HS BASEBALL: Father, son guide opposing teams

Leroy Boyer, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·4 min read

Apr. 4—PINE GROVE — When Keith Lehman's family gathers around the Easter dinner table today, baseball will no doubt be a major topic of conversation.

The long-time Pine Grove baseball coach got a chance most coaches never get Saturday night, facing off with youngest son Jordan and his Tri-Valley squad in the final of the Cardinal Classic at Stump Stadium.

Jordan will have bragging rights at the table today after his Dawgs scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning for a 6-3 victory over his dad's Cardinals.

The final result didn't overshadow the special moment the two shared throughout, one that left both men teary eyed when talking about it afterward.

"I've been here since he has growing up," said Jordan Lehman, a former player for his dad at Pine Grove and an assistant coach with the Cards from 2014-20. "He was supportive of me (taking the job). It was a very difficult decision. Definitely second-guessed it as I applied.

"His support definitely helped out coming over. It was a good program, good tradition with Coach Felty. It was definitely an opportunity I couldn't let go, but definitely a hard one walking away from Pine Grove, that's for sure."

Jordan Lehman, 32, is in his first year as the Tri-Valley coach, replacing Bob Felty, who resigned after 17 seasons and an amazing 264-100 record. He took over a program that has a bevy of talented players, which was on display Saturday.

The Dawgs (2-1) beat Western Wayne 7-5 in the opener before building a 3-0 lead through four innings against the Cardinals (1-3). Devin Wertz had an RBI double in the second and a two-run single in the fourth to plate the Tri-Valley runs.

Tri-Valley starter Jonas McGrath gave up just one hit — a triple by Ethan Hannevig — and struck out 10 over 98 pitches through six innings before Pine Grove rallied.

"They're definitely a competitive group," Jordan Lehman said of Pine Grove. "Jonas' pitch count snuck up there, maybe a little too high for this early in the season. To see him, first one out there when (Jake) Tietsworth gave up two runs, telling him not to worry about it, we got you. We answered with three runs."

Trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, Pine Grove tied the game when Brandon Unger walked, Dan Zimmerman was hit by a pitch and Trey Kolb sacrificed the runners up a base. Unger scored on a wild pitch before Hunter Deichert reached on a bunt single. Owen Hannevig's sacrifice fly tied the game at 3-3 and forced extra innings, but the Cardinals left the winning run at second base.

"It was an outstanding high school baseball game," Keith Lehman said. "We hung around and had an opportunity (to win it). They made the plays."

In the top of the eighth, Layne Yoder, Chase Herb and McGrath opened the frame with singles, loading the bases. Aidan Nye's two-run single put the Dawgs ahead to stay, and Justin Parobek's RBI fielder's choice made it 6-3.

Wertz then closed the door, striking out two in a scoreless bottom of the eighth.

"When a team ties it up at their field in the bottom of the seventh at their field, you have to get baserunners on," Jordan Lehman said. "We were able to bunch a couple together.

"We have a great group of kids. I'm anxious to see what we can do."

Keith Lehman, 61 and in his 22nd season with the Cardinals, was pleased with the performance of his team, which rallied from a 5-2 deficit with a four-run sixth to beat Western Wayne 6-5 in its opener after dropping its first two games of the season to Brandywine Heights and Riverside.

"A lot of positives from our first two games," he said. "We put runs on the board. We've been getting good pitching. We had better approaches at the plate. We're young, but as long as they keep growing, hopefully we're there as the season goes on."

Keith Lehman said his family will travel to his older son Jared's house for Easter dinner today, joking that Jordan may have to sit in the bed of the truck on the ride after Saturday's result.

He also got teary eyed when mentioning how his parents, who attended every one of their grandsons' games, would have been proud of Saturday's game.

"It was special. His mam and pap were looking down, and smiling," Keith Lehman said. "It was special to play him. A base hit in the bottom of the seventh would have been even more special."

Contact the writer: Lboyer@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6026; @pubsportsboss on Twitter