New Hope-Solebury’s road to the PIAA District 11/One Class 3 A subregional final against Notre Dame-Green Pond (14-5) Thursday afternoon wasn’t an easy one.
John Mangan ended a slugfest between New Hope and Palmerton with a walk-off single in the eighth inning that lifted the Lions to an 8-7 victory over the Blue Bombers in the district semifinal May 25. Mangan is the team’s leading hitter with a .475 average and also has a team-high 27 RBIs and 29 hits.
“We all had some big hits,” said Mangan. “We have been doing this all season, and we know we can keep this going. This was a tough game and a big win.”
With the victory, New Hope (17-4) advanced to its third district final in as many years. The Lions lost to Lower Moreland, 4-2, in last year’s championship game.
“This was an edge of the seat heavyweight fight between two fundamentally sound teams,” said New Hope head coach Tony Vlahovic. “I am proud of the mental strength and battle our players demonstrated.
“They have been very determined all season to get us to this point.”
Blake Doherty, who has committed to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, was the benefactor of Derek Smith’s two-run homer in the first that staked the Lions to an early 2-0 advantage. Doherty worked through the first three innings before he was forced to leave the game with an injury.
Deven Smith took over for Doherty and threw through the seventh inning. Josh Shiller, who picked up the victory, took over in the eighth.
From there, the game was a tussle as both teams traded runs through the next five innings that featured two lead changes and three ties.
Mangan, who had three hits and four RBIs, laced a two-run single in the fourth that gave the Lions a 6-3 cushion, but Palmerton came back to tie the game in fifth. New Hope regained the lead back in the sixth, courtesy of an error, until Palmerton sent the game into extra innings with a run in the seventh.
In the eighth, New Hope’s Michael Lehman led off with a single and Derek Smith was intentionally walked before Mangan’s winning single.
Their gritty win over Palmerton again exemplified the Lions’ embedded sense of determination that has guided their season that has included a 10-game winning streak led by Mangan, Jack Gawason (.316, 14 RBIs), and Kyle Campbell (.441, 11 RBIs).
“This team is fundamentally sound and aggressive on the bases,” added Vlahovic. “We spend a lot of time with the mental aspects of the game, working on game goals and studying video to continue to learn and develop with all the failure that is encountered in baseball.
“Our turning point of the season was a comeback victory over Christopher Dock (Dock Mennonite) on Connor Campbell’s, two-strike, two-out home run. We have had many quality at-bats that have really helped us.”