Tigers shine on big stages
Playoff baseball is always exciting, but when you get to play big games in big venues it becomes even more exciting. During Northwestern’s run to states they’ve been able to play games on some pretty big stages. It started with a regular season game at Scranton’s PNC Field, home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. From there, they reached the district semifinals with a win at Lehigh University’s Legacy Park. The finale, their first District 11 championship since 1989, came at the home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Coca-Cola Park.
In the district semifinal, Northwestern faced defending district champion Wilson and Tiger head coach Duran Porrino believes that the opportunity to play on a Division One field with an infield comprised entirely of turf – including the turf dirt areas - gave his team a little added bounce in their step.
“This is my first time at Lehigh and when I walked into this complex, I was a lot more amped up to play the game,” Porrino said with a laugh. “It showed in our kids too, I think they came out with more energy than they’ve seen all year. I feel like since we have a lot of kids who have played a lot of games, they want to be on a bigger stage. They wanted to show their talent and they did that.”
The district semifinal ended in a 15-0 win for Northwestern. After that game, Porrino predicted that his players were going to love the opportunity to play at Coca-Cola Park for the district championship against a Central Catholic team comprised of familiar faces who are teammates with Northwestern players on summer teams.
For high school players to get the opportunity to play in a Triple-A stadium is a great opportunity. The Tigers got to play at PNC Field during the regular season which may have taken away some of the awe-factor of playing at Coca-Cola Park, but it didn’t lessen the experience.
Junior Brandon Mengel tripled and scored a run in the third inning and later drove in the tying run with a base-hit in the bottom of the sixth.
“This was a great opportunity,” said the Northwestern second baseman. “It’s been so great to play [at Coca-Cola Park] and at Lehigh. It really adds a lot. You want to come out and show what you can do and it’s been great.”
For freshman Nic Henry, Saturday’s district championship was perhaps the biggest day of his young life. Not only did he get to play at Coca-Cola Park where he’s watched the hometown IronPigs play, but he drove in the winning run for the Tigers.
“It’s great,” said Henry through a broad smile. “When I first walked in, I was like ‘oh, my gosh!’ It’s been my dream to get to play here and it was great to have this opportunity. It feels awesome because it goes from playing on high school fields to getting to play in a big stadium.”
There’s one more big venue that Northwestern would like to play baseball on this season. They’re hoping to collect three more wins in the PIAA tournament to have the chance to play at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park June 14th for a state championship.
“That would be really special,” admitted Porrino. “We have a lot of work to do to get there, but that would be really special.”