HAZLETON >> North Penn swung into states with purpose.
“We were prepared for this kid,” North Penn’s James Mangine said of Hazleton ace Brett Antolick. “We knew he was gonna throw hard. So I was seeing fastball and he hung one inside. I just turned on it and sent it over.”
Mangine’s grand slam catapulted the Knights to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning, and North Penn went slugging its way to an impressive 10-0, five-inning victory over the Cougars in the opening round of the PIAA-6A Tournament.
The victory sends hard-hitting North Penn, which pounded out five extra-base hits in its states opener, to Thursday’s quarterfinals, against the winner of the Avon Grove-Liberty matchup.
“That was pretty much our approach today – to try and hit the fastballs,” said Knights coach Kevin Manero. “(Antolick) has a big arm and he’s got good stuff. But you wanna go up there and try to hit a fastball and not get buried. And then have to try and hit that stuff that breaks out of the zone.
“So I thought our guys did a great job of staying with that approach. We tried to work the middle of the field and the guys stayed consistent with that.”
Back-to-back doubles by Ben Farley and Mangine (five RBIs) powered another big surge in the second, as North Penn’s lead swelled to 7-0. Doubles by Justin Egner and Henry Wetzel widened the gap to 9-0 Knights in the third.
With runners at the corners in the fifth, Jack Picozzi came through with a ground ball that allowed another run to score, pushing the lead to 10-0.
Seven different players scored for the Knights and five drove in runs in an 11-hit performance.
“This time of year, you gotta get out early,” Manero said. “You don’t wanna play catch-up against good pitching and good baseball teams.”
The Knights got a good look at Hazleton in a 3-1 win over the Cougars back on March 25.
“We play a couple non-league games every year against big 6A teams that we might see this time of year,” Manero said. “We just wanna get a sense of who’s out there and what everybody looks like. Because you never know where those roads might cross at the end of the season.”
While the Knights built their lead, left hander Trevor Lugara didn’t allow the Cougars to counter.
Lugara, rallying back in outstanding fashion from his only rough outing of the year – against Central Bucks West in the district semis, fired a shutout, striking out five while allowing just four hits and no walks.
“We all had faith he would bounce back,” Mangine said. “Before the (district semi), he was dealing. He’s a great kid. Nothing phases him.”
“Trevor was awesome today,” Manero said. “That’s a sophomore who generally doesn’t break over 80 (miles per hour), going against a kid who generally breaks 90. And that’s an intimidating position for a kid to be in, but he’s been really impressive. He’s got ice water in his veins and situations like this don’t really change him. He’s a guy we like in that situation for sure.”
Against CB West, Lugara was up and around the plate a bit, but on Monday, “his stuff was really moving,” Manero said. “He was down in the zone where he’s effective, and when he pitches the way he did today, he can beat a lot of teams.”
Said Lugara, who retired the side in the fifth to end it: “I just didn’t want (a game like the district semi) happening again. I wanted to come back strong, I found the zone, and I knew we were playing a tough team. I trusted my guys behind me.”
Antolick, one of the Cougar seniors, had a single to right in the third. It was a tremendous season for the District Two Champs.
“Tons of credit goes to North Penn and the way they came out,” Cougars coach Russ Canzler said. “They came out swinging the bats and kept the pressure up. They just kept coming. They kept driving the baseball and fighting off pitches. They did a really good job.”
Said Canzler of his group: “They’re awesome kids. They deserved a little bit better send-off but that’s the reality – there’s one team every year that’s gonna end with a happy moment. We wanna be in that position every year to be competing and these guys have been a part of some unbelievable teams. They’re upset right now but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
PIAA-6A First Round
North Penn 10, Hazleton 0 (5)
North Penn 432 01 – 10 11 1
Hazleton 000 00 – 0 4 2
WP: Trevor Lugara (5IP, 0R, 4H, 5K, 0BB).
LP: Brett Antolick (12/3IP, 7R, 3ER, 7H, 2K, 1BB, 1HBP).
HR: NP-James Mangine. 2B: NP-Justin Egner, Henry Wetzel, Ben Farley, Mangine; H-Nick Ledger.
Multiple hits: NP-Egner 2-for-3, BB, 2R, RBI; Wetzel 2-for-4, R, RBI; Mangine 2-for-3, R, 5RBI.