Clutch hits win baseball games.
North Schuylkill came up with big hits Tuesday and Northwestern didn't in a 5-3 extra inning district playoff loss to the Spartans.
A seventh-inning home run by Brandon McCloskey tied the game at 3-3. The senior returned to the plate to hit a one-out triple in the ninth and score the game-winning run, capping a 4-for-4 day by the team's eighth hitter in the batting order.
"He came through big," said North Schuylkill head coach Nick Brayford. "He didn't get a lot of opportunities to play last year. Before that (seventh inning) at bat I told him to go up and hit it hard. He's a great kid. I'm very happy for him."
The No. 5 seed Spartans (15-7) advance to face Blue Mountain in the District 11 Class AAA semifinals. The No. 4 seed Tigers' (13-8) season ends with the loss.
Northwestern had a golden opportunity in the eighth inning, but couldn't push across a run to win the game and extend its season.
The Tigers started the bottom of the eight with a Payton Bachman bunt single and an intentional walk to clean-up hitter Ty Cunningham.
But Spartan pitcher Austin Hornberger struck out Alex Smith, got Mitchell Snyder to fly out and struck out Rich Perry to end the threat.
"We have our two fastest kids on base and we can't move them," said Northwestern head coach Len Smith. "We didn't execute. Since the beginning of the year we didn't do some of the basic fundamentals."
In the top of the ninth, Perry came on to relieve starter Tyler Bartholomew after McCloskey's triple. Perry struck out Ian Murray, but Jake Rakowsky hit an RBI single to give his team its first lead of the game, 4-3.
Perry struck out the next batter, Chris Kovalewski, but a passed ball allowed Kovalewski to reach first and Rokowsky to score on the play for a two-run lead.
The Tigers threatened again in the ninth. Collin Breidinger walked to lead off the inning. Austin Kelly singled with one out to bring the winning run to the plate. Batholomew grounded out, moving the runners to second and third before Bachman's hard-hit ball up the middle was grabbed by Hornberger, who sprinted over to step on first base and end the game.
"That kid made a heck of a play on the ball back up the middle," Len Smith said. "If he doesn't make that play, that's going to plate two (runs). They made some plays and we didn't. They got some key hits with two outs and we didn't again, which has been our nemesis all year."
The Tigers got all three of their runs in the first inning. Bartholomew led off the bottom of the first with an infield single and scored on Bachman's single. Cunningham followed with an infield single. Perry singled to shallow left field to bring in two runs and give his team a 3-0 lead.
Hornberger settled in after the first. He didn't allow another Northwestern hit until the fifth. He pitched all nine innings and allowed nine hits in the game while striking out 12.
The Tigers end a season that started with high hopes. A team that returned most of its top hitters from last season and started the season winning eight of nine games and failed to reach league playoffs and didn't get past the first round of districts..
"It's not the way you want to end the season," said Len Smith. "We just didn't get it done."
No. Schuyl. 000 200 102 – 5 11 1
Northwestern 300 000 000 – 3 9 0
Hornberger and Anczarski; Bartholomew, Perry (9) and Breidinger. HR: NS – McCloskey (seventh, none on). W – Hornberger. L – Bartholomew.