Dependable roster, strong pitching carry Northeastern to Legion East Division title

  • Northeastern won the York-Adams American Legion East Division title this season.
  • Northeastern will enter the American Legion playoffs with a 10-3-1 record.
  • A dependable 17-man roster and strong pitching have been the keys for Northeastern.
Northeastern head coach Ken Kopp holds up the York-Adams American Legion championship trophy in  2015. Kopp is hoping to lead his team to another Legion crown this season.

Most York-Adams American Legion teams struggled to field a full roster of players on any given night this summer.

Ken Kopp, however, feels quite fortunate that those issues have not been a problem for him.

The Northeastern skipper has a roster of 17 players. That is not unlike many of the other 13 teams in the league.

The difference for Kopp is that he knows that he can count on all of his players to be there for any given contest. That is not the case elsewhere in the league. That's a big reason that Kopp's team won the East Division crown this season.

Northeastern's Chris Moyer is shown here pitching against Red Lion in American Legion baseball action earlier this season. Moyer has a 0.98 ERA on the season.

“We have 17 kids on the roster, but I can count on 17 kids to show up for every one of our games,” Kopp said. “And I know that’s crazy these days.”

League contracted: A lack of players forced two teams — Suburban York and Stewartstown — to cancel their seasons before they even began. So what was once a 16-team league was contracted to 14.

The result was a league in which eight teams remained in the West Division while only six teams were left in the East. There were plans to move Shiloh from the West to the East, but doing so would have likely contracted the regular season by two games for each squad.

Protests against that proposed change left the divisions as they were, but meant that two teams in the East would have to play two divisional foes four times during the season instead of twice.

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“We tried to cut it back to 12 games, but (some parents) were throwing a fit,” Kopp said. 

A 10-3-1 season: It turned out just fine for Kopp and his crew in the end. Northeastern won the East Division with a 10-3-1 record, a game ahead of Dallastown (9-4-1). That feat was made more difficult by a schedule that required Kopp’s team to play two-time defending champ Pleasureville (7-4-3) twice more than normall.

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Well, as it turned out, it was only once more. Pleasureville was forced to forfeit a game last Friday because of a lack of player availability.

Pitching a key: While Pleasureville’s pitching has been remarkable this season, as evidenced by a six-game stretch when the team allowed just one earned run, Northeastern’s pitching has arguably been better. Kopp’s staff surrendered just 40 runs all season, less than three per contest.

Kopp also pointed out that those figures were likely inflated by allowing his bench to participate more than usual.

“We weren’t blowing teams out,” Kopp said. “There were no 10-run rule games. So I decided to allow some of the kids to play maybe two or three innings when we were ahead, knowing that I could re-enter my starters if I needed to. So there were times where we gave up three, four, five more runs where we didn’t need to give them up, but I did it so we could get the kids in to play.”

Northeastern's Eli Gross, seen here in action earlier this season vs. Pleasureville, has a 1.65 ERA in 2019 American Legion action.

Kopp has been able to rely on the arms of Bryce Snyder, Eli Gross and Chris Moyer for much of the season. Gross has thrown 29 2/3 innings with 31 strikeouts and a nifty 1.65 ERA to go with a 2-1 record. Moyer has only thrown 14 1/3 innings, but has fanned 16 with a 1-0 record and a 0.98 ERA. Not to be outdone, Snyder is 4-1 with a 0.78 ERA over 27 innings.

Kopp's final season: That pitching has Kopp dreaming of a fond farewell when the season concludes. After years of contemplating retirement from coaching, Kopp plans to ride off into the sunset after this season. Before that happens, however, he’s hoping to take his team back to the Region 4 playoffs.

“I’m done,” Kopp said. “After this, this is going to be it. Now I know that I’ve been saying this for like three years now, but I’m done. But, before that, I’d really like to get back to the region tournament, like we did back in 2016.”

To do so, Kopp’s team would have to make it to the finals of the upcoming eight-team, double-elimination playoffs. The league will send two teams — the champion and runner-up — to the tournament slated to be played in Ephrata.

As the top seed from the East, Kopp’s squad will draw the No. 4 seed from the West Division, which is currently Dover. Dover, however, still has several makeup games left to be played and could either climb or fall from that position depending on the results.

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