SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP - When a blast from Dylan Bolton soared over the left field fence for a three-run home run with no outs in the seventh inning, Northern Lehigh's baseball team and season had new life.
But it turned out to be too little too late for the Dawgs after allowing 11 runs all with two outs to Salisbury in the District 11 Class AA semfinals.
The game took two days to complete after it was suspended in the top of the fifth with the Falcons leading 9-3.
Northern Lehigh won the final three innings, completed Friday night at Parkland High School, but the Bulldogs couldn't score enough to overcome the six-run hole they dug themselves Thursday.
"It was unfortunate that we didn't play our game [Thursday] like we did [Friday]," Northern Lehigh head coach Erv Prutzman said. "These kids are gritty and they're tough and they never give up. They're never intimidated. It wasn't hard at all to come back [Friday], because I knew they would."
The Falcons benefitted from hot bats that knocked out Northern Lehigh ace Jake Kern in the second inning after allowing six runs. Salisbury led 7-0 after two innings and kept scoring, tacking on runs in each inning and building their 9-3 lead before lightning and storms forced the game to be delayed.
It took some time for the Bulldogs to get going on Friday, getting only a Chad Mazepa single through the fifth and sixth innings.
But after allowing two more runs with two outs to give Salisbury an 11-3 lead, the bats came alive.
Matt Gill led off the frame with a double in the gap in right and moved to third on a single by Marcus Kremposky. Nick Heyer drove in Gill with a single and then Bolton provided a big shot in the arm with a three-run home run to cut the deficit to 11-7 with no outs.
"I knew somewhere along the line in this game, they were going to make a run at us," Salisbury coach Mike Pochron said. "They have too many good athletes and too many good hitters. They waited till the seventh till it came and I thought, 'How are we going to weather it?'"
Pochron's answer was to turn back to his ace Zach Harper.
Harper, who started the game but was pulled in the third in favor of Nick Ampietro, didn't exactly slam the door shut. The Philadelphia University-bound senior issued a walk to Zach Palansky and a one-out single to Mazepa to give Northern Lehigh runners on first and third. But he beared down to get Trevor Yashur to fly out to center and then Kern to line out to third baseman Ryan Utsch, who made a shoe string catch to end the game.
"We just gave up too many early [Thursday] night," Prutzman said. "That wasn't our typical game, we haven't done that all year. We just picked the wrong time to do it."
Despite not winning a league or District 11 title, this year's team will still rank among one of the best in school history. The Bulldogs finished at 17-5 on the year, going 16-3 in the regular season. That included a perfect 10-0 mark at home, something Prutzman thinks has never been accomplished.
The team says goodbye to seniors Bolton, Gill, Heyer, Kern, Kremposky, Mazepa, Palansky and Eric Snyder - a core group that has been playing since they were sophomores.
"It was a great group of guys," Prutzman said. "We're losing our whole infield, our left fielder and our top four pitchers. It was definitely a veteran team."
Salisbury 251 100 2 - 11 14 2
N. Lehigh 012 000 4 - 7 12 2
Harper, Ampietro (3), Harper (7) and Kulig; Kern, Gill (2) and Bender. W - Ampietro. L - Harper. HR: NL - Bolton (7th, two on).