MANCHESTER — These past few days have been pretty hectic for Northeastern manager Ken Kopp and his American Legion baseball outfit.
Since falling Friday to Dallastown in the York-Adams double-elimination tournament, the regular-season co-champ and playoff No. 1 seed has found itself in a win-or-go-home predicament.
While that's certainly one of the reasons that Kopp is feeling a little anxious these days, it’s not the only one. Needing to win five games in a row — on consecutive days nonetheless — Kopp has had to figure out where to find the pitching to put together such a run.
Fortunately for the Northeastern skipper, that problem was out of his mind on Monday evening at Manchester. Facing a Red Lion team that played Kopp’s club close during their regular-season showdown, Kopp’s son, Kenny, took care of things on the mound.
The younger Kopp pitched seven strong innings, scattering seven hits and two runs while fanning four. His performance gave his teammates enough time to finally figure out Red Lion starter Tyler Stabley.
With two outs in the fourth, the home team put together five straight hits to take the lead for good. They added three more in the fifth en route to a satisfying 6-2 triumph.
Northeastern, which knocked off Hanover on Sunday, will play for a third day in a row when it squares off against Pleasureville at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Dover Intermediate School in the losers' bracket final. The winner will advance to take on Dallastown Wednesday, while the loser’s season is over.
“Kenny did a great job (Monday),” Ken Kopp said. “I was a little leery because he faced Red Lion in the regular season, but he was definitely our best choice today.”
After the visitors took the early lead in the top of the first, Kenny Kopp held the Red Lion lineup in check for most of the rest of the way. The only blemish after that was a leadoff triple he allowed to Austin Wildasin, who scored on a groundout, to open the seventh.
Kopp needed to keep putting up zeroes on the board to give his team a chance to fight back. Stabley allowed just two hits and faced one over the minimum through three innings. After quickly getting the first two outs in the fourth, the home team figured things out.
A double by Devin Blymire ignited a rally. Brady Dolan singled in Blymire to even the score before singles by Mason Kling, Robbie Elzinga and Steven Miller helped score Dolan to make it 2-1.
“You could feel the momentum come our way in the dugout,” Kenny Kopp said. “We got a base hit and then another base hit. We strung it together and that’s how we’ve been this year.”
After Stabley got the final out of the fourth, the hit parade continued for the home team in the fifth. Kopp singled with one out to begin a rally in which six consecutive batters reached base safely. By the time Elzinga singled to make it 6-1, the home team finally was able to exhale a sigh of relief.
“It’s like things just started to click all of a sudden,” Kenny Kopp said.
Ken Kopp is hoping it stays that way through Thursday. But the skipper will need to figure out who can pitch, when and for how long the rest of the week. Getting by mostly behind Kenny Kopp and Dolan in the regular season, manager Kopp will worry about who to give the ball to Tuesday. If Northeastern wins then, he’ll worry about Wednesday, if it gets to that.
That is, If he doesn’t succumb to stomach ulcers before that.
“I don’t know what I’m doing (Tuesday) night,” he said, adding that he will likely be without his two assistant coaches on Tuesday as well. “I have no clue.”
While Tuesday and Wednesday are a bit dicey, if it gets to a winner-take-all scenario, Kopp was quick to finger who he’d give the ball to Thursday.
"Right there is my championship guy (pointing to Jonah Latshaw, who was raking the field)," he said. "He’s my center fielder, but if we get there, he’ll probably be on the mound.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.