"This was a big win for us," Northwestern head coach Len Smith said Tuesday.
Big games require players to step up and make key plays at the right time and with their playoff hopes on the line, the Northwestern Tiger baseball team got just that.
Mitchell Snyder put together a solid pitching performance and a key hit by Andrew Rivera sparked the Tigers to an 8-6 win over host Palmerton to qualify for the District 11 AAA playoffs.
In the fourth inning the Tigers (10-8, 8-7) pushed an early lead to 4-1 with Peyton Bachman's second RBI of the game. With Bachman and Thomas Hudak on the bases, Rivera delivered a two-run single to open the lead to 6-1.
"I was just looking to get a good pitch and put the bat on the ball," Rivera said.
"Andrew played steady all year long," said Smith, in his 29th year as the Tigers' coach. "He's capitalized on his speed, played steady in the field, and come up with clutch hits for us. He had an outstanding season."
That lead provided the breathing room needed for Northwestern to fend off a scrappy Blue Bomber club that just would not quit.
After having pitched three straight scoreless innings and with a five run lead, Snyder surrendered a leadoff walk and later walked the bases loaded. Tyler Svetik's two run single started the Blue Bomber rally. Mike Horvath followed with a two-run single of his own to cut the lead to 6-5.
"They've been doing that all year. You gotta give them credit, they don't give up and that's the nice thing about this group." Palmerton coach Tom Smelas said.
A pair of insurance runs in the final two innings provided the difference as Snyder was able to close out the complete game win.
"I basically had to throw strikes and try to work ahead [in the count]," Snyder said.
"Mitchell was in control for all but one inning," Coach Smith said. "He made some mistakes and he realizes that. He gives us great effort out there. He wanted to finish the game and my hat is off for him doing that."
Nerves may have been to blame to start the game as Snyder surrendered three straight hits to start the game. Palmerton's Christian Marcin would drive in the only run in an inning that could have been much more.
Northwestern's defense supported Snyder at key moments during most of the game and in the first inning. Leftfielder Tim Schaeffer fielded Tanner Gutekunst's single and gunned down Aaron Cook gunned down Aaron Cook at third base.
The infield of Matt Maher (1B), Rivera (2B), Talon Williams (SS) and Ty Cunningham (3B) was tested each inning and scooped up ground balls with only two errors that led to just one run.
"The [defense] helped out a lot by getting to the balls and getting the baserunners out," Snyder said.
The Bombers committed four errors were just a few plays away from winning this game.
An error aided Northwestern's first inning run, a wild pitch in the second opened the door for another run, and errors on back-to-back plays with one out secured three unearned runs for the Tigers in the fourth inning.
"They scored eight runs and maybe two of them were earned," Smelas said. "You just can't do that in high school baseball."
Palmerton starter Ty Svetik pitched a solid game in changing speeds and keeping Northwestern guessing as the junior righty struck out seven in taking the loss that dropped Palmerton to 3-13 on the season.
"Svetik pitched a heck of a game." Smelas said. "He did what he needed to do in getting ground balls and we just came up short [fielding them]."
Northwestern 120 301 1 – 8 6 2
Palmerton 100 040 1 – 6 9 4
Snyder and White; Svetik and Kuntz. W – Snyder. L – Svetik.