That’s the best way to describe the Wyoming Valley’s performance in the Region 5 American Legion Baseball Tournament.
The Wyoming Valley has been superb against teams from the Susquehanna Valley, District 11 (teams in the Lackawanna League), the West Branch and Northern Tier leagues. Over the last 16 years, only three times has a team from another league claimed the regional title. One of those years, the tournament was dominated by Abington’s Cory Spangenberg, who is now playing in the majors with the San Diego Padres.
“It tells us how good the baseball is in Northeast Pennsylvania and specifically in our league,” Mountain Post manager Tony Caladie said about the Wyoming Valley’s power in the tournament.
One of the teams from the Wyoming Valley that has helped pad the league’s performance in the tournament is Swoyersville, which has won three of the last four regional titles and also claimed two in the previous decade when the franchise was affiliated with Plymouth.
Swoyersville, coming off a Wyoming Valley Tournament title, returns to the Region 5 Tournament after taking third in the state last year and winning two state titles in 2014 and 2016.
“One game at time. Anything can happen,” Swoyersville manager Sean Toole said. “It’s a regional tournament, one-game-at-a-time approach and hopefully you’re alive at the end.”
Swoyersville opens the double-elimination tourney at 1 p.m. Friday, taking on District 11 runner-up Abington. Joining the league champion from the Wyoming Valley League is runner-up Mountain Post, which faces Shamokin/Mount Carmel at 4 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High School.
That contest follows the first game of the day at Mountain View, which is between Hazleton Stripes & Strikes (the No. 3 seed from the Wyoming Valley) against Susquehanna Valley champion Berwick.
Stripes & Strikes will be making its regional debut in the 12th year since general manager/manager Keith Segedy took over the helm. Even though the team is in the event for the first time, the goal is still the same.
“I think if you say that you don’t want to win it all, you’re crazy. We’re going there to win and that’s the only way to play when you get to these tournaments,” Segedy said. “You have to win game one before you win game 2, but we’re hoping to win.”
Mountain Post has been in the regional tournament before but has never won. In fact, the team was once in a rivalry with Plymouth, where three straight years the two teams battled it out in the league tournament finals and in the regional tournament. With the two squads playing last weekend for the league title and advancing to regionals together, it brought back memories.
Caladie was part of the franchise back then, but not with the seniors. He is hoping that if the two meet again this year, it ends differently than before. He’s looking for his team to regroup after last weekend’s loss to Swoyersville and perhaps claim the crown for the first time.
“They’ve looked very loose, very positive and ready to go. I feel good about our chances,” Caladie said. “I have a good feeling about going up to (Lackawanna County) and doing well because we have seen the best competition all year with Swoyersville and Hazleton.”
Seven is plenty
In past years the regional and state tournaments have upped the innings played from seven to nine. The reason was to make the postseason tournaments be more like professional baseball, as it also implemented American League or National League rules.
But this year, the postseason will now be seven innings. And that’s a welcome sight for many clubs because pitching has been hampered near the end of every tournament with extended innings.
“I think it’s a little different. But still, seven innings is baseball,” Toole said. “You still gotta hit the ball, catch the ball, run, play clean defense and pitch. That’s the key, and timely hits.”
A pro presence
If you head to the regional tournament, you might see a familiar face during Hazleton games.
That’s because former Major Leaguer Russ Canzler is on the coaching staff.
Canzler, who is from Hazleton and played for the franchise before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of Hazleton Area high school in 2004, has been helping out the staff all season. He played professionally for 12 years in the Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, Orioles, Indians, Rays and Cubs organizations.
A surprising opening
For the last six years, Caladie has led the Mountain Post senior program, but has also been the head coach of the Crestwood High School baseball team. Caladie has been at the helm of the Comets for five years, earning consecutive Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 titles and appearances in the District 2 Class 5A championship game the last two years. The Comets’ record improved each year from 6-10 in his first year to 11-5 this past season.
Despite the success on the field, the Crestwood school board decided to open the position of head baseball coach earlier this week. Caladie has reapplied for the post.