TOWAMENCIN >> By the time it was over, the two teams had sent a combined seven pitchers to the mound, the free hot dogs were long gone and the Chick-Fil-A Cow’s cameo appearance was a distant memory.
In the end it would be Souderton Area’s Derek Freed capping the festivities, who — fittingly called ‘D-Money’ by his teammates — delivered not one but two clutch hits, the second one lifting Big Red to a stunning 9-8 victory over previously-unbeaten North Penn in 10 entertaining innings on Thursday afternoon.
Souderton overcame an early 5-0 hole, winning a marathon of a Suburban One League Continental Conference contest on Autism Awareness Day at packed North Penn.
“It was a great win. We battled from behind the whole game but never doubted ourselves,” said Freed, whose team outlasted the Knights in a three-hour, 20-minute, back-and-forth battle.
Souderton (4-4, 2-1 conference) began the 10th with a first-pitch single by Brett Moyer. After a sacrifice bunt by Thylar Summarell, Freed ripped a triple down the right-field line, scoring pinch runner Tim Robinson for a 9-8 Souderton advantage.
“I just put a swing on it and saw it was going down the line,” Freed said, “and just kept running.”
Freed slid safely into third, having knocked in the go-ahead run.
North Penn came back to put runners on first and second in the bottom half, but right hander Dan Knechel got Dan Drop to fly out to right, closing things out for Big Red.
“We battled,” said Big Red coach Mike Childs, whose team has notched back-to-back wins over Pennridge and NP. “In the first inning, we gave them seven outs, and being down 5-0, (North Penn) knocks the wind out of your sails real quick.
“I gotta give (our guys) a ton of credit for battling back but that normally doesn’t happen against (North Penn). I keep saying it, ‘put the ball in play and make things happen, and that’s what we did.’”
In addition to Freed’s heroics, the Indians got two big knocks from Thylar Summarell and Jack Despain. Summarell’s solo homer made it 5-1 in the second as Big Red began its rally, and later Despain belted a two-run shot to left to push Souderton’s lead to 8-5 in the sixth.
“It was a great day — I feel happy for him. It was his first home run,” Childs said of Despain, the Indians’ lead-off, “and coming around the bases he was as happy as a 10-year-old.”
In between the two big shots, Freed put Souderton ahead for the first time, finishing off a five-run fifth to make it 6-5.
“Big hits,” Childs said of Freed, who went 3-for-5. “And he had been struggling a little bit — we had him at three hole earlier in the season, moved him back until he found his niche again. We know he’s capable of it. He’s getting fastballs and connecting with them. That was huge.”
North Penn evened things up at eight apiece with three runs in the sixth, including an RBI single by Ryan Bealer. The two teams remained deadlocked at eight until the 10th.
“There were a lot of prayers in this game on my part,” Childs said with a smile.
Early on, it looked as though North Penn would make the climb to 9-0, as starter Matt Stevenson came out firing and the Knights plated five in the first, due in part to a double to left by Corey Stouffer and a hard-hit single up the middle by Connor Mikulski.
But then came a bad turn of events for the Knights (3-1 conference), who manufactured just two hits over the next four innings and committed two costly errors in the fifth.
“It was a sloppy game on our part,” said Knights coach Kevin Manero, whose team had allowed only eight runs all year coming into the contest. “(In the 8-0 start) we threw strikes and made plays. Today, we got off to a nice early lead, we were playing really good baseball and Stevenson had some really good stuff the first couple innings, looked the best he had looked all year.
“And then in those middle innings, we just made way too many mistakes. It’s not the way we normally play, not the way we normally practice. But it’s early. And this time of year if you’re gonna make mistakes, you just gotta come back the next day and correct them.”
North Penn aims to begin a new win streak Monday with a home game against Central Bucks South. Souderton tries to keep the momentum going Friday with a home non-league contest against Lower Merion before hosting conference foe Central Bucks West Monday.
“Wanna keep it rolling,” Freed said.
Top Photo: Souderton pitcher Thyler Summarell rounds third after sending a solo home run over the fence during the Indians’ game at North Penn on Thursday, April 20, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)