The Phantoms believe that the road to the 2018 Calder Cup goes through the Lehigh Valley.
The team clinched a playoff berth with a 5-4, overtime loss at Providence which combined nicely with Bridgeport’s 4-1 loss at Syracuse to lock up their playoff ticket. This will be the 12th playoff appearance for the Phantoms, dating back to their days in Philadelphia, and second in a row as they look for their third Calder Cup championship.
During the Saquon Barkley Day celebration in Coplay, Whitehall Athletic Director Bob Hartman announced that no one will wear the maroon-and-gold No. 21 jersey at Zephyr Stadium after Barkley.
Ali Barkley, that is.
Saquon’s younger brother, a sophomore who also plays running back, currently wears No. 21 for the Whitehall football team. Hartman said that the school will retire the number after Ali is finished playing, with a ceremony whenever Saquon’s schedule permits.
Northampton’s and Catasauqua’s baseball seasons got underway Monday afternoon, but it certainly was a long journey to get there.
The series of nor’easter snow storms that rocked the Lehigh Valley and beyond during the month of March placed practice schedules in a state of frenzy and pushed back scheduled starting dates nearly a week.
It will yet to be seen how the sudden and untimely winter weather will affect timing of hitters and pitchers as well as cause havoc on the sprinters and throwers.
Steel, Royals win
Led by a strong offensive showing, Bethlehem Steel FC picked up its first victory of the season, defeating the Richmond Kickers, 4-1, in the club’s home opener at Goodman Stadium.
Playing on the campus of Lehigh University, Steel FC saw Philadelphia Union midfielders Derrick Jones and Eric Ayuk score first-half goals while forward Brandon Allen tallied a second-half brace in his Steel FC debut.
For the upcoming 2018 season, Catasauqua will return seven senior starters to its lineup. It should be a solid core that will allow the Roughies to steadily fill some holes.
Last season, the Roughies finished with an overall 9-12 mark and their season ended in the opening round of the PIAA District 11 Class 3A playoffs with a 2-0 loss to Tamaqua. They lost four seniors to graduation, two of them fixtures on the mound in Rod Berger and Colin Hawk.
New IronPigs manager Gary Jones made his first visit to the Lehigh Valley recently, but it somehow felt somewhat familiar to him. Jones last served in baseball as the third base coach of the Chicago Cubs, managed by Joe Maddon. The Cubs manager may be the most famous resident of Hazleton and Jones said that his old boss talked often about his hometown and the Lehigh Valley.
“He often talked about being home and how much he loved this area,” said Jones. “He talked about the people, how beautiful the area was. You could tell he had a special spot for this area.”
Saturday, March 24, kicks off the Mentored Youth Trout Days whereby youngsters under age 16 can join a mentor (adult) with a valid fishing license and trout stamp to fish stocked waters within 18 southeastern regional counties before the opening of trout season. This opportunity gives the kids a chance to catch a trout before the crush of anglers on opening day, March 31 in 18 southeastern counties of Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York.
Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs?
Yeah, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are talking about playoffs. After a shootout loss in Hartford Friday night, Lehigh Valley welcomed Providence to town Saturday night. The Bruins stand third in the Atlantic Division and would seem to have a pretty good grip on a playoff spot, but certainly don’t want to make any assumptions.
Lehigh senior Darian Cruz enjoyed the limelight of being a national champion last year, but got treated the harsh reality of competing in a tough weight class at last weekend’s NCAA Division-I wrestling championships.
Cruz took fifth at 125-pounds during the tournament held at Quicken Loan Arenas in Cleveland, finishing his Lehigh career with a 120-20 record.
After losing 2-0 to Rutgers’ Nick Suriano in the semifinals, Parkland graduate and Minnesota wrestler Ethan Lizak gave him his second loss of the tournament with a 5-2 defeat in the consolation semifinals.
The year was 2006, the last time the Roughies qualified for the PIAA state tournament.
It also is one of the more memorable years in the annals of Catasauqua boys’ basketball, one that resulted in a stellar and eventful 27-4 season.
The ride was a short one, but it was filled with memories that easily have withstood the test of time and don’t show any sense of withering away in the near future.