EP eliminates Northwestern
Northwestern shortstop Rafe Perich prepares to field the ball during Monday’s PIAA State playoff game against East Pennsboro. For a photo gallery go to www.tnonline.com. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
FREDERICKSBURG – It might not have been a carbon copy of Pete Rose’s helmetless, headfirst leaps that have become the stuff of legend and baseball lore. But Jake Madden’s wild ride into third base was every bit as memorable.
As the junior emerged from a cloud of dust, helmet nowhere in sight and fist in the air, the East Pennsboro dugout erupted.
It was the spark the Panthers needed to survive and advance.
Madden’s late-inning heroics kick-started a rally that pushed East Pennsboro past Northwestern 3-2 and into the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals Monday night.
It was a shot deep into the right-centerfield gap on a 2-1 pitch to leadoff the bottom of the sixth inning in a 2-2 game that sent Madden to third base with an effort that would have made Charlie Hustle himself proud. Brady Swenson’s groundout in the next at-bat sent Madden home and put the District 3 champion Panthers ahead.
“This is our third year in a row here, so there are some guys here with some experience in these kind of situations,” said East Pennsboro coach Tyler Comp. “These game are never easy, and that’s a great team (Northwestern).”
The Tigers (22-5) put the first two runners on in the top of the seventh inning when leadoff hitter Carter Welch and Rafe Perich (2-for-3) drew back-to-back walks.
Panthers’ (23-2) reliever Zach Boyer got Derek Holmes, who entered the game hitting .643 this season, to ground into a double play to work out of the jam. Boyer, who came on to start the inning, induced another groundout to end the game.
“I think he (Boyer) actually helped us out a little bit,” said Northwestern coach Duran Porrino. “It’s tough to come in in the seventh inning of a game like this, and you could see there were some nerves; he was missing his spots and stuff like that. But it hurts. To have first and second, no outs, and your best hitter up, and at that point you feel so good about what’s about to happen.”
Boyer came on in relief of Michael Morales, who struck out seven in six innings. Morales, who has gotten Division 1 attention from the likes of Vanderbilt, walked four and allowed five hits.
Carter Welch went the distance for the Tigers, fanning five, walking one and allowing seven hits.
“It all started on the mound today for both teams, I think,” said Porrino. “Hopefully, there were some coaches that were here sort of watching our pitcher throw against their pitcher. Our kid is going toe-to-toe with a Vandy commit, and they’re both only sophomores. I hope after a game like that some coaches sort of take note of Carter.”
Northwestern struck in the top of the first inning. Welch drew a leadoff walk, and Perich followed with a single to center, sending Jake Dellicker, in to run for Welch to third base. Holmes followed and was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with no outs.
A Nick Henry groundout scored Dellicker, and a perfectly placed bunt by Nathan Goodolf plated Perich to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
“It always helps to get two runs in the top of the first, but even still, we felt good that Carter was going to keep this what it was,” said Porrino. “We know Carter is only going to give up one or two runs every time out on the mound, and we felt good when we got two in the top of the first. As the game goes on, and it’s 2-0, 2-1, you sort of start thinking, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this 2-1.’ But they had some guys that can hit it, though.”
The Panthers got a run back in the bottom of the first when Madden delivered an infield single to score Nick Embleton (2-for-3) and make it 2-1.
East Pennsboro tied it in the bottom of the fifth when Alejandro Escalet (2-for-3) singled and scored Max Cathers, who reached on an error to start the inning.
LOOKING AHEAD … Northwestern, the District 11 runner-up, reached the state semis a year ago, and Porrino has no doubt the team will be primed for another deep postseason run next year. “They are a heck of a team, but I would have to say we have to be one of the best two or three teams in the state,” said Porrino. “We’re right there with them, North Schuylkill, and we only start three seniors, so I hope this is the beginning of – last year (advancing to the state semis) was the start of it – but we’re in a four-year window here where I think our goal as a program should be to win a state title. We know we’re good, we really do. The two teams we’ve lost to here, with North Schuylkill (in the district championship game) and East Pennsboro, it wouldn’t shock me if they’re playing for the state championship, and we’re right there with them.”
MOVING ON … East Pennsboro will face District 6 champion Bellefonte Thursday in the quarters.
Northwestern 200 000 0 - 2 5 2
East Pennsboro 100 011 x - 3 7 0
Welch and D. Holmes; Morales, Boyer (7) and Cathers. W - Morales. L - Welch. S - Boyer.