UPPER GWYNEDD >> The Community Knight at the Ballpark was the meeting of the past, present and future for the North Penn baseball team.
North Penn added four new members to its Knights of Fame. Youngsters took the field with the current Knights players for the national anthem. And a pair of Suburban One League conference champions capped off the regular season with a contest that ended with the home team earning an extra-inning victory.
“It was crazy. It was awesome seeing all the alumni out. They support us all the time,” Knights junior catcher Hunter Hamlin said. “There were the ones that made this program and it’s a great feeling pulling out this win.”
With the District 1-6A bracket already set, both teams made use of their rosters Friday night at Hostelley Field. The SOL American champ Hatters went out to a 5-1 lead after three innings but the Knights — winners of the Continental Conference — tied the game 5-5 in the seventh on Hamlin’s two-out, two-RBI double then claimed a 6-5 win in the eighth on Ryan Bealer’s walk-off infield single.
“I’d love to able to have lights and accommodations on our own high school property to be able to do something like this on our own campus,” North Penn coach Kevin Manero said. “But Nor-Gwyn is great to us. This is a great atmosphere up here. To have so many people come out to the Hall of Fame ceremony is awesome. To have so many Little Leaguers come out and watch.
“We want people to be excited to play baseball for North Penn and when we can put on night games like this where a lot of people can come it really helps to continue to develop our program for all generations. And I really think it’s important for us to honor the alumni who’s done great things because without them we wouldn’t be standing here.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) May 20, 2017
Before the game, North Penn inducted Terry Moyer (Class of 1972), Rick Budweg (1975), Tom Christy (1980) and Larry Pijanowski (1985) in to the Knights of Fame, the program’s Hall of Fame that began in 2014.
“We need alumni involved. We would love alumni to support what we’re trying to do with our field improvements, with our whole program,” Manero said. “But we also want to them to know how much we appreciate them and how much we want them to be a part of our program.
“And colleges are big on recognizing their alumni. I think high schools should be doing the same thing. These guys were unbelievable baseball players, so there’s nothing wrong with letting people know that.”
Moyer was the starting catcher and leadoff hitter his senior year, batting .317 as the ’72 team won the Bux-Mont League title with a 12-1 record. He later played at Camden County College then in the Perkiomen Valley Twilight League with the Lansdale Tigers.
Budweg had a 1.10 earned-run average as a junior in 1974 and a 1.57 ERA his season year, making All-Bux-Mont first team in ‘74 and second team in ’75. He played at Bloomsburg University then with the New York Yankees’ rookie-class team in 1979 before an elbow injury ended his pro career. Budweg later was a North Penn assistant and also played in the Perky League.
Christy set a NP single-season record for strikeouts in 1980 with 111 as North Penn finished second in District 1 and made appearance in the state tournament. Christy went 9-1 in the Bux-Mont League with a 0.38 ERA and also threw all 12 innings in a playoff win over Phoenixville. He went on to play at West Chester University and then the Perky League, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2014.
Pijanowski — who also played football at NP — was a first-team All-Bux-Mont League pick in both 1984 and 1985 and helped the Knights win a District 1 title in 1984. He played baseball at Rollins College in Florida and in 2011 was inducted into the North Penn Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.
For Hatboro-Horsham, Friday’s loss ended its 13-game winning streak, but there were plenty of reasons for Hatters coach Pete Moore to be positive afterwards.
“Just proud of the way our guys competed, especially early on in the game. I thought we had some really good at-bats, put up five runs pretty quick,” Moore said. “And then everybody on the team got an opportunity and liked seeing Kyle Cappuccio, a senior, come in and throw two scoreless inning for us, that was nice to see.
“Got a little unlucky there in the seventh and that’s baseball, that happens sometimes. But I liked that we competed and it was nice for me to see some of those younger guys.”
Hatboro-Horsham (15-5) and North Penn (17-3) both earned high seeds in the District 1-6A tournament and open the postseason at home in the second round Wednesday.
The Hatters are the second seed and face the winner of Monday’s first-round game between No. 15 Conestoga and No. 18 Avon Grove.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders right now I think,” Moore said. “Our pitching’s been outstanding all year and our defense has been very good. And then the last couple we’ve been having better and better at-bats. I though that’s what we saw early in the game was some of our best at-bats that we’ve had. That’s for me as a coach as good feeling to have going into the playoffs.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) May 19, 2017
Shaun Thomas was 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored while Ryan O’Donnell went 2-for-2 with a run scored for the Hatters Friday. Shane Carpenter, Eric Jester and Brian Edgington each hit an RBI single.
North Penn is the sixth seed in districts and takes a four-game winning streak into its matchup with No. 11 Boyertown, which claimed the PIAA 4A title last season. PIAA added two more classes to baseball this year, with 6A now the largest.
“We’re in a tough bracket. We have tough teams that we have to play starting with the first one,” Manero said. “Boyertown’s very good. They don’t give you very much. You got to earn a lot. They stay in every game they play. They’re obviously defending state champions so they know what it’s like to win in the playoffs. So it’ll be a tough game.”
North Penn cut Hatboro-Horsham’s lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth on Trace Colter’s two-out, bases-loaded RBI infield single and Griff Juckniewitz getting hit by a pitch the next at-bat.
Still down two in the seventh, Billy Collins drew a leadoff walk while Atlee Hasson’s one-out base hit put a pair of runners on base. With two outs, Hamlin kept the Knights alive by belting a double to right field that plate both Matt Marino – pinch running for Collins – and Hasson to tie the contest 5-5.
“Two strikes, it was 3-2, I was just kind of looking for something. I kind of knew a fastball was coming,” said Hamlin, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles. “They wanted to end that game. I knew a fastball was coming. I locked in, saw it, put an easy swing on it.”
Howie Spofford threw his second straight 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eighth. Colter — who went 2-for-4 — started the bottom of the frame reaching on an error while Zack Miles drew a walk. A Collins ground out advanced both runners.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) May 20, 2017
Hunter Evans reached on an error, but Colter could not score from third, loaded the bases with one out. The next at-bat, Ryan Bealer chopped a ball to the left side of the infield and the throw home was not in time to get Colter and NP celebrated its walk-off win.
Spofford earned the win, striking out three in his two innings on the mound. HH’s Benny Wilson took the loss.
“Our pitchers that came in most of the second half of the game just came in and threw a ton of strikes. That’s what we want,” Manero said “If a guy gets a chance to get the ball and doesn’t usually pitch, get out there and just get after hitters. If you’re a hitter that doesn’t play a lot, dig in and swing the bat.
“That’s what we want, we want guys to can show that they’re confident and aggressive and maybe give us something to think about when we need to go to someone out of the bullpen in playoffs and take a pinch hitter up off the bench.”
Top Photo: Four baseball inductees of the 2017 Knights of Fame stand by banners during induction ceremony at Hostelley Field in North Wales May 19, 2017. From left Larry Pijanowski class of 85, Tom Christy class of 80, Terry Moyer class of 72, and Rick Budweg class of 75. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)