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Valenti throws 2-hit shutout, North Penn tops Pennridge for 3rd straight win

North Penn junior left-hander Joe Valenti threw a two-hit shutout in the Knights' 5-0 win over Pennridge on Friday, April 20, 2018. (Mike Cabrey/Digital First Media)

PERKASIE >> Joe Valenti says he stays focused on the immediate task at hand when he is on the mound.

“I really don’t try to think of what’s going to end up happening in the game,” he said. “I just come out and pitch, try to do my best.”

Pitch by pitch, inning by inning in on a sunny Friday afternoon, the North Penn junior left-hander went about shutting down the Pennridge lineup until the end result was a two-hit shutout, helping the Knights cap off a perfect week of Suburban One League Continental Conference play.

Valenti stuck out eight in his strong complete-game outing while North Penn’s bats added four runs in the final two innings to pull away from the Rams and claim a 5-0 victory.

“I knew our bats were going to wake up sooner or later,” Valenti said. “I knew we could execute late in the game after that game against CB South (a 3-2 win Wednesday). So I just knew that we were going to score some more runs.”

Valenti allowed just four baserunners — a pair of singles, a walk and a hit batter — as North Penn (9-2, 6-0 conference) won its third straight and shut out an opponent for the first time since a 3-0 win over Central Bucks South on May 11, 2017.

“He went out there, got after people, wasn’t walking people, we made all the plays behind him,” said Knights coach Kevin Manero of Valenti. “Did a good job. He threw three pitches for strikes and had some real good sequences in some really key situations.”

Atlee Hasson went 3-for-4 with an RBI, Ryan Bealer was 2-for-4 with an RBI while Zack Miles collected two RBIs — Miles plating the winning run in the top of the third when his ground out scored Rob Weiss from third base.

North Penn made it 2-0 in the sixth on Bealer’s RBI bunt single then tacked on three more runs in the seventh.

“We struggled the first time through the lineup and we had the same problem on Wednesday, but we made a lot of good adjustments,” Hasson said. “Just talking about what to expect and helping each other make adjustments while we’re at the plate and staying positive and really did a nice job in the late innings, just putting good swings on the ball.”

Brett Henofer and Bryce Dickey both collected a hit for the Rams (2-5, 1-5), who were shut out for the second straight game.

“We haven’t been getting too many hits lately,” Pennridge coach Tom Nuneviller said. “So it’s hard to win games if you’re not scoring runs.”

Rams starting pitcher Alex Podraza took the loss, but the sophomore right-hander had a solid day in his four innings of work. He gave up one earned run on three hits, walked three and struck out two.

“I kind of wanted to let him play a little bit down at JV but have been getting good reports from Coach (Rob) Rendler down there in JV saying that he pitches and mixes it up a little bit. So we, saw that today,” Nuneviller said.

Both teams have home games Tuesday with North Penn facing Central Bucks East while Pennridge hosts Neshaminy with the two teams also finishing their suspended game from April 9 tied 11-11 in the eighth.

North Penn pushed its lead to 2-0 Friday with three straight 1-out singles in the top of the sixth. The first single came from Billy Collins. The next at-bat, the Knights executed a hit-and-run with Collins’ pinch runner, Griffen Juckniewitz, going to third on Hasson’s base hit.

“My first at-bat, it was all right, I knew what I had to fix the second time around,” Hasson said. “I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball to get back into rhythm. And after I did, I got a lot of confidence back for my last two at-bats.”

Bealer proceeded to dropped a bunt in front of the mound to score Juckniewitz and then beat the Rams to the first base to record a single.

North Penn added more breathing room with three runs in the seventh. Tyler Siddal started the inning reaching on an error. After a Jake Drelick bunt single, Miles singled through the right side of the infield to bring home Siddal and make it 3-0.

An error on Joe Picozzi’s fly ball to left loaded the bases for Collins, who put NP up 4-0 with his RBI sacrifice fly to center. Hasson followed with an RBI single to center field.

“We know that there’s going to be a lot of games, whether they’re in our conference or out of conference later hopefully where we’re going to face some good pitching and we’re going to have a hard time driving the baseball,” Manero said. “Those are the games were we’re have to learn how to execute and we did a great job of that late against CB South and we did a great job of that today in the sixth and seventh inning.

“We had some small ball, we had a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Atlee Hasson, big sacrifice fly by Billy. Really just a lot of station-to-station, good execution and good offensive approach.”

North Penn plated its first run in the top of the third. Weiss and Siddal drew back-to-back walks and after a Drelick sac bunt, Miles’ RBI ground out gave the Knights the 1-0 edge.

In the bottom of the third, Valenti gave up his second hit — a one-out single by Dickey, but got out of the inning with a 4-6-3 double play

“It was huge, coming off the inning we got the run and we needed a shutdown inning. And we got the double play to end the inning,” Valenti said. “It was huge boost to us and a shutdown to them.”

Valenti posted three straight 1-2-3 innings before starting the seventh by hitting Henofer with a pitch. But the Knights turned a 6-4-3 double play on the next at-bat and right fielder Joe Picozzi’s diving catch sealed the shutout.

North Penn 5, Pennridge 0
North Penn        001 001 3 — 5 9 0
Pennridge           000 000 0 — 0 2 2
WP: Joe Valenti 7 IP 2 H 0 R 0 ER 1 BB 8 SO 1 HB.
LP: Alex Podraza 4 IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 2 SO.
2B: NP-Tyler Siddal.
North Penn: Ryan Bealer 2-4, RBI; Billy Collins 1-4, RBI; Atlee Hasson 3-4, RBI; Zack Miles 1-4, 2 RBI.
Pennridge: Bryce Dickey 1-3; Brett Henofer 1-2.

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