North Penn strikes early, cruises past Olney Charter in PIAA AAAA 1st round

MIDDLETOWN — The starting lineup was the same, the senior ace was on the mound, and Wednesday afternoon, after back-to-back postponements, the North Penn baseball team and their road toward at PIAA Class AAAA championship was underway. The Knights eliminated Olney Charter with a 5-0 win at Penncrest High School.

The Knights plays another District 1 team, Pennsbury — a 2-0 first-round winner over Hempfield — at 3 p.m. Thursday at Spring-Ford High School. North Penn is one of eight teams still standing and three wins away for another state title.

“We will reevaluate for tomorrow,’ Knights coach Kevin Manero said. “It was like a bullpen for James (Witner) today. Which is good because he had not pitched in a while because of all that rain. I’m not sure what we are going to do yet.’

The Knights are looking for their third state championship since 2009 and Manero knows reaching Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is not an easy task. Even if many expect the Knights to take out the Trojans of the Philadelphia Public League rather easily, North Penn still had to go out and respect its opponent.

“Olney is athletic team and their coach has a lot of energy,’ Manero said. “That program will get better. But today we came out of the gates well. We did not play with same edge we play with in big games. We have to regroup and get that back tomorrow.’

Trojans starter Ceasar Loya settled in after the second inning, but enough damage had already been done. The Knights stole six bases in two innings and scored all five runs. Jared Melone and Kadar Namey each had a RBI single. Mason Nadeau drove in three runs on two hits.

“Coming out and getting early runs is huge,’ Nadeau said. “That is what we have been doing for most of the season. That has brought us through the games, especially if we get in trouble later.’

With a 5-0 lead, the Knights decided to pull senior ace James Witner for the game. He threw 13 pitches, which should make him a strong option to start back-to-back days, against a much more formidable foe — Pennsbury — in the quarters. Kellen Williamson threw one-hit ball over four innings and Paul Haynie slammed the door in the seventh.

“We did not take our foot off the pedal, we just changed our strategy a little bit,’ Manero said. “It may or may not have been an issue. The bottom line is we need to put better swings on the ball.’

While Williamson is no slouch himself, sporting a 8-1 record for the Knights, the move to take Witner out of the game clearly meant the Knights felt comfortable with their five-run lead over the Trojans. The switch may have subconsciously effected the Knights, as they would only collect two singles after the second inning.

“We came out hot and then kind of cooled off,’ Nadeau said. “We are hoping things go different tomorrow. We need to do what we did in the first innings the rest of the game.’

The Knights will need to rev their engines back up Thursday if they want a return trip to State College. The opener is behind them and every game from here on out will require the regulars. The same regulars that have the Knights closing in on a 20-win season.

“I feel like at this point we are prepared,’ Manero said. “We have practiced a lot. We have worked all season long. The results will take care of themselves.’

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