Tigers could be ‘hard to beat’
The Northwestern baseball team in a good spot for the rest of the season. The Tigers’ 8-1 win over Notre Dame (Green Pond) on Monday put them at 12-2 overall and 10-1 in the Colonial League. They’re currently 3 ½ games ahead of Southern Lehigh for the West Division lead and they can add some distance with a win over the Spartans at home Thursday afternoon.
The Northwestern schedule is spread out enough so that it can get work for its top pitchers, but still keep them relatively fresh.
After playing Southern Lehigh (7-4, 6-4), the Tigers face Wilson (9-1, 7-1) on Saturday. After two off days, they play Northern Lehigh (3-9, 2-9) and then have another three days off until they wrap up the regular season with games against Salisbury (3-10, 2-9) and Catasauqua (4-6, 3-5).
“We can throw our two or three best pitchers every game,” said head coach Duran Porrino. “Realistically, we should be pretty hard to beat down the stretch the way the schedule allows us to use our pitchers. It’s going to take a pretty tough team to beat us right now.”
While Porrino focused on being able to set up his pitching for success, the high-powered offense continued to produce in Monday’s 8-1 win over Notre Dame.
A bases-loaded ground ball by Nick Henry gave Northwestern a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and the Tigers expanded on that in the third inning when Colten Hagadus delivered a double to right-center field with the bases loaded, driving in two runs. Justin Holmes kept the inning alive with an RBI single to plate Brandon Mengel, who singled earlier in the inning, and the Tigers were up 4-0 after three innings.
“I was looking to put the ball in play and it just happened,” said Hagadus of his two-run double.
Carter Welch allowed the first two batters to reach base in the first inning on a leadoff walk and a base hit. He then picked a runner off second and got the next two batters out to end any early threat from the Crusaders (7-5 overall, 6-5 Colonial).
Welch then cruised through the next three innings, allowing just one hit along the way.
The offense didn’t take any time off and went right back to work in the fourth.
Nate Goodolf led off with an infield single and Welch hit a ground ball that was fielded in short right field by second baseman Rich Mueller, who was unable to make a play at first. On the play, Goodolf used aggressive baserunning to make it from first to third.
Rafe Perich delivered a sacrifice fly to score Goodolf and after Welch stole second, Derek Holmes singled to put runners on the corners with one out.
Holmes promptly stole second and with Notre Dame playing the infield in, Nick Henry took advantage of the situation to ground a ball past a diving Josh Herman at short, driving in two runs and making it 7-0 in favor of Northwestern (12-2, 10-1).
The Tigers again loaded the bases in the fourth when Mengel delivered a line-drive hit to right, putting runners on first and second. Hagadus followed with a picture-perfect bunt toward third base that was fielded by pitcher Nick Vonelli, who had no play at any base.
Justin Holmes then hit a ground ball to short that was turned into a double-play when it was ruled that Hadadus slid too far away from second base in an attempt to break up the play.
Hagadus’ bunt was of his own design and not a play put on by coach Duran Porrino. Dropping an unexpected bunt is something that Hagadus has put into his arsenal and used at different times during the season.
“I saw the third baseman back and I figured I would see what would happen; either get the runners over or get on base,” Hagadus explained.
The final run came in the fifth inning when Welch reached on a two-out error by Mueller and scored when Perich followed with an RBI double to center, making it 8-0.
Welch threw five shutout innings, striking out six batters.
Vinny Castrine came on and went 1 2/3 innings, but was touched for a run in the seventh and gave way to Perich, who issued a walk before he struck out Kyle Duplaga to end the game.