Tigers clinch district berth
It didn’t generate any runs.
It didn’t produce a hit.
But for Duran Porrino, it confirmed that his baseball team was ready to play.
The Northwestern Lehigh coach watched his squad produce seven solid innings – and starting pitcher Jake Augustus threw seven shutout innings – to claim a 6-0 win over Palmerton in a showdown of the top two teams in the Colonial League’s West Division.
It was Augustus that put the barrel of the bat on the first pitch of the game. Though it produced a fly out to left field, the hard contact gave Porrino confidence the Tigers (10-2, 9-1) would be able to connect on many more.
“When Jake (Augustus) hit the first pitch of the game, and really squared up on it, I knew right then and there that we were going to have a good day at the plate,” said Porrino. “You could just see it. I’m as confident as you could be as a coach in these kids at the plate, and they’re confident, too.
“And that’s where it starts. You have to be confident, and they are. You have to know which pitches to look for and which pitches you can hit. After that first pitch, I had an idea that we were going to be able to put the ball in play today.”
Northwestern broke open a scoreless game in the top of the fourth inning. Trevor Schreiner (3-for-4, two RBIs) knocked in Brady Mengel, and Isaac Fatzinger (3-for-4, three RBIs) followed with an infield single that scored Tyler Wiik to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. A sacrifice fly by Jacob Haas with the bases loaded plated Schreiner for a 3-0 advantage.
The momentum carried into the fifth, as Northwestern once again loaded the bases when Wiik reached on an error, and Schreiner and Niko Fager (3-for-4) reached on singles. Fatzinger drove in Wiik to give the Tigers a healthy 4-0 lead.
It was more than enough of a cushion for Augustus, who hurled a complete game shutout, striking out five and walking none.
“We wanted to come in and be a little bit patient,” said Palmerton coach Mike Svetik. “In the first three innings, we got good bats on the ball, and hit line drives to the outfield that were hard hit balls.
“But he (Augustus) survived that, as a good pitcher does, got the lead and he settled in. And a good pitcher’s going to do that. Our guys started to get a little anxious because we were pressing, down 4-0.”
The Blue Bombers (7-4, 6-3) got back-to-back runners on in the bottom of the sixth when Jared Mooney (1-for-2) reached on an error and Brody Boehler (1-for-2) collected a single.
But Augustus worked quickly to retire the next three batters to end the threat.
“I felt good today,” the senior said. “I was able to use both of my pitches and keep them off balance.”
Northwestern set the final score with two runs in the top of the seventh when an RBI single from Fatzinger scored Fager, and an error allowed Trevor Schreiner to come home on the play.
Tyler Schreiner also collected two hits, including a double, for the Tigers.
With the victory, Northwestern secured its spot in the District 11 Class AAA playoffs. “It feels good, it really does,” said Porrino, who is in his first year as the Tigers’ head coach. “It’s a goal of ours to win a championship in May, and you can’t do that unless you get there.”