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NL rolls into final

ALLENTOWN - Who said you need to bang the drum slowly?

Northern Lehigh’s hungry softball team hung a big number on the board Thursday at famed Patriot’s Park, whipping up an impressive 12-2 knockout punch on Schuylkill Haven in the semifinals of the District 11 Class 2A tournament.

As a result, the Bulldogs will be playing for a district championship and a berth in the state tournament on Tuesday when they face Williams Valley, which slid past Catasauqua 6-2 in the other semifinal,

“We have a team that can win it all,” said Bulldog winning pitcher Emma Smith. “It’s been our goal to get back to the championship after losing last year in the finals. So now we’re looking to get revenge.”

Against the Hurricanes, Northern Lehigh had a penchant for the number six, as it put up six runs in both the second and fourth innings to chase Haven home in a mercy-rule shortened game that ended after the top of the fifth.

The Bulldogs (13-9) were fueled by five hits and a pair of Hurricane errors in the home second. Kaitlyn Stock singled and Adriana Danyluk boomed an RBI triple to get things started, Kylee Snyder then hustled her way on with a bunt single before Haven committed back-to-back errors that increased the lead to 4-0. A Skyelar Horack single and a two-run double by Haylie Fenstermaker capped the outburst.

“We looked like the team that we had earlier in the season,” said Northern Lehigh head coach Dan Carsuo. “We have the ability to score nine or ten runs a game. We’re back now.”

Pounding the ball and scoring runs in bunches is a big confidence boost.

“I felt good in warm ups, I had my head on the ball,” said Danyluk, who led the team with three RBIs. “We worked on hitting all week.”

Although an early lead can put a team in a comfort zone, Danyluk and the Buldogs weren’t about to rest on their laurels.

“When you get a big lead like that, you don’t want to mess up … You have to stay focused, and that’s what we did,” Danyluk said.

Schuylkill Haven did dent the scoring column on a Gracelynn Line home run in the top of the fourth.

“I really wasn’t too worried about that (home run),” Smith said about the shot that cut the lead to 6-1. “I have a very good defense behind me, so I know that we can make plays. Really, it never bothered me.”

Northern Lehigh’s offense made sure the Smith had no reason to worry when it came storming back for another six-spot in the home-half of the inning, Once again the Bulldogs sent 10 batters to the plate. This time, they had four hits and once again benefitted from two Haven errors. Fenstermaker, Peyton Hoffman, Arabela Heintzelman and Danyluk all collected the hits.

Though Smith was touched for another run in the top of the fifth, she still felt in control.

“I was mixing up all my pitches,” Smith said. “I went to my up curve, it was my putout pitch.

ON A ROLL … The Dawgs whacked out nine hits, getting two each from Fenstermaker and Stock. Danyluk, Hoffman, Smith, Snyder and Heintzelman collected the other hits. Danyluk drove in three runs, while Stock and Fenstermaker knocked in two apiece.

IN CHARGE … Smith went the distance in the circle, registering six strikeouts and walking four.

HEADS UP … Northern Lehigh second baseman Marisa Maehrer backed up at first base on the final out of the game, fielding the muffed grounder and alertly tagged the bag.

Schuylkill Haven 000 11 - 2 5 4

Northern Lehigh 060 6x - 12 9 0

Scherer, Line (2) and Dormuth; Smith and Stock. W - Smith. L - Scherer. HR: Schuylkill Haven - Line (4th, none on).