Phillipsburg baseball shocks Easton for rivalry upset
Rivalry games can make or break seasons.
That notion is much more than a common sporting cliché for Easton and Phillipsburg. It’s the honest truth.
When the Stateliners baseball team charged onto the field after the final out on Sunday night at Hackett Park, the rivalry relevance was real.
Phillipsburg shocked Easton, the 16-win Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Steel Division champ, for a 6-5 cross-river victory.
It’s the Stateliners second win in a grueling season and provided some much-needed joy for the team and its seniors.
“The seniors over here have some of the best attitudes that I’ve been around and I’m so happy for them,” Phillipsburg coach Dylan Sapir said.
“There’s no better way to bounce back than this,” Phillipsburg senior starter Colton Langworthy said. “We’ve had a rough time all season and it just feels great to get this win against a rival.”
The Stateliners (2-16) trailed 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning before fate finally smiled upon them, as a pair of Easton errors led to three Phillipsburg runs scored by Connor Owens, Garrett DuPont and Tom Mandry.
“We’ve had some adversity this year,” Sapir said. “We’ve run into some tough pitchers. We’ve had some bad luck; we haven’t had a lot of breaks. We’ve been waiting for those breaks to go our way; finally we got a couple today.”
The conditions didn’t really help either side. A rainstorm rolled through during the middle of the game to make the unseasonably cold night a little more uncomfortable.
It was another obstacle for Langworthy, besides the Red Rovers lineup.
“I was just trying to throw the ball across the plate. That’s really been my goal all season,” he said. “Going out there, I’ve got mud on my cleats; it feels like I’ve got two cinderblocks that I’m stepping on. I was just trying to keep the ball low in the zone and keep them off-balance — it worked.”
“Colton, he’s been on varsity since he was a sophomore, so he’s got experience,” Sapir said. “I knew putting him out there, that he’s a competitor. He knows how to pitch. He’s been doing it all year. He’s pitched well enough to win every game he’s pitched so far, but we haven’t had the offense to back him up. Today, we gave him a couple runs.”
Langworthy battled his way through seven walks to go 6.1 innings before Chris Lilly entered and earned the save.
“To be honest, it wasn’t even (Langworthy’s) best performance today, but he’s just mentally tough and I knew he would give all he’s got,” Sapir said.
P’burg (2-16), which got two hits from Mandry, didn’t have a track record of success entering Sunday, but it had seen its fair share of quality competition in the Skyland Conference.
“That’s a really good team over there (Easton),” Sapir said. “We knew we had a tough task. But, the one thing that I think prepared us for them was that we faced a lot of good teams this year and some good pitchers along the way. We at least knew we were ready.”
Trey Durrah had a double and a triple, and Caleb Messinger drove in two runs for Easton (16-4).
DuPont scored twice for the ’Liners, who were elated to pull out a victory after coming up short in close-game situations numerous times.
“It’s definitely a big relief,” Langworthy said. “Our record doesn’t show how good this team really is. We’ve got a lot of talent and potential on this team — a lot of young guys coming up next year that are going to make a big difference for us. This win is just overwhelming. It’s just the greatest thing.”
The effort didn’t dip, despite the results, according to Sapir.
“We’re 2-16, but you wouldn’t know it by the way we practice, the way we show up every day,” he said. “These guys, they’re just great to work with.”
And now they have their season’s ultimate highlight.
Kyle Craig may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleCraigSports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.