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On This Date (April 6, 1998): Bombers rally past NW

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since May of 1999, the Times News Sports Department has featured an On This Date practically every day, highlighting an event that happened in the past. With the coronavirus putting a halt to sports locally and nationally, the On This Dates have been expanded to the stories that actually ran in the next day’s newspaper. Today’s On This Date story is from April 6, 1998).

By Ed Hedes

Times news staff

Knocking off undefeated teams has become somewhat of a habit for the Palmerton baseball team.

On Monday, the Northwestern Tigers became the second straight team to suffer its first loss of the season to the Palmerton nine, falling by a 5-4 score.

The Bombers (3-3; 3-1) took an early lead, lost it, then came from behind with two runs in the bottom of the seventh for the thrilling win. Just this past Saturday, Palmerton came from behind to hand previously unbeaten Saucon Valley its first loss by the identical 5-4 score.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to improve all the time,” said Palmerton head coach Ted Plessl, whose team has now won three straight. “We’ve been asking our kids to be aggressive and they’re starting to do that and feel comfortable and confident in themselves.

“Since Friday, we’re going with our fourth starting pitcher (today at Bangor) so with the early season postponements, this is a tough week. Then we have Catasauqua here Wednesday.”

With ace hurler Bobby Young on the mound, the Bombers showed confidence early, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Josh Westbrook hit a one-out shot that flew over the head of Tiger right fielder Josh Perich for a standup triple. Young, who has also had a hot bat of late, singled over second base to plate Westbrook for the lead.

In the top of the third, Young hung a changeup in front of Northwestern power-hitter Perich and the senior nailed a line drive over the left field fence to tie it at 1-1. It was only the second hit of the game for the Tigers, who had Perich hit a double to left-center in the first frame.

Palmerton answered right back in the bottom of the inning, however, when Westbrook and Young drew walks and moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out, freshman Travis Hand hit a shot down the third base line that Jeremy Rex was able to just get the tip of his glove on and both runners scored as Hand was safe with a single.

Rob Diefenderfer, the Tigers hurler, had a couple of easy innings after that and Young was also able to keep Northwestern in check until the sixth.

With one out, Casey Paras started a Tiger rally with a bunt single and Jarad Schellhamer followed with another single. After Young fanned pinch-hitter Ken Ralston for the second out, Josh Snyder had his first hit of the afternoon to drive in Paras. Teague Fatzinger then found the groove and laced a two-run double to left-center, scoring the tying and go-ahead run.

Young intentionally walked Perich, issued a free pass to Rex to load the bases and then got DH Donovan Reifinger to hit into a fielder’s choice. The damage was done, however, and the Tigers had a 4-3 advantage.

The Northwester lead stayed at one run entering the bottom of the seventh, as the Bombers gave it one last shot.

Jarratt Trainer, who laced a two-out triple and was left stranded in the fourth, hit a leadoff single to start it off for the Blue-and-White. Westbrook laid down a perfect bunt to send the tying run to second and Young followed with a single to plate Trainer and make it 4-4.

Matt Cardoni kept the rally alive with a single to right and the Tigers had Diefenderfer walk Hand intentionally with still one out to load the bases. Senior Ryan Rehrig the delivered the knockout blow when he punched a single to right-center to drive in the winning run.

“We came back on Friday and did it again today, even though we didn’t hang on,” said Northwestern head coach Len Smith. “They’re a good ballclub especially when Young pitches. They’re a different team when he pitches. And he pitched a good game.

“We didn’t capitalize a couple of innings when we had chances and they did. In the third, the first two guys up reached on walks and they both scored. Walks kill you and in a game like this, you can’t make those mistakes.”

Young, in getting the win, also had a big day at the plate with two hits, two RBIs and scored two runs. Trainer and Rehrig both added two hits each for the Bombers. Northwestern got two hits from Perich.

Young finished the game with nine strikeouts and five walks, three on the watchful eye of Rex. Diefenderfer took the loss, also with nine strikeouts. He walked four.

N’western 001 003 0 - 4 7 0

Palmerton 102 000 2 - 5 10 4

Diefenderfer and Leverance; Young and Westbrook. W - Young. L - Diefenderfer. HR: NW - Perich (3rd, none on).

Palmerton's Bobby Young delivers a pitch during the 1998 season. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO