Freshman Henry knocks in winning run
For Nic Henry, the approach was simple: put the ball in play and run hard.
That’s exactly what the Northwestern freshman did with the bases loaded and the District 11 Class 4A championship game with Central Catholic tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. As he headed down the first-base line, Henry wasn’t quite sure whether or not he had just knocked in the game-winning run, but he figured that out pretty quickly.
“I just wanted to get to first as fast as possible,” said Henry. “I didn’t know what was going on behind me. I just ran through the bag.
“I saw the first base coach put his arms up in the air and start running to home plate and everybody was running at me.”
What happened was that the ball chopped its way toward Central Catholic shortstop Carter Welch and as he prepared to throw home, the ball popped out of his hand, bouncing off his shoulder and to the ground. The miscue gave Northwestern a 5-4 win and their its District 11 championship in 29 years. The run culminated a comeback that saw the Tigers score five unanswered runs to overcome a 4-0 deficit.
Central Catholic grouped four hits and a walk to start the game and scored two first inning runs. The Vikings followed that up with a second-inning run driven in on a triple to left-center field by Justin Welch as Central Catholic went up 3-0. Three more hits and a Northwestern error led to another run in the third and the Tigers were suddenly down 4-0.
Northwestern didn’t get its first hit until the bottom of the third when Brandon Mengel tripled to right with one out. Jacob Haas then grounded a ball to second that drove home Mengel and the Tigers were on the board.
In the sixth inning, Northwestern decided that it wasn’t done playing baseball for the season and went back to work. Derek Holmes and Rafe Perich led off the sixth with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and third. A fielder’s choice ground ball by Henry plated Holmes to make it 4-2 and Austin Stasko followed with a double to put runners on second and third with just one out.
Central Catholic starter Carter Welch gave way on the mound to his brother Justin, who got Mason Vogwill to ground to third but it was good enough to bring home Henry and cut the Vikings lead to one. Mengel then singled to make it a new ballgame as the two teams headed to the seventh.
“I was just looking to make contact and put the ball somewhere that we could get that run home,” said Mengel of driving in the tying run.
Andrew White started for Northwestern and limited the damage that the Vikings did early in the game. He got a line-out and a double-play to leave the bases full of Vikings in the first. Coach Duran Porrino had figured on having White pitch three or four innings and he went to Vogwill in the top of the fourth. Vogwill threw four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
Jacob Haas, Derek Holmes, Austin Stasko and Mengel all had two hits for Northwestern as part of their 11-hit attack.
Lost in the shuffle of the big win that sends Northwestern to states was a third-inning single to left field by Trevor Schreiner, which was the 100th hit of his high school career. The son of former Emmaus baseball head coach John Schreiner will play college ball at Lehigh Carbon Community College starting next season and has collected 42 of his 100 hits this season for the Tigers.
The PIAA tournament opens Monday and Northwestern will play the District 12 champion, which will be determined Friday when Bonner-Prendergast takes on Esperanza in the championship game at George Washington High School in Philadelphia.
The Tigers would need three wins in states to reach the state championship game for Class 4A, which is set for June 14 at Medlar Field at Lobrano Park on the Penn State campus.