Tigers top Danville to reach state playoffs
BLOOMSBURG – A year ago, Northwestern’s season ended on Central Columbia’s baseball field.
This year, that’s where the Tigers’ state run is starting.
The District 11 Class 4A runners-up traveled to Bloomsburg Friday afternoon for a state play-in game against District 4 runner-up Danville and came away with a 10-7 win. The game was played at the same field where Valley View ended Northwestern’s season in last year’s state semifinals.
“Ecstatic to be able to come back here,” said Northwestern senior Derek Holmes. “Junior year, we lost on this field in the state semis. To be able to come back here and get a berth in the state playoff my senior year is a great feeling.”
The Tigers advanced to Monday’s first round of the state playoffs to meet District 3 champ East Pennsboro at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg at 6:30 p.m.
Northwestern jumped on Danville early, taking an 8-1 lead after two innings.
“In playoff baseball, you just have to be the winner at the end of the game,” said Northwestern head coach Duran Porrino. “We put the ball in play, which is what we didn’t do Monday (in the district final). Today we were able to execute the little parts of the game and have good approaches at the plate, not chase pitches.”
The Tigers (22-4) got their first five runs without any big hits.
Carter Welch led off the game with a bloop single. Rafe Perich followed with an infield hit. Holmes reached on an error before Nick Henry walked to force in a run. Two runs scored later on a throwing error, and the fourth came in on a passed ball.
“They scored four runs without putting the ball on the barrel,” said Danville head coach Devin Knorr. “We made a couple miscues. You can’t play in this type of game and make mistakes against a really good opponent and not give up runs. I thought more troublesome were the four we gave up in the second inning.”
In the second, Perich had another infield single and scored on a wild pitch. When Nathan Goodolf singled to right to make it 6-1, it was the Tigers’ first hit out of the infield. Justin Holmes singled to drive in another run and Colten Hagadus bunted for an RBI hit to make it 8-1.
The Ironmen (12-11) didn’t go down easily. A three-run third inning made it 8-4, but Northwestern added a run in the top of the fifth when Welch drew a leadoff walk and scored on Derek Holmes’ single up the middle.
Danville got a run back in the home sixth, but the Tigers answered when Derek Holmes hit a one-out triple and eventually scored on an error.
The Ironmen got two runs in their last at bats, but the Tigers held on to earn the win.
Welch, the starting pitcher, got the win to move to 10-0 this season. He became the program’s single-season win leader, surpassing Tony Frey’s nine in 1996.
“Halfway through the season, our coaches sent out all the records and it kind of gives us motivation to break them,” Welch said. “That was one of my goals for the season, to break the wins record.”
The sophomore allowed five hits and two earned runs in four innings, while striking out six and walking none. Vinny Castrine came on in the fifth and allowed six hits and two earned runs.
“We gave them off Tuesday and said it was going to sting for a day,” said Porrino, whose team only had two hits in Monday’s district championship game to North Schuylkill. “I was glad we had a couple days. I feel bad for Danville. They lost yesterday on a walk-off and to turn around and have to play right away, I’m glad we weren’t in that situation.”
Not only did Danville have to play back-to-back days, but they just found out Sunday that the District 4 runner-up would have to win a play-in game to get to states.
“With a tough loss yesterday, we were hoping we could get out of the gates quickly,” he said. “The exact opposite happened.
“It would have been nice to have a little more rest and preparation. It’s just as tough emotionally as it is to come back physically the next day. I thought we responded well after the first couple innings. I thought we showed a lot of fight and grit ... You have to give credit to Northwestern Lehigh. They have a very good baseball team. They certainly belong here and they were deserving of a win today.”
MILESTONE … Derek Holmes went 3-for-4, including his 100th career hit.
THE HITS KEEP COMING … The Tigers’ Perich went 2-for-5 with two runs. Colten Hagadus went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Justin Holmes drove in three runs.
N’western 440 000 1 - 10 11 2
Danville 103 001 2 - 7 11 3
Welch, Castrine (5) and D. Holmes; Miller, Kozick (6) and Zerbe. W- Welch. L - Miller.