Freeman leads NW over Cougars
ARCHBALD - Emma Freeman had been close before.
The Northwestern freshman wouldn’t be denied on Monday.
Neither would her Tiger teammates.
Freeman’s go-ahead home run in the top of the fourth inning lifted Northwestern past Valley View for a 3-2 win in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A tournament.
“I haven’t ever hit a home run before,” Freeman said. “I’ve gotten robbed a couple times this year; they made good plays. But I came up big there and I was able to put one out. And it felt really good considering it was the first one of my career.”
It also came one inning after the Cougars (21-2) had erased Northwestern’s 2-0 lead.
But the Tigers (21-4) never flinched, and Freeman gave her squad the lead with one out in the top of the next inning on a blast to left field.
“They got two runs early, which made it tough,” said Valley View mentor EJ Weston. “But we battled back, and the home run was the difference. You have to give her credit, she pitched a good game and she helped herself out.
“And considering the wind is blowing in from left field, I thought it was going to be a pop fly to left field, and the ball just kept on carrying. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. And kudos to them; I wish them nothing but the best.”
After being retired in order in the fourth and fifth innings, Valley View threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Natalie Borosky lined a one-out single to center field and Taylor Cawley reached safely as pinch runner Kayleigh Fenton advanced to second.
But Freeman came back with a strikeout, before retiring Riley Cunningham on a fly ball to left on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, with Sage Toman battling the swirling winds, to make the catch and end the threat.
Toman also recorded the first out of the seventh inning, flying into foul territory to make a nice running catch. Freeman got a strikeout for the second out, before a pop up to shortstop Izzy Akelaitis produced the final out.
“My defense played really well,” said Freeman, who didn’t walk a batter. “Sage (Toman) had some great catches out there. She had some where she almost ran into the fence; she was going for everything. The wind even took her, and she was still able to make the plays. Everybody in the field was able to make fantastic plays behind me.”
Northwestern was aggressive at the plate early, and it paid of in the second inning as Abby Dunstan singled on the first pitch she saw. Freeman followed with a hit, allowing Summer Hammack, running for Dunstan, to move to third.
A ball off the bat of Josephine Wehr set the runners in motion, and Hammack managed to escape a rundown to score the first run. The play also allowed Wehr to reach second, and courtesy runner Elizabeth Diehl to move to third. No. 9 hitter Quinn Conrey followed with a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to plate Diehl and make it 2-0.
“We were super aggressive,” said Northwestern mentor Josh Zimmerman. “We kind of got away from that a little bit ... girls were pressing a little bit in those two championship games (Colonial League and District 11). I thought for us to be able to come out today and just start swinging right away (was important).
“As a coach, sometimes you’re like, ‘Ah man, they’re a couple quick three-, four-pitch innings.’ But at the same time, I love their aggressive approach. If they got the pitch that they wanted, they were ready to hit it and we were able to put the ball in play and scratch a couple runs across there.”
... The District 11 runner-up Tigers will now face District 12 champion Archbishop Ryan (15-3) - a 10-9 winner over Villa Maria Academy - on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
... Freeman and Dunstan, who is also a freshman, have developed a great chemistry in the circle and behind the plate. “Abby and I have worked really well together,” said Freeman. “Sage caught in the beginning part of the year, and Abby came in and she does a really great job back there calling my pitches, and we’re able to work as a dynamic duo.”
... Valley View suffered just one setback this spring – 6-5 to Abington Heights on May 6 – en route to the District 2 championship.
Northwestern 020 100 0 - 3 5 0
Valley View 002 000 0 - 2 6 1
Freeman and Dunstan; Cawley and A. Stafursky. W - Freeman. L - Cawley. HR: Freeman (4th, none on).