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Wilson holds off late Northwestern rally

CENTER VALLEY — Northwestern had Wilson cornered in each of the first two innings of the Colonial League championship game and let them slip away both times.

In the end, it was the Warriors who cornered the Tigers and hung on to win the war and with it, the Colonial League championship.

Wilson snapped a scoreless game in the sixth and went on to beat Northwestern 3-2 on Thursday at DeSales University.

Northwestern stranded five runners in the first two innings against Wilson’s Shaun Danielson, who struggled with his command and gave up two hits to go with three walks and a wild pitch — throwing 41 pitches in the first two innings. Because of a 105-pitch limit, the sophomore left-hander looked like he wasn’t going to be able to last deep into the game. But things can change quickly.

“They didn’t have their ace today and I figured if we could start fast, we would be able to get into him pretty good, but they wiggled out,” said Northwestern coach Brian Polaha. “That was a big deal because he (Danielson) settled in and started throwing more strikes, and we played our worst game of the season offensively.”

Danielson did settle in and retired 14 of 17 hitters to get him into the seventh inning at 95 pitches.

Senior Josh Lichman got the start for Northwestern and was locked in from the start. After retiring the first two hitters, Lichman surrendered a single and then hit the next batter to put two runners on but went on to retire the next 13 hitters to get him through five innings on just 44 pitches.

Wilson finally ended the scoreless deadlock in the top of the sixth.

Angelo DiBiagio hit a sharp grounder to third that was fielded nicely by Bobby Croneberger, but his throw across the diamond sailed to the home plate side of first leading to a collision between DiBiagio and first baseman Watson Church, causing the ball to pop out of Church’s glove. Zakary Kardos then singled before a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Andrew Sagrestano grounded to second with the infield in, but the throw home was off the mark allowing a run to score. Gunner Scheetz then grounded a single to right to give Wilson a 2-0 edge.

“They didn’t really hit Josh that hard in that inning. The collision knocked the ball out at first and they got the little seeing-eye single and we didn’t execute on the play with the infield in. That inning could have gone very differently for us.” said Polaha.

Josh Farber walked to lead off the Tigers’ sixth inning and was sacrificed to second, but Danielson then got a pair of pop-ups to leave the runner stranded.

Wilson gave itself a little more breathing room in the seventh when Kardos doubled off the wall in left field to bring in DiBiagio.

“There were two bad feelings that I had in this game,” explained Polaha. “When we didn’t score in the first, I thought that was our chance to establish this game, and then that third run in the seventh inning.”

The Tigers are known for come-from-behind wins and when Dynda walked to open the seventh, the Northwestern faithful were convinced this was just going to be another walk-off win and a league championship. Having reached the 100-pitch mark, Danielson exited in favor of senior Hunter Stasak, and Eli Zimmerman greeted him with a single to left center. Northwestern then pulled off a double steal to put two runners in scoring position, but Stasak settled in to get a pair of infield pop-ups. As Stasak looked ready to close out the win, Croneberger came to the plate and grounded a ball to short that bounced off the glove of Kardos, allowing both Dynda and Zimmerman to score and make it a 3-2 game.

Just as quickly as Stasak had appeared to pitch himself out of trouble, he was back in trouble when he hit Josh Farber with a pitch and then gave up an infield single to Justin Augustus to load the bases. But Stasak was able to get a ground out to finish off the Tigers and give Wilsonits first Colonial League championship since 2008.

“I think we’ll respond well and be ready to go in districts. It’s going to hurt on the bus ride home, and it was pretty emotional there because they really wanted this. It just stinks because we had a fantastic season and this was one of our goals — and we fell short,” said Polaha. “It stings right now, but I’ll make sure we get back. We have a lot of high-character guys, and we’ll come back in districts.”

BOUNCING BACK … The District 11 playoffs begin next week, and Northwestern will be the top seed in the 3A bracket. The Tigers will host the winner of Monday’s game between Saucon Valley and Executive Leadership Academy on Tuesday in a quarterfinal matchup.

WIN NOW … The Wilson starting lineup has seven seniors, a junior, and a sophomore giving it reason to believe this is its year to win. The Warriors are in the 4A bracket in districts and therefore won’t be facing Northwestern.

Wilson 000 002 1 - 3 6 2

Northwestern 000 000 2 - 2 5 0

Danielson, Stasak (7) and Partridge; Lichman and Augustus. W - Danielson. L - Lichman. S - Stasak.

Northwestern first baseman Watson Church prepares to takes a throw. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS