Lenape has righted itself at right time

Posted: May 26, 2012

Lenape's baseball team was feeling pretty good about itself after returning from a trip to Myrtle Beach with four wins.

The good feeling from the favorable weather and results quickly evaporated when the Indians lost five in a row and six of seven.

"We just fell apart," senior catcher Bobby Isopi said.

Many times a veteran team going through a midseason swoon doesn't recover, but to the Indians' credit, as we head toward Memorial Day, they aren't ready to collect the uniforms just yet.

The 12th-seeded Indians kept their playoff hopes alive with Friday's 8-6 win over No. 4 seed Pennsauken in a South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinal. Lenape (15-8) will face No. 9 seed Williamstown in Tuesday's sectional semifinals.

Despite the seedings, Lenape's win over Pennsauken wasn't an upset, although it wouldn't have been a shocker if the Indians had won.

The real stunner came in the first round when Lenape defeated fifth seed and defending South Jersey champion Millville, 3-1. The Indians had to beat fireballer Andrew Biggs, one of the best pitchers in South Jersey.

Against Pennsauken, the Indians merely had to contain one of South Jersey's top sluggers, Alex Polanco.

Lenape didn't hold Polanco totally in check. He hit his ninth home run of the season, but it couldn't offset four clubbed by the Indians. Isopi, headed to Carnegie Mellon to play football, had two homers, and Javier Gonzalez and Jason Clapper each added one.

This timely hitting wasn't there when the Indians went into their swoon.

"We were playing pretty well, but after Myrtle Beach, we just went into a slump," said Kevin Milley, the winning pitcher, who allowed just one run in five innings.

Milley, who earned the complete-game win Monday against Millville, threw just 56 pitches against Pennsauken.

He didn't want to push his luck, and Pennsauken surely didn't mind that he exited. The Indians, who can earn a share of the Olympic Conference Patriot Division title with a win Tuesday over Winslow Township, fought back for five runs.

"You can't give away innings, and we did that," Pennsauken coach Pete Nardello said.

Lenape knows the feeling on a bigger scale. In the Indians' minds, they gave away games earlier this season, and with each accompanying loss, they wondered if they ever would turn that proverbial corner.

The Indians didn't earn a berth in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, a tournament Lenape won two years ago that consists of the best teams in South Jersey.

"That hurt," Isopi said. "At the beginning of the year, we thought we would be in the Diamond."

The Indians thought a lot in the beginning of the year and then had to rethink things after the losing streak. Once again, the thinking has been adjusted.

The win over Millville got the Indians believing that maybe they could hang around this tournament for a while.

"We went into Millville as the underdog and felt we had nothing to lose," Lenape coach Phil Fiore said.

Actually, he knew there was much to lose - such as the chance to earn a sectional title, something Lenape is two wins away from earning.

Even when Lenape was in its losing streak, Fiore said he believed this would be a highly competitive team. Imagine his mind-set now that the Lenape team from the beginning of the season has returned when it counts.

Lenape   4002020 - 882

Pennsauken   1000032 - 672

WP: Kevin Milley. LP: Ryan Levito. 2B: L-Tyler Mixon 2; P-Nick Smyth. 3B: P-Anthony Sweet. HR: L-Bobby Isopi 2, Javier Gonzalez, Jason Clapper; P-Alex Polanco.

Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com, or @sjnard on Twitter. Find his Rally columns at www.philly.com/narducci .

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