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Bombers edge NW in 10 innings

It’s become quite a rivalry.

Over the past few seasons, Palmerton and Northwestern have hooked up in some classic games, and Thursday’s contest in New Tripoli was no different.

The two teams, who went nine innings the first time they met this year, needed 10 frames to decide a winner the second time around.

The Blue Bombers, who dropped that first contest at home, pushed across a run in a rather unorthodox way in the top of the 10th to gain a crucial 1-0 Colonial League victory.

The win gives Palmerton (15-1; 12-1) the upper hand to claim the league’s West Division title and a bye in the upcoming playoffs. The Bombers do have two key games left with Northern Lehigh.

Madison Green - Palmerton’s automatic or “ghost” runner on second to start the 10th - was nearly picked off when Northwestern (16-3; 13-2) had its center fielder race in and the catcher throw to the base. Green, however, broke for third and beat the play there to put the Bombers in good position.

Grace Schneider followed with a safety squeeze that plated Green with what proved to be the game’s only run.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to make it happen,” said Palmerton head coach Bob Hock of the winning run. “We wanted to bunt (Green) to third, but she’s a smart runner, and she made it happen. She’s got good speed.”

The Bombers hoped for an insurance run in the frame after Hailey Delgado also reached on a bunt, but on another laydown, Sydney Frantz was called out for the ball hitting her in front of the plate. Tigers pitcher Emma Freeman got out of the jam by getting a ground out.

Northwestern had its chance in the home 10th as Ella Bressi started the inning on second. Palmerton hurler Carly Gaffney induced a pop-up for the first out before Sage Toman sent a sinking liner to center. Frantz came in and went to her knees to make an impressive catch, while Bressi tagged up and moved to third.

Gaffney bore down and got a grounder to second to end the game and set off a Bomber celebration.

“Good pitchers shut down rallies,” said Hock about his senior pitcher.

“We got some good swings, but if you keep the pressure on, you hope that eventually you (score).”

Palmerton ended with a 7-3 edge in hits, although the Tigers did have plenty of baserunners thanks to Gaffney uncharacteristically walking seven.

“We left a lot of runners on base, which was disappointing,” said Northwestern mentor Kate Farber.

In the end, it was the pitchers who dominated until Palmerton pushed across its only run.

Gaffney, who struck out 10, never seemed to be in trouble despite the free passes. She finished with a hefty pitch count of 155, including 100 for strikes. Freeman, the hard-luck loser, was at the top of her game. She threw 100 pitches, 75 of them strikes.

“We just love the competition,” said Hock. “They’re a very good team. We love the battle, and today was just our day.”

The Bombers nearly got on the board early in the game when Hailey Barry doubled in the first and reached third with one out. Freeman, however, fielded a pair of comebackers to keep Palmerton off the board.

Later in the contest, Delgado and Frantz had back-to-back singles, but Freeman shut the door again. In the ninth, Megan Matsko singled and the visitors eventually got a runner into scoring position. Freeman, however, answered the bell to keep the contest scoreless.

Northwestern’s best scoring opportunity came in the second when Abby Dunstan singled and Freeman walked. Both runners advanced on an error, but Gaffney found her groove and struck out two batters followed by a ground out to end the threat.

The Tigers also got two runners on in the fourth via walks, but Gaffney worked out of trouble again.

DANDY PLAYS … Both sides threw leather at the opposition. Besides Frantz’s catch in center, Palmerton third baseman Matsko had her share of good defensive plays, but one of the best came against Northwestern leadoff batter Rylee McGinley. The Tiger batter faked a bunt before taking a swing and lining a shot at Matsko, who gloved it for an outstanding play.

LIMITED OFFENSE ... Dunstan, Freeman and Lily Kinnon had Northwestern’s three hits. Frantz and Delgado had two each for the Bombers.

RIVALRY ... The Tigers won the first contest this year, 5-4 in nine innings. Last season, Northwestern won both regular season matchups before Palmerton gained revenge by downing the Tigers in the league title game.

Palmerton 000 000 000 1 - 1 7 1

N’western 000 000 000 0 - 0 3 1

Gaffney and Delgado; Freeman and Dunston. W - Gaffney. L - Freeman.

Palmerton's Madison Green gets ready to tag Lily Kinnon of Northwestern on a bang-bang play at second base. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Palmerton players celebrate after defeating Northwestern 1-0 in 10 innings on Thursday. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS