Melone, North Penn pound Pennridge in 5 innings

TOWAMENCIN — In his first two at-bats, North Penn baseball’s Jared Melone just hit it too hard and right at someone.

The senior third baseman had a chance to break it wide open with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the third inning against Pennridge Thursday afternoon. His laser landed right in the glove of the Rams shortstop Danny Long, who tagged second base then threw over to first for a triple play.

On Melone’s next plate appearance in the fifth, the Rams were not so lucky. The La Salle commit drove a ball back up the middle, scoring two runs, and helping the Knights roll to a 10-0 five-inning victory.

The Knights (12-3, 10-2 Suburban One League Continental) inch closer to a conference title, with only two Continental games left next week against Souderton Monday and Hatboro-Horsham Wednesday. Before that, North Penn plays Lansdale Catholic 7 p.m. Friday at Hostelley Field.

Pennridge (12-4, 8-4) has three games left, finished its conference schedule against rival Quakertown Wednesday.

“I have not been hitting too well, but my teammates have been picking me up,’ Melone said. “I am changing my swing a little bit. We are focused on Souderton now and then we will see what happens Wednesday,’

The Melone hit was off sophomore Andrew Mayhew, but the runs were charged to senior starter Joe Molettiere. Unearned runs at that, after an error in the prior at-bat extended the inning. Molettiere was charged with five runs — two earned — over three innings in the mercy-rule loss.

“We knew Joe was pitching, he throws hard and is probably the best pitcher in the league,’ Melone said. “They turned that triple play, but we stayed even. We finally got some across.’

Molettiere allowed 10 baserunners in his short outing and it could have been worse if not for the third-inning triple play turned by Long.

“Too many base runners,’ Rams coach Tom Nuneviller said. “You cannot give good teams too many outs. Joe had a little tightness in his forearm and he was shut down for two weeks. This is another little speed bump, so we will see if we can bounce back tomorrow against Neshaminy.’

Long was Pennridge’s lone bright spot with the triple play in the field and two hits at the plate. The Rams had four singles off the Knights’ James Witner, who continued his strong season twirling five innings of scoreless baseball. Witner walked none and struck out three in the shortened complete-game win.

“We knew we could be very good if our pitchers matured,’ Manero said. “James has been outstanding. I knew he had a chance to be our number one by the time he was a senior. You just need someone to throw strikes and that is what he does.’

How quickly it went from a pitchers’ duel to a one-sided slug-fest. The game ended on a two-run single from Melone, who has clearly broken out of a recent slump. The Knights’ Mike Christy scored three runs and Douglas Apple had multiple hits on the afternoon. Even with the absence of everyday starer Alex Peterson, the first place squad flourished in what was billed as the biggest game to date.

“Ryan Bealer is a freshman and you put on a freshman on the team to play,’ Manero said. “He did a nice job for us (filling the vacant lineup spot by Peterson) in the two-hole. He gets on base and puts pressure on the defense. We got contributions from the whole lineup today.’

At this point of the season, with a conference championship still hanging in the balance, every game will be the biggest game to date for the Knights.

“If you start looking at standings it can distract you from what you can control,’ Manero said. “And that is how you play. You go out there throw strikes, put good swings on the ball, make plays, and the results take care of themselves.’

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