DOVER — Playing in the losers' bracket of a double-elimination tournament is a place that no team or coach is happy to be in.
That’s especially true for a team such as Northeastern, which earned a share of the York-Adams American Legion regular-season title and entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
A 12-4 loss to Dallastown on Friday, however, dropped Northeastern into a series of elimination games. After grinding out wins Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, however, manager Ken Kopp and his team have earned their way to the place they did want to be at when the playoffs began — the championship game.
Best of all for Northeastern, that game will now be a winner-take-all contest, with a berth into the Region 4 Tournament in Fayetteville on the line.
To get there, Northeastern had to get by Pleasureville in the losers' bracket final Tuesday on a neutral field. Behind the strong pitching of Brady Dolan and the timely hitting of Brayton Bare, the Northeastern crew was able to extend its season for at least one more game after claiming a 6-2 triumph in a contest played at Dover Intermediate School.
Kopp and his team will now seek revenge against unbeaten Dallastown at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at Shryock Field. A decision was made that the winner of that game will claim the York-Adams League’s berth into regionals — even if Dallastown is defeated.
“I don’t know how we’re going to beat them (Dallastown) once, but I definitely don’t think that we would beat them twice,” Kopp said after Tuesday's win.
Kopp’s worries, however, were lessened by the change to a single-game format Wednesday. Having played three nights in a row already, Northeastern’s short-handed pitching staff will only have to worry about winning one game now.
With top pitchers Kenny Kopp and Dolan pitching on back-to-back nights, the plan about who to throw against Dallastown is still up in the air. If things worked out perfectly, Ken Kopp would have thrown standout Kody Reeser. Reeser, however, was forced into the game Tuesday to preserve his team’s victory.
The fact that Reeser was available at all was an unexpected surprise for Ken Kopp, who discovered earlier in the day Tuesday that his fortunes had improved. Reeser had been playing mostly with the Manchester Indians of the Central League this summer and only occasionally with the Legion outfit.
“I found out at 1:30 p.m.,” Ken Kopp said. “I’ve been in touch all week with Kody’s mom. And I’ve been in touch with (Manchester manager) Dave Miller, too. And Dave is the kind of guy that believes that if you have obligations to Legion, you go there first. Now Kody was sort of second to us, but around 1:30 today this all happened.”
Reeser may still pitch Wednesday, but Ken Kopp’s plans against Dallastown were still unclear. Officially it will be a game-time decision.
Opportunity for revenge: What is clear, however, is that the regular-season co-champ will have a shot for some double-dip revenge. In addition to Friday’s loss, Northeastern also fell against Dallastown in the York-Adams League high school title game.
“We played them in the York County championship game in high school, so we might as well (get revenge) here in Legion,” Bare said. “We’re going to try to get them back.”
Bare played a key role in sending his team to the final on Tuesday. With the game tied at 1-1, he singled in Jonah Latshaw with one out in the fifth inning. Moments later it was Reeser who singled home both Kenny Kopp and Bare to put his team ahead 4-1.
Bare (two hits, one walk) added some more insurance in the sixth with a two-run double to make it 6-1.
“At the end of the regular season we weren’t hitting the ball very well,” Bare said. “But we’ve started to pick it up now.”
Latshaw singled and walked twice while scoring twice to aid a seven-hit Northeastern attack. Pleasureville starter Michael Nizinski, who pitched four-plus innings, collected two of his team’s seven hits in the setback.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.