Northwestern pitcher Mitchell Snyder isn't sure what his previous career high was for strike outs in a single game. But he's sure that it wasn't anywhere close to the 13 Lehighton batters he fanned in Saturday 6-1 win.
"Maybe six or seven," he said when asked about his previous best. "I worked ahead in the count and kept the ball low."
After the Tigers grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first inning, Snyder was only in trouble twice. Both times he got out of it at least in part with strike outs.
Lehighton's first batter of the game, Steven Shanton, reached base after a dropped third strike. Shanton got to third on a wild pitch and another dropped third strike. But Snyder fanned another batter for the second out and got the third out on a pop up. The three first-inning strike outs were a sign of what was to come Saturday afternoon in Lehighton.
Trailing 6-1 in the sixth inning, Lehighton used three singles to load the bases with one out. Snyder struck out the next two batters on three pitches each.
"We had a couple great at bats to start out that inning," said Indian head coach Brian Polaha. "We got bases loaded and one out with our line up turned over. Six pitches later that was it. With the exception of one breaking ball in the dirt, he came right at us. You've got to give him credit."
Snyder allowed nine hits, but with 13 outs coming by strike out, he kept the pressure off Northwestern's defense. He didn't walk a batter while throwing 119 pitches over seven innings.
"He has the potential to give you a good outing every time he goes to the mound," said Northwestern head coach Len Smith. "I can't remember that many strike outs in a ball game in a long time. That's what happens when you can spot your fastball and throw your breaking pitch for strikes."
Snyder went right at Lehighton's hitters. The movement on his fastball allowed him to get ahead in the count and finish off hitters with the curve ball.
"I don't think since I've been here I've seen our guys swing through so many pitches that were strikes," Polaha said. "It seemed like he was coming right after us and we were swinging and missing a lot."
Snyder had a lead before he ever took the mound.
Lehighton starter Parker David walked three of the game's first five batters. The Indians were down 1-0 when Matt Maher stepped into the batters box with two outs and runners on first and second base. Maher took the seventh pitch of his at bat over the left first fence for his first career varsity home run, which gave his team a 4-0 lead.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play, maybe get a gapper so I could score the guy from second," said the senior first baseman. "I worked the count to full and I was choked up thinking I just wanted to put the ball in play. The pitch was there. I took a nice easy swing and it went."
Lehighton got its run in the third inning. Jacen Nalesnik doubled and scored on an error with two outs.
The Indians's got eight of their nine hits from the bottom half of the batting order. Andrew Wenrich, Josh Kern and Billy Angst each had two hits. Angst's hits were both well-executed bunt singles.
The Tigers tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning. Snyder singled to start the inning and pinch runner Dan Hunsberger scored on Payton Bachman's single. Bachman then came in on Tyler Bartholomew's double for a 6-1 lead.
Bartholomew went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles. Teammate Nick Rodriguez also had two hits.
The Tigers (10-4 overall, 9-4 Colonial League) were coming off losses to Palisades and Salisbury that put their league playoff hopes in jeopardy. Lehighton (10-3, 4-2 Mountain Valley Conference) was the top team in last week's District 11 Class AAA baseball rankings and Northwestern was just behind in second place. The rankings could easily shift over the season's final few weeks, but these two teams could collide again in the postseason.
Northwestern 400 002 0 - 6 8 3
Lehighton 001 000 0 - 1 9 2
Snyder and Breidinger; David, Rossino (4), Farano (6) and Nalesnik. W - Snyder. L - Rossino. HR - Maher (first inning, two on).