TOWAMENCIN >> The third inning left the North Penn baseball team staggering.
The early 5-1 lead the Knights built Tuesday afternoon was erased by visiting Central Bucks West’s burst in the top of the frame, the Bucks using five hits to plate four runs and knot the Suburban One Continental Conference contest.
But West’s bats could not fully connect on the knockout and in the fourth North Penn’s Zack Miles landed the biggest blow — belting a ball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run to break the 5-5 tie.
“(Tyler) Siddal was on third so I was just trying to knock him in with a fly ball, sac fly or anything,” Miles said. “But I got a hold of it and it went so obviously it impacted us well.”
North Penn supplemented its advantage with a pair or runs in the sixth while starting pitcher Danny Kirwin rebounded from the rough third to hold CB West to just one hit over the final four innings as the Knights pulled away to top the Bucks 9-5.
“I think it was very important that we tacked on right there, I thought equally as important him coming up with that big hit there was the couple runs we scored late,” North Penn coach Kevin Manero said. “When you go up all of a sudden in the last inning, you have a four run lead, that’s a lot different than only being up one or two. So I think we’ve been preaching that a lot about how important it is to separate when we get a lead.
“Sometimes it’s one big hit like Zack, sometimes it’s a few quality at-bats.”
North Penn (11-2, 5-2 conference) collected 14 hits on the day, eight coming from the top third of its lineup. Leadoff hitter Tyler Siddal was 3-for-3 with two doubles and three runs scored, No. 2 Ryan Bealer went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored twice while No. 3 Miles finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs and a pair of runs. The three combined to reach base on their first 10 plate appearances.
“We just try to barrel up the ball every at-bat,” Miles said. “Same approach as always. Swing early and often.”
Central Bucks West (4-7, 2-5) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Thomas Philipps’ RBI single but North Penn responded with three runs in its half of the inning then made it 5-1 by scoring twice in the second.
The Bucks, however, made it a new ballgame in the third, loading the bases with three straight singles before Matt Cooper’s double to left plated two runs. Trevor D’Arcy’s RBI ground out made it 5-4 while Chris Heller pulled West level with his RBI single.
But Kirwin got a fly out and a strike out to keep the contest tied then proceeded to allow only one more Bucks hit — a Philipps’ leadoff double in the fifth.
“We talked about playing a complete game and I think we competed for four innings. And I think we made it easy for them for three,” Central Bucks West coach Brad Tracy said. “So we put it right back in their lap — what type of team do you want to be? We play (Central Bucks) South on Thursday, it doesn’t get any easier. Do we want to make it easy on them or do we want to fight?
“We had some very good at-bats today, we hit the ball hard. And then we had awful at-bats today where we didn’t compete.”
Philipps was 3-for-3 with an RBI and run scored while Steven Gebre went 2-for-4 with a run for West.
Billy Collins and Joe Picozzi were both 2-for-3 with an RBI for North Penn, which hosts William Tennent 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
North Penn sits alone atop the SOL Continental, ahead of Souderton (5-3) and Tennent (4-3) and came into the week sixth in the latest District 1-6A power rankings.
“It’s definitely easier to try to stay ahead of the curve,” Manero said. “It’s a super-tough conference. There’s never a day where you can take it easy, that’s you can no go with your best lineup. It’s not that way, so it’s going to be a battle all the way to the end of the year so when you have a chance to win games, you have to put teams away and you got to win the ones that are in front of you.”
West, which has lost three of its past four, visits Central Bucks South 5:45 p.m. Thursday. The Bucks sit 25 in the 6A power rankings, which would put them out of the 20 team postseason field.
“We play in one of the toughest leagues in the state and you come out not ready to play, not competitive, that’s what happens to you,” Tracy said. “We hung around, hung around, had an opportunity today and let them off the ropes. It seemed like the momentum was going our way and then we just stopped competing.”
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Kirwin picked up the win with his complete-game effort, allowing five runs — four earned — on eight hits. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
“Just finish on my pitches and trying to work down at the knees. Once your down at the knees, it’s definitely harder to hit the ball down there,” Kirwin said. “So just left a couples pitches up in the third inning, that’s what got me.
Gebre took the loss, giving up two earned runs on four hits and struck out one in pitching the fourth and fifth. West starting pitcher Dom Dicicco went just a third of an inning.
“Dom’s been our No. 1, he’s come out and thrown strikes and pitched very well for us in three or four games and he just didn’t have it today,” Tracy said. “So unfortunately we had to get him out of here fast, but he’ll come back, he’s a tough kid, he’ll come back and we’re going to rely on him for the next couple of weeks.”
The bottom of the fourth started with Siddal being hit by a pitch then went to third on a hit-and-run on Bealer’s single — Bealer getting thrown out on the play trying to reach second. Miles followed on the next at-bat with his two-run shot to left to put the Knights back ahead.
“It just shows that we can battle,” Miles said. “Every inning’s different. So we just cut down on the big inning.”
Phillips opened the fifth with a double to deep left. But Kirwin got the next two batters to ground out to third and fly out to right while catcher Matt Marino threw out Philipps at third on a steal attempt.
Kirwin kept his momentum going in the sixth by striking out the side.
“Danny was up in the zone in one inning at it hurt him, especially in these kind of conditions. But after that he responded,” Manero said. “He started to pitch instead of throw, he was down in the zone, he was hitting spots, he was mixing his pitches real well. The way he threw in the last few innings – that’s how you pitch. You get ahead, you pound the zone, you hit good spots, you use your command, you let it work and he did a good job.”
North Penn added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Picozzi brought the first in with his RBI single. Two batters later, pinch hitter Dan Drop made it 9-5 with his two-out RBI base hit.
“Obviously, conditions like this, you score a few runs early on, you can’t sit on that so anything can happen,” Manero said. “So the ability to tack on runs as the game goes on that’s real big.”
After the Bucks went up 1-0 in the top of the first, North Penn answered in the bottom of the inning with a Miles 2-RBI double and a Collins RBI sacrifice fly to go up 3-1. Back-to-back RBI singles from Bealer and Miles in the second gave NP a 5-1 advantage.
Yet the lead only lasted until the third as the Bucks began the inning with four straight hits – singles by Gebre, Dan Clayton and Philipps to load the bases and a Cooper double to left that scored Gebre and Clayton. Philipps came home on D’Arcy’s ground out while Heller’s base hit plated Cooper to make it 5-5.
North Penn 9, Central Bucks West 5
Central Bucks West 104 000 0 — 5 8 1
North Penn 320 202 x — 9 14 1
WP: Danny Kirwin 7 IP 8 H 5 R 4 ER 0 BB 7 SO.
LP: Steven Gebre 2 IP 4 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 1 SO 1 HB.
2B: CBW-Matt Cooper, Thomas Philipps; NP-Tyler Siddal 2, Zack Miles; HR: NP-Miles.
Central Bucks West: Gebre 2-4, R; Philipps 3-3, RBI, R; Dan Clayton 2 R.
North Penn: Miles 3-4, 5 RBI, 2 R; Siddal 3-3, 3 R; Ryan Bealer 2-4, RBI, 2 R; Billy Collins 2-3, RBI, R; Joe Picozzi 2-3, RBI.
Top Photo: North Penn shortstop Zack Miles throws to first base after forcing Central Bucks West runner Steven Gebre at second base during their game on Tuesdya, May 2, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)