fence-toppling catch against Liberty probably one of the best plays all year, while Schmidt was a big contributor as well to their success.
O’Boyle said that those five had great years and played big parts in their success.
Both Kralick and Saylor provided experience and leadership, invaluable commodities for a young team.
“They were showing the others the right way to do things,” he said.
While that’s a substantial loss, they still retain a number of returning varsity players. That list includes Lisicky, Shane Fillman, Owen Fischl, Matthew Snyder, Ayden Dunbar, and Connor Paashaus.
Additionally Luke Gilbert, Kevin Landis, Antonio Capille, Samuel Ardila Castillo and Zackary Hartman also return.
O’Boyle said that’s a really strong core coming back, and shared a statistic to back up his contention. Of the 123 runs they scored this season, 120 of them were either scored or knocked in by players coming back next year.
“That’s a lot of production coming back,” he said.
Shane Fillman, who was second on the team in hitting, led the team in runs scored, while Fischl was tops in RBIs. Mix in Lisicky and Matthew Miller and Connor Paashaus on the mound, and the Zephyr are poised to have another good year.
“The guys coming back are pretty solid,” said O’Boyle.