Tiger offense roughs up Indians
bob ford/times news Northwestern's Andrew Rivera rounds third base and heads home as Lehighton third baseman Alex Storm (right) waits for his teammates to get the ball back to the infield.
The top of your lineup is supposed to produce runs.
But what Northwestern's first four hitters did in Tuesday's District 11 Class AAA quarterfinal game at Lehighton goes beyond normal expectations.
The combination of Payton Bachman, Andrew Rivera, Ty Cunningham and Sawyer Smith collectively went 13-for-20 at the plate and knocked in nine runs.
That kind of offensive power propelled the sixth-seeded Tigers to a 13-9 victory and a berth in Thursday's semifinal round.
"That was awesome," said winning head coach Len Smith, whose team has now won seven straight games. "You lose track of those stats while the game is going on. That group had some timely hits."
The group also started its damage right from the start as all four opened the game with singles. No. 5 hitter Matt Maher added a two-run double in the frame and seven straight Tigers (13-8) reached base en route to a six-run inning.
"Almost the whole year we'd always play from behind, especially early on in the season," said Coach Smith. "To come out and get six runs in the beginning, that's big. We had a bunch of hits in succession there. They just got good swings. They put the bat on the ball and good things happened."
Sawyer Smith, who also earned the complete game pitching win, added to the good times in the second inning when his double to right-center upped the Northwestern lead to 8-0.
"Usually one or two people do well at the plate but it seemed everybody was doing it today," said Bachman, the team's leadoff hitter who finished 3-for-5 with three RBI. "We kept scoring and scoring early on. It got a little nervous at the end, though."
Despite being a bit shell-shocked from the Tigers' fast start, third-seeded Lehighton eventually fought back.
Unfortunately for the Indians, though, whenever they would close the gap Northwestern would answer back.
Tyler Hill delivered an RBI hit and Parker David added a two-run single in the home third while Steven Shanton chased home a run with a hit in the fourth to help Lehighton trim the deficit to 9-6. But Bachman's two-run, two-out triple in the fifth pushed the lead back to five runs.
Hill came through again with his own two-run triple in the sixth to help whittle the gap to 11-9, but RBI hits from Bachman and Rivera (4-for-5, three runs) allowed the visitors to extend the advantage to four (13-9).
"I knew we weren't going to go away," said Indian mentor Brian Polaha. "We have too much heart and guts to just fold up the tents. Everytime we got a little closer, though, they tacked on one or two more.
"Give them credit. We didn't play poor defense today, they just hit the ball. They earned it. Unortunately, all four at the top were hot. It's tough to win when that happens."
Lehighton actually had one last gasp at the end, loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh and getting the tying run to the plate. Sawyer Smith, however, reared back and his 130th and last pitch of the contest was a called third strike.
"Even in JVs I threw a lot so I'm used to it," said the big right-hander. "I usually start soft and then get stronger as the game goes on. At the end, my adrenaline was pumping and that helped me a lot.
"I was hitting the corners today. I got some curveballs over but the key was hitting the corners."
Smith, who struck out six, also went 3-for-5 with four RBI while Cunningham ended 3-for-5 with two runs scored. For the Indians, who finished 12-10 and lost their final seven games, Hill had a single, double, triple and knocked in three runs.
Northwestern 620 120 2 - 13 17 2
Lehighton 014 103 0 - 9 9 2
Smith and White; Harris, David (2), Wenrich (5) and Nalesnik. W - Smith. L - Harris.