Heading into the season Northwestern head coach Len Smith thought his batting order, which includes seven first-time varsity starters, could take some time to adjust to the higher level.
It only took a couple weeks.
The Tigers pounded out 11 hits in routing Palmerton, 12-2 Friday for their second straight dozen-run game . It marked the third time in five games they have scored 12 or more runs.
"The top of the order has really come around," Smith said. "When you look at one through five, especially with some of the young kids hitting the ball, they've really improved tremendously. You're talking about kids who have never played varsity ball. That's a big step up."
Make that one through six. Taylor Breininger had his second straight big game from the six hole. The sophomore went 2-for-3 against the Bombers, reaching base four times and scoring three runs. Two days earlier he went 4-for-5 against Northern Lehigh.
"I've become a lot more relaxed," said Breininger. "I'm not worried about needing to get a hit. I get up there, clear my mind and focus on what I'm trying to do."
The Tigers (4-1 overall, 2-1 Colonial League) took advantage of eight Palmerton miscues in the game while playing solid defense behind starter Rich Perry. The senior threw all six innings, allowing just four hits while striking out three and walking two.
"He keeps us in the ball game and he gives us a chance," said Smith. "He doesn't really get involved in a big inning."
"I threw pretty good," said Perry. "If you have your head in the game and you have your teammates behind you, all you have to do is rely on them. If you rely on them you'll be golden."
Northwestern pulled ahead 1-0 on a Collin Breidinger (2-for-3) double in the first inning. They got three more in the third, two on Palmerton errors. Breininger started the inning with a single. Boston Furjanic and Nick Rodriguez added a single and double, respectively, in between the Bomber errors.
Breidinger led off the third inning with his second hit of the game. Breininger drove in one run with his one-out triple. The Tigers got another run on a Palmerton error for a 6-0 lead after three innings.
"The errors need to be addressed," said Bomber head coach Mike Svetik. "We did it against Bangor on Tuesday and we did it today. You shore up the errors early and it's a game. Northwestern played a great game. They know how to hit and they field the ball. We had one or two errors and our heads went down."
The Bombers (3-2 overall, 1-2 Colonial League) got on the board in the fourth when two runs scored on Garrett Krome's no-out double. Perry responded by retiring the last nine batters of the game in order.
The Tigers used four walks, two errors and one hit to score four more runs and take an 11-2 lead in the fifth inning.
A walk, a Brandon Eden single and an error loaded the bases in the sixth. Freshman Brady Mengel walked to earn the game-winning RBI with no outs.
Furjanic (2 for 2) and Perry (2 for 3) also had multiple hits in the game.
The Tigers have won four straight games since losing their opener, 3-2 to Pen Argyl. They have just two seniors and one junior in their starting line up.
"I'm very pleased with where we're at at this point in the season," said Smith. "I'm just so pleased with the progress we have made even from the first game to know with such a young and inexperienced team."
Palmerton 000 200 – 2 4 8
Northwestern 132 051 – 12 11 1
Achtermann, Cressman (3), Borger (5), Frey (6) and Peters; Perry and Breidinger. W – Perry. L – Achtermann.