Bucks County Herald

Blazers succumb to Railers in final

Quakertown sees year end


Chris Ray played a lot of baseball, including for the 2011 Quakertown Blazers, before accepting his first managerial position with the Blazers this summer.

“If I’m asked to return,” Ray said on Monday afternoon, “I will definitely be back. I feel like we could build something pretty great as long as we continue on the path that we used this year.”

That path didn’t lead to the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL) championship, but it did lead to the ACBL final best-of-three series against the top-seeded Allentown Railers, who won their third straight league title with Sunday’s doubleheader sweep at Quakertown.

The Blazers and Railers were deadlocked at 2 in the first game. Allentown used a four-run bottom of the eighth and superb pitching performance from Rhett Jacoby (complete game six-hitter with nine strikeouts) to escape with a 6-2 victory.

Central Bucks South alumnus Mike Anastasia had a home run in four at-bats for Quakertown. Pennridge’s Tom Nuneviller went 1-for-3 for the Blazers.

“We were right there; we were ready to go,” Ray said.

John Yocum pitched a whale of a game for the Railers in the nightcap, yielding only one hit and walking one, while fanning eight, in Allentown’s 4-0 championship-clinching win. Nathan Sides had the lone Blazers hit.

“He just threw great,” Ray praised of Yocum. “There wasn’t much we could do with him.”

Third-seeded Quakertown reached the weekend by sweeping No. 2 South Jersey, 10-9 and 2-1, last Thursday away from the friendly confines of Memorial Park.

In the first game, Nuneviller delivered a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Tommy Derer also bopped a home run.

Derer, Nuneviller and Chance DiFebbo each collected two hits. In game two, Anastasia’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth plated Blake Rapoport. Mark Anderson, Chris Crookham and Derer combined to strike out 19 Giants.

“That was incredibly special,” Ray said. “For our guys to just keep battling against a really strong pitcher and then they went to their bullpen and that guy was tough, as well.”

The postseason series win was the Blazers’ first since 2010. The last time Quakertown won the ACBL was 2005.

“This was a special year,” Ray said, “and an incredible group of kids. I was glad for that team to be my first group there.”

The Blazers went 19-15 in the regular season. Quakertown went 4-6 against Allentown and 15-9 against everybody else.

“We only practiced once before the season and they all got along pretty much from day one,” Ray said.

“We didn’t have a lot of numbers early on,” Ray added, noting some were nursing injuries while others needed rest from school ball, “and our guys stuck it out and kept battling, and then when we got guys back, we really started to turn it on.”

Ray concluded: “They worked so hard to get everything they earned.”

Ray said four players, Ryan Malloy, Nuneviller, Brett Alaimo and Nicholas Kuhn, have already expressed a desire to return for the 2018 season.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Ray admitted, “with the talent that those four guys have. Another league might come knocking and I would encourage them to go, if they feel prepared to do so because it could be a better opportunity.”

Offensively, Sides’ .492 batting average (32-for-65) was tops on Quakertown. Derer and Malloy hit .366 and .365, respectively. Malloy led the Blazers in home runs with five, RBIs with 31 and runs scored with 22. On the pitching side, James Reardon IV led the Blazers in wins with three and strikeouts with 29. James Spehrely had a sparkling 1.42 ERA in 19 innings.

“I wish I’d been part of a team at any point in my life as special and as tight-knit as those guys were,” Ray said.




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