When a nearly baseball marathon between Northwestern and Tamaqua ended Thursday afternoon, the 40 runs and 36 hits combined on the scoreboard at Northwestern's field wasn't an April Fool's Day joke.
Instead, it was indicative of how both teams will likely excel with their hitting and work to improve their pitching this season.
In a contest marred by 10-run turnarounds by both teams, Northwestern outslugged Tamaqua, 25-15. Both teams evened their records at 1-1.
After finding themselves down 13-3 heading into the bottom of the third against Tamaqua, Northwestern rallied for nine runs to narrow the gap to 13-12.
From there, the Tigers decided to walk softly and carry a big stick the rest of the way as they outscored Tamaqua 10-3 over the next two innings. Nick Boyd's bases-loaded walk shortened the contest with the 10-run rule at 25-15 in the bottom of the fifth and had both sides home pondering their priorities.
"Everybody loved to hit today, but it was a matter of pitching," said Tamaqua head coach Jeff Reading. "[Northwstern's] pitching was able to come through and slow us down a little bit. Our pitching didn't.
"We had a bunch of walks and hit batsmen, and put that in with the way they hit, there will be runs."
Tamaqua starter Ryan Palsgrove, a right-handed junior, saw his first action of the spring as he battled through the first 2 innings, yielding 12 runs. Palsgrove was pulled for fellow junior right-hander Trevor Reinhardt, who was saddled with the loss. Senior left-hander Jordan Heisler came on in the fourth and finished the game.
In all, Tamaqua pitchers walked 13 and hit two batters.
"That was (Palsgrove's) first outing and we wanted to see what we could get out of him," said Reading. "We wanted to see the other guys throw too, and see where we are. We're a young team.
"We didn't get a chance to work on a lot of defensive drills during the week because of the weather and we basically concentrated on our hitting. We did score 15 runs and 15 hits. In our first game, we had five hits."
In the early going, Tamaqua's bats were smoking as Eric James drilled a line drive just inside the foul pole and over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead off Northwestern starter lefty B.J. Schantz. Two innings and seven runs later, Tamaqua chased Schantz from the game, and the Blue Raiders' Mike Streisel greeted reliever Steve Rasmussen with a grand slam on a 3-2 pitch.
From there, however, it was Northwestern's turn to put double-digits on the scoreboard paced by Adam Wehr and Colton Breininger, who had four hits apiece and combined for nine RBI in the onslaught after both were hitless in the opener. Senior lefthander Nate Kester began the fourth inning for the Tigers and issued two runs and four hits with three strikeouts over the two innings.
"We were hitting the ball hard today," said Wehr, who had four RBI. "From top to bottom, it was a great team effort. We don't quit. When we were down 13-3, we didn't pack it in."
"Quit shouldn't be in our dictionary," said Breininger, who had five RBI. "We just keep picking each other up. Singles, not always homeruns, can win baseball games. Today, I was just in the zone. We have been working on lot on hitting and 25 runs isn't something you see from many teams."
Head coach Len Smith wasn't overly surprised with the offensive output, but he was concerned with his team's pitching effort.
"We know we can hit the ball, but we have to get better pitching," Smith said. "We have to be more consistent on the mound and have good defense as well. That was our Achilles Heel last year in which we could score a lot of runs but also give up a lot, too. We have talked about this since day one.
"We were down against Blue Mountain and didn't win. Here we were down 13-3 and I didn't know what was going to happen next. But these kids play hard and it was a good effort. We feel our pitchers will get better as the season goes on. We wanted to get (Nate) Kester some innings and he settled them (Tamaqua) down over the last two innings.
"We haven't had games because of the bad weather, but we still have to work on settling our pitching. The ability is here and we have to put everything together."
Tamaqua 526 02 - 15 15 4
Northwestern 309 85 - 25 18 1
Palsgrove, Reinhardt (3), Heisler (4) and James; Schantz, Rasmussen (3), Kester (4) and Boyd. W - Kester (1-0) LP - Reinhardt (0-1). HR - T: James (1st, one on); Streisel (1st, three on).