Varsity baseball honors: Parkland’s Blake Barthol and Southern Lehigh’s Matt Tankred are The Morning Call’s all-area offensive players of the year
Greatness comes in all varying shapes, sizes and personalities.
Blake Barthol and Matt Tankred look nothing alike and have a different presence about them.
Parkland product Barthol is shorter, stockier, and is all business. He admits he’s not the rah-rah type and is someone who approaches each at-bat, each pitch on the mound and each play in the field with the seriousness of a surgeon.
Southern Lehigh’s tall and lanky Matt Tankred is a bit more gregarious, a little more talkative and expressive, the type who could make teammates laugh with just a comment or gesture.
But despite their differences, they share the two most important things a coach could want — the desire to play baseball and the ability to play it at a high level.
Barthol and Tankred both had monster senior seasons and put up phenomenal numbers in becoming The Morning Call’s co-offensive players of the year.
The Coastal Carolina-bound Barthol batted .588 with 26 runs, 18 RBIs, 15 walks and was hit by two pitches. Of his 40 hits, 19 were for extra bases, including three home runs. He had a .671 on-base percentage, a .955 slugging mark, went 11-for-11 on stolen base attempts and struck out just five times in 85 plate appearances while playing stellar defense at shortstop.
The East Stroudsburg University-bound Tankred hit .537 with 22 extra-base hits, including four home runs. He had 51 RBIs, 40 runs scored, a .606 on-base percentage and a .951 slugging mark. As a pitcher, he was 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 42⅓ innings and tossed two no-hitters, including one each against eventual district champs Saucon Valley and Palmerton. He was instrumental in the Spartans winning both the Colonial League and District 11 5A championships.
A closer look at both special players:
“Blake is such a good player; one of the best that’s come through in my time at Parkland,” Trojans coach Kurt Weber said. “It’s a shame he lost his sophomore year to COVID because he probably would have re-written most of the offensive record book.”
Weber remembers Barthol getting immediate respect as a freshman.
“That year in the district semis, I remember Liberty intentionally walking him as the No. 2 hitter to get to our No. 3 hitter and he went through all three years with people trying to limit what he could do to them,” Weber said. “Some teams wouldn’t pitch to him unless the game was out of hand, so all of his numbers were accomplished with restrictions.”
But more than being an extraordinary batter, fielder and pitcher who had three saves and 0.52 ERA with 24 strikeouts and two walks in 13⅓ innings, Barthol set an example with his demeanor and approach to the game.
Weber relayed a few stories about how humble he was.
He said last fall Barthol became friends with a freshman in class and they talked about going to the team’s fall workouts. Barthol never told the freshman much about himself.
“They went to the first workout and the freshman was surprised to learn about Barthol’s ability and told him ‘You didn’t tell me you were the best player in the school,’ but that’s Blake,” Weber said. “The freshman, who will be a good player himself down the road, was just talking baseball and didn’t realize he was talking to someone as good as Blake.”
There was another story late in the spring about chatter in the training room.
“A lot of our lacrosse players were in there getting taped up and they said ‘Hey, did you hear we have a Division I baseball player?’ and Blake was in the trainer’s room and just sat there and didn’t say a word,” Weber said. “Finally, the trainer pointed to Blake and told the other kids ‘that’s him right there.’ He just went about his business and became the best player he could be.”
Barthol’s father, who has the same first name, spent nine seasons in professional baseball, including three at the Triple-A level in the Pacific Coast League with Seattle and Pittsburgh affiliates.
“From my father I learned that you can’t be perfect, but you can always try to be perfect,” he said. “This is a game of failure, so it’s important to keep your head up and keep pushing and keep grinding.”
Barthol took pride in being a well-rounded player.
“You try to be the best you can possibly be at a young age,” he said. “Later on, you can focus on one thing.”
Weber said that largely because of injuries, Barthol never got to have a championship medal draped around his neck. In 2019, Northampton won the league and Liberty won districts. After there was no titles decided in 2020 except for a summer tournament won by Emmaus, the Green Hornets also won the league and district titles in 2021. This year, Emmaus took the EPC crown and Liberty won districts.
“We had all kinds of significant injuries that hurt both last year and this year,” Weber said. “Blake never complained. He never said ‘I can’t believe this is going on.’ He just kept playing and took on more responsibility. He tried to will the team to wins and we were one run from a district title against Emmaus and this year we got beat by one run in the semis by Liberty, the eventual state runner-up. Blake didn’t get a gold medal but he certainly played well enough to deserve one. We were never healthy enough to give it our best shot.”
Barthol had looked forward to playing one last season with his brother, Bo, but Bo went down with a dislocated knee in a 2-1, 12-inning loss to Liberty on April 20.
Still, he tried to take it all in.
“I will miss playing with my brother,” he said. “I still tried to take everything in because I realized it was my last year of high school ball and you can never go back. I tried to embrace every pitch, every at-bat.”
Asked what he’d like to be remembered for, he said: “I was just a good kid, who respected the game and played my hardest every game. I’m a quiet leader. I’m not a rah-rah guy. It’s not who I am. I just play the game and play it hard.”
Tankred has been a fixture on the basketball and baseball teams at Southern Lehigh throughout his career and at 6-foot-5, he always had the physical gifts to be a success.
But Spartans coach Todd Miller is most pleased with his progression from a maturity standpoint.
“How he improved his approach at practices and in games is probably what I am most proud of,” Miller said. “He put up numbers this year that are just ridiculous. People will say we play in the Colonial League and we don’t face the best pitching and there’s some truth in that, but he rolled through the playoffs and put up the same numbers he did all year and he was the most consistent guy we had.”
Miller said that Tankred is a free spirit and an interesting character, but loves to compete.
“He wants to do well and this year, he took what our hitting coaches had to say and ran with it,” Miller said. “He was all business when it mattered most. From having had our team scrimmage against Parkland and watching them play on TV, I know Blake Barthol is all business all the time. You would expect that coming from a baseball family. Matt has a different background and he just likes playing.”
Tankred said he is proud of being a key cog in the only area team to win both league and district titles.
“I’m happy the season turned out the way it did, especially for my senior year,” he said. “It was a great way to go. It was kind of humbling to come here as a freshman and throughout the years I’ve worked hard and got my stuff together. Now, I’m excited to go to college and play ball.”
Southern Lehigh finished 21-4 and had a lot of talented pieces around Tankred.
“Luke Lea had a good year helping the team and a shoutout to my catcher Will Woodring, who hit above .500 and helped us win chips,” he said. “We had a great group of guys and we had a fun team.”
Tankred said it’s not easy playing two sports in high school because one season going long slows down preparation for the next one, yet somehow, he was able to flourish in both sports.
“It was a grind, but it was worth it,” Tankred said. “I love playing sports. I love representing Southern Lehigh. It was a different experience, quite surreal.”
Asked what he’d like to be remembered for, Tankred said: “My competitive spirit and my willingness to win. We did what we had to do to make everything work out. I tried to stay humble, and I am proud of our accomplishments and what we did.”
Miller believes more achievements could be on the way for Tankred.
“The next level will be a challenge for him and how bad he wants it will determine how well he does up at East Stroudsburg,” Miller said. “He’s a phenomenal kid who can differentiate all the stuff going on around him. Like any kid, it can go one way or the other with Matt, but his upside is ahead of him and obviously, I hope for the best for him.”
PAST PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2021: J.D. Greeley, Pocono Mt. West
2019: Steven Luke, Notre Dame-Green Pond
2018: Alec Huertas, Freedom
2017: Jared Burcin, Liberty
2016: Carson Freeman, Bangor
2015: Chris Rabasco, Parkland
2014: Gabe Mosser, Parkland
2013: Justin Aungst, Salisbury
2012: Dan Shepherd, Nazareth
2011: Mike Garzillo, Nazareth
2010: Justin Pacchioli, Easton
2009: Brian Ernst, Salisbury
2008: Cory Kent, Wilson
2007: Logan Marshall, Notre Dame-GP
2006: Rob Schubach, So. Lehigh
2005: Steve Gable, Emmaus
2004: J.T. Brotosky, Liberty
2003: Garrison Rausch, Parkland
2002: Matt Allen, Wilson
2001: Justin Kashner, Pleasant Valley
2000: Mike Mihalik, Parkland
1999: Scott Garcsar, Freedom
1998: Josh Perich, Northwestern
1997: Tim Superka, Catasauqua
We rely on the support of our subscribers to fund our journalism. If you’re not already signed up, we hope you will consider subscribing . Already a print subscriber? If you haven’t already, please activate your digital access .