Tigers will lean on strong pitching staff
The high school baseball season was to have opened last Friday and Northwestern Lehigh was set for a busy week that was to feature five games in seven days, four of which would have been on the road. Instead, the players are home doing what workouts they can on their own and facing an uncertain future for the upcoming season.
Last year’s team used an 11-game winning streak to finish the regular season with an 18-2 record.
The Tigers won silver medals in both the Colonial League playoffs and the District 11 playoffs. They looked to make a championship run in states but were eliminated one round into the PIAA Tournament by East Pennsboro.
Northwestern finished last season with a 21-5 overall record.
With the success from last season and a strong core of returning players, Tiger head coach Duran Porrino was looking forward to this season and as practice opened, everything seemed to fall into place.
A winter with no snow days allowed work on the high school field to be completed and the team was able to get on the new infield for some late-winter work.
The team got in a scrimmage game against Brandywine Heights and faced Chase Renner, a junior pitcher who is committed to Penn State.
Things couldn’t have been much better just days before the season was to open for a team with high expectations. Until it was all put on hold.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” said Porrino. “The new infield is great, and guys were really psyched to be out there. We got to face a really good pitcher in the scrimmage, which is exactly what we wanted because we need to see those guys.”
If that wasn’t enough, Porrino had high praise for his starting rotation.
“Our pitching depth could be the best a Colonial League team has ever had,” he said.
Junior Carter Welch will serve as the team’s ace, with Joey Frey (senior), Rafe Perich (junior) and Justin Holmes (sophomore) ready to take their turns. If that’s not enough, senior Vinny Castrine will take on the closer’s role this season.
What’s the best way to compliment a good pitching staff? Put together a lineup that has some big bats up and down the order and your team is in good shape.
The Tigers lineup is set to be filled with guys who can get on base consistently and others who can drive them in.
Seniors Conner Snyder (first base), Castrine (second base), Nate Goodolf (third base) and Frey (outfield) will be in the lineup. Joining them are juniors Ryan Kensinger (catcher), Perich (shortstop) and Henry (outfield), along with Holmes, who is a sophomore. Kensinger takes over a key spot with the exit of big-hitting Derek Holmes, who was one of five seniors on last year’s team.
While coaches are used to giving a lot of hype at this time of year, Porrino’s is justified. With several experienced players on the team and a truly deep pitching staff, this could be Northwestern’s best chance at a state title in a long time.
“Our goal this year really is to not just go to states, but to win a state championship,” said Porrino. “We are right there, I really believe that, and we have the players to make it happen. Now, we just have to get the chance to play it out.”