The Morning Call (Sunday)

Orioles complete title series sweep

Iron Valley puts away Limeport for second straight crown

- By Keith Groller

When the Iron Valley Real Estate Orioles won the 2022 Blue Mountain League championsh­ip, it ended an 18-year drought and was celebrated with the exuberance of a World Series title.

But because it came on a weeknight at Martins Creek, not everyone who has followed the team at Egypt Memorial Park over the years got to witness it.

However, when the Orioles won this year’s BML title with a 4-0 victory over Limeport Saturday afternoon, many more fans got to enjoy it because it came at Curt Simmons Field and in front of the bench dedicated in honor of the club’s founder and longtime manager Ron “Punkin” Miller.

Miller, who died in 2013 at the age of 71, won six titles with his Orioles from 19762004, and while those teams were terrific, he would have especially enjoyed the 2023 version.

Iron Valley had a complete offensive lineup that could score runs in a variety of ways, quality defense and sterling pitching.

It produced a season that ended 26-10 overall and 6-0 in the postseason.

A three-hit shutout by Parkland High and Mansfield University product Evan McAndrew capped a three-game sweep in which the high-powered Bulls were held to nine runs and never had a lead after the fourth inning in Game 1.

“I’m proud of my guys because we stuck through the whole playoff run,” said player-manager Zach Delp, who provided one of the runs with a home run. “We never got down on ourselves when we got down in certain games. We were really close going into the season because we brought a lot of guys back and we brought in some guys who became really good team guys. We just did everything the right way.”

Delp thought it was special this championsh­ip came at Egypt.

“This is our home, this is our field,” he said. “We love playing here. We’ve been here for four or five decades; we’ve been here a long time. I played here for eight seasons before we got a championsh­ip. It’s always better to win at home. Even if we had clinched it at Limeport Sunday night we probably would have come back here and celebrated all night.”

McAndrew made sure another trip to Limeport Stadium wasn’t needed with a dominant performanc­e that featured six strikeouts and three walks.

“The biggest thing is that I had great defense behind me,” McAndrew said. “They made some great plays on balls that were hit hard. They come through for me and I just kept pounding the zone.”

McAndrew felt good from the start of the day.

“When I woke this morning I felt like I would have the whole game today,” McAndrew said.

Due to a rainy period late in the season, the Orioles had to play 10 games in 11 days to complete the regular season and while that was tiring, it was a chance for the team to come together and go 7-3 while finding its groove.

“Getting that first-round bye in the playoffs was huge because we could rest some arms for about seven days and that rest showed in these last six games,” McAndrew said.

The 26-year-old had been a prominent member of three consecutiv­e District 11 title teams at Parkland, and said that while that was a strong team, this one might be even a little stronger.

“I remember beating [Stroudsbur­g’s Mike] Nikorak in the Eastern Pennsylvan­ia Conference championsh­ip back in 2015,” he said. “He went in the first round of the MLB and that was special. I am just happy to get to experience this one with some of my best friends.”

In addition to Delp’s home run in the sixth, the Orioles got an RBI double by Alex DeForge in the third and an RBI double by Trey Hinkle in the fourth. Singles by Todd Kolbicka and Hinkle set up an addition run after Delp’s homer set up an additional run in the sixth. Jeff Charles, who grew up watching his dad play and umpire at Egypt Memorial Park, collected the season’s final RBI on a groundout.

Ben Piripavel had a big day, going 3-for-3. Limeport, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going.

After stranding nine in the Game 2 loss on Thursday night, the Bulls left six more on base on Saturday and wasted five quality innings by pitcher Brian Ernst, who kept his team close.

“The Orioles are really good and McAndrew pitched a heck of a game today,” said Limeport manager CJ Saliby after his team’s season ended at 24-13-2. “We haven’t seen him in years but he did a really good job of keeping guys off balance all day. They’ve got good arms and they’re tough outs on offense. They always have good at-bats and they battle and they scored again with two outs today. They’re the champs for a reason.”

Saliby acknowledg­ed how tough it is to win two straight league titles in a row.

“We did it, so we know how tough it is,” he said. “But that’s a good team that’s well run. We just made too many mistakes and every mistake we made they took advantage of.”

Saliby didn’t want to make excuses but said his team missed Dennis Pierce, the league’s leading hitter and all-league second baseman in the series. Pierce had to end his season early to get back to college.

“He was hitting .520 and was our No. 2 hitter and when you’re used to waiting for him to make something happen and then he’s gone, you tend to put extra pressure on yourself,” Saliby said. “The guys were trying too hard instead of keeping it simple and keeping the line moving.”

Saliby, though, he expected the team to be back next season.

“Every year we expect to be in the thick of things,” he said. “We won four titles in five years, but now we’re hungry. Some guys have never won it. We’ll be back and ready to go and we hope to be on the opposite side of this next year. Our future is bright.”

 ?? APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORNING CALL ?? The Iron Valley Orioles’ Dominick Bayo looks at his hit against the Limeport Bulls on Saturday during the Blue Mountain League Championsh­ip Series at Curt Simmons Field at Egypt Memorial Park in Whitehall.
APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORNING CALL The Iron Valley Orioles’ Dominick Bayo looks at his hit against the Limeport Bulls on Saturday during the Blue Mountain League Championsh­ip Series at Curt Simmons Field at Egypt Memorial Park in Whitehall.

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