TOWAMENCIN >> North Penn went to the plate for the first time on Thursday trailing by a run.
Two pitches later, Tyler Siddal changed that. But the Knights junior third baseman and his teammates weren’t done. They took a lead in the home half of the first and didn’t stop there either.
First North Penn rallied and then it kept pushing and eventually secured a 6-1 Suburban One League Continental Conference baseball win over Central Bucks East.
Siddal hit a first inning home run on the second pitch he saw, Dan Drop sent one over the fence in the third and the Knights tacked on two big-time runs in the fifth with the bottom half of the order getting it all started.
“I think sometimes we have a good plan at the beginning then we get out of that a little bit,” North Penn coach Kevin Manero said. “When you let up an early run, to respond real big and even bigger than that, to come out with the shutdown inning right after that, it lets you take control early.”
North Penn got plenty of games in during the first week of the season but since then, it’s been a battle to get outside. In the interim, the Knights have played a lot of intrasquad innings and have been tracking a lot of pitches in the gym.
Thursday’s starter, right-hander Matt Stevenson, made his first start since March 27 and wasn’t at his sharpest but made the big outs when he had to. An error and walk put the first two CB East batters on base and the Patriots were suddenly poised for a big frame.
Stevenson came back to get three straight groundouts, allowing a run, but quelling East’s rally before it picked up any more steam.
“It really shifted the momentum,” Knights shortstop Zack Miles said. “We came in the dugout, we were all excited and ready to hit.”
Siddal, who had committed the error in the top half of the inning, wasn’t going up to try and hit a ball out of the yard. As the leadoff man, it’s his job to set the table and get things going for his team.
He wasn’t trying to hit a home run, but the offering by East pitcher Jared Thompson was too good to pass up.
“He gave me a fastball, right down the middle actually, and I just put a pretty good swing on it,” Siddal, who also had a sac fly in the fifth, said. “We were tracking pitches in the gym even through the offseason, so that’s helped a lot with all of our swings.”
Miles singled with one out and scored on Corey Stouffer’s single to give North Penn the lead. Stouffer, the first baseman, moved to third on Atlee Hasson’s single then scored on a CB East infield error to put the Knights ahead 3-1 after the first frame.
Stevenson threw 23 pitches to get out of the first. He needed just 12 to strike out the side in order in the second. With that, North Penn had all the momentum back on its side and probably could have ridden its lead the rest of the way.
However, with the SOL Continental as loaded as it is in pitching and even hitting, Manero knows winning conference games will require scoring runs in more than one inning.
“We are going to run into plenty of good pitchers and that’s where we’re going to have to be able to execute,” Manero said. “I thought our best inning today was when we tacked on those two runs late. We have to be able to hit, manufacture runs and be able to move runners over because when we’re facing all the good pitching in this league, you have to stay within yourself and manufacture.”
Drop hit a no-doubter to lead off the third, sending the third pitch of the at-bat over the same left field fence as Siddal did.
Hasson started the fifth-inning production with a double neatly tucked inside the right field line, his second hit of the game. Ryan Bealer beat out a bunt single to put men at the corners ahead of a double down the third base line by pinch-hitter Billy Collins that scored Hasson.
Siddal added a sac fly to center to push North Penn’s lead to 6-1 and gave the Knights the exact kind of inning they’ve been trying to put together all season.
“We’ve been hitting pretty well, we’ve all been seeing the ball well,” Miles said. “Like Siddal said, we’ve been tracking the balls and it’s helped a lot.”
“We always want to put on runs whenever we can,” Siddal said. “Manero is always telling us to tack on runs.”
East’s Colin Sheehan and Grant Meiers worked Stevenson for 19 total pitches and a walk and single, respectively, in the fourth, ending the North Penn starter’s day. Reliever Colin McTaggart came in and got the next two outs to end the frame.
McTaggart retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth and gave up just one hit in the seventh as he finished out the game.
North Penn is back in action Saturday when it hosts Parkland in a noon start in a nonleague make-up game from a few weeks back.
“We’ve talked about the importance of those middle innings in executing, separating and tacking on runs,” Manero said. “Getting the leadoff guy on a getting a good bunt down, that’s how you do it. It could be the top, middle or bottom of the order and we’re going to play those innings the same way.”
North Penn 6, Central Bucks East 1
CENTRAL BUCKS EAST 100 000 0 – 1 3 1
NORTH PENN 301 020 x – 6 10 1
SO-BB: CBE – Thompson 2-1, Mantell 0-0, Roland 0-1, NP – Matt Stevenson 3-2, Colin McTaggart 2-0. 2B: Zack Miles (NP), Billy Collins (NP), Atlee Hasson (NP). HR: Tyler Siddal (NP), Dan Drop (NP)
Multiple Hits: NP – Zack Miles 3-4, Atlee Hasson 2-3.
North Penn’s Dan Drop gets a warm welcome after sending the ball over the fence for a one-run homer against Central Bucks East on Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)