Tigers top Wilson in wild semifinal
The Northwestern Lehigh baseball team simply don’t give up.
In the District 11 Class 4A semifinal game against Wilson, Northwestern fell behind by five runs, cut the lead to three and then fell behind by five runs again. A big five-run inning completely closed the gap and some heads-up base running in the bottom of the seventh led Northwestern to a 9-8 win over the Warriors and a trip to the district final.
“That wasn’t the way we drew it up,” said coach Duran Porrino after his team’s win in the semifinal game at Weiland Park on the campus of De Sales University.
The door to the winning run opened when Wilson’s JJ Perdido walked Nate Goodolf and Carter Welch to start the bottom of the seventh. Rafe Perich came to the plate and the first pitch he saw glanced off the glove of catcher Austin Wickham. An alert Goodolf saw the pitch come off the glove and sprinted toward third. What Goodolf didn’t see was that the ball had caromed into Wickham’s bare hand, making for an easy throw to third.
In an effort to make a quick tag, third baseman Jacob Danser pulled the glove down a little too quickly and the ball squirted past him and just onto the outfield grass. Goodolf picked himself up and ran toward home, scoring the winning run in wild fashion.
“The throw was there, so I slid and it just so happens he was there and I tripped him up and he bobbled it and I took off,” said Goodolf, who said his main thought on the way home was “don’t get out.”
Northwestern trailed 6-1 going to the bottom of the third, but back-to-back doubles by Perich and Derek Holmes made it 6-2 and an RBI single from Colton Hagadus cut it to 6-3. The Warriors added single runs in the fourth and fifth before Northwestern had enough and went to work.
Holmes was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Nick Henry blooped a single to right to put two runners on with nobody out. Hagadus delivered his third hit of the day, this time doubling to left-center field to score the first two runs of the inning. An out and a walk later, the Tigers had runners on first and second for Goodolf, who unleashed a triple to center field clearing the bases and when the ball was misplayed in center, Goodolf crossed the plate on the error, completing the comeback with the game tied 8-8.
Northwestern used somewhat of the opener strategy that’s becoming popular in the majors when pitcher Vinny Castrine started the game on just two days rest. Castrine pitched two innings and gave way to Justin Holmes and then Welch came on to throw five innings for Northwestern. Welch, the team’s ace, threw 93 pitches in the game, leaving him ineligible to pitch in the district final.
“Our pitching depth has gotten us through all season and this is where it really pays off because we still have guys who can throw on Monday for us,” said Porrino. “We didn’t really plan on having the pitching go this way, but it will still worked out for us.”
The win means that Northwestern will get to defend its championship from last season.
“This team, just up and down the lineup, they never quit,” said Porrino. “You have to hand it to [Wilson] because they kept piling on runs and wouldn’t let us rest at all. We had to fight for everything we got today.”