TOWAMENCIN >> Pinch hitting is one of the more difficult things to do in baseball. That’s saying something when there’s a hall enshrining people who got a hit three out of every ten tries. Still, pinch hitters most likely get one chance to make an impact on an entire game.
North Penn pinch hitter Dan Drop made his chance count Thursday afternoon.
“I just keep myself ready because that one at-bat, that’s my time to shine,” Drop said after the game. “If you’re not in the lineup but you know you’re a hitter you just gotta stay loose on the bench.”
Drop laced a fifth inning, two-run double to left field that increased North Penn’s lead from two to four, giving the Knights some breathing room in a 7-3 Suburban One League Continental Conference win over Pennridge.
“If there’s runners on you like to be more aggressive, find the ball to drive,” Drop said. “Put the ball in play and make the defense do their job.”
Drop personified the North Penn offensive approach all day against Pennridge pitcher Andrew Mayhew. The Knights put the ball in play and made the Rams get them out. That wasn’t always the case.
“We gave them one or two extra outs (early), and North Penn is gonna take advantage of that,” Pennridge head coach Tom Nuneviller said. “We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot all season… it bit us again today.”
Pennridge was able to score an unearned run in the top of the first behind a Kyle Yoder single. Yoder finished the game 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs in the game.
The lead was short lived however, as North Penn struck right back with three runs in the bottom — two unearned — thanks to an error, a wild pitch, and a Zack Miles RBI single.
“I thought we did a nice job responding after we were down 1-0, but I thought we had a really good approach at the plate,” North Penn head coach Kevin Manero said. “We hit the ball hard and we made them make plays. We also had some big, clutch hits not trying to do too much.”
Among the clutch hits was a two-strike RBI single from Joey Picozzi in the first inning. Corey Stouffer also delivered with a two-out RBI single in the sixth, extending the lead to 6-2. Stouffer finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Ryan Bealer was also strong offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double and a pair of runs scored.
“We’re doing a good job of kind of being tenacious at the plate, I think.” Manero said. “We’re seeing good pitching, no question. I think if we come out of our swings and try to overpower a good pitcher they’re gonna beat us. But we’re doing a good job right now of using the middle of the field.”
Mayhew finished the game with 90 pitches in five innings allowing six runs — three earned.
Matt Stevenson started on the mound for North Penn. He pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed a pair of Pennridge runs to score, neither of them earned. The big right-hander did walk four batters, but he also struck out six and was overpowering when he found the zone.
“He needs to throw fewer pitches, he had too many three-ball counts today,” Manero said about his starter. “He’s a big, tall kid so it’s a matter of getting a consistent release point. That’s what we’re trying to work on right now.
“Obviously you saw today he has plenty of life on the ball. His fastball is very live. He looks very strong. It’s just a matter of keeping it down in the zone and staying ahead of hitters.”
Stevenson worked his way out of jams in the first and third with minimal damage before being lifted for Allen Vuong in the fifth. Vuong worked out of that jam, pitched a clean sixth, and then loaded the bases with no one out in the seventh due to a pair of errors —one on Vuong — and a hit batsman. Ricky Henning shut the door with a sac fly and a 4-6-3 double play to end it.
North Penn improves to 10-1 on the season, and 4-1 in a mashed-up SOL Continental. Everyone is still in the race, but the Knights now sit at the top.
“We all know it’s a good conference. We don’t have to look at the standings every day to tell us that so we can’t really worry about that,” Manero said. “There is no easy game in the conference. There’s no game where you can take a breath and say ‘OK, let’s show up today, put our gloves on the field and win.’ It’s always tough. We know that. So you just focus on the game in front of you and try to play good baseball.”
North Penn hopes to continue playing good baseball Friday against Central Bucks East.
North Penn 7, Pennridge 3
Pennridge 101 000 1 — 3 5 2
North Penn 310 002 1 — 7 10 4
WP: Matt Stevenson 4.1 IP 5H 2R 0ER 4BB 6SO – 85 pitches.
LP: Andrew Mayhew 5 IP 8H 6R 3ER 2BB 1SO – 90 pitches.
2B: NP-Stouffer, Bealer, Collins, Drop.
Pennridge: K. Yoder 2-3, 2 RBI, SF; Robinson 2-2, R, 2 BB; Fantaskey 1-4, 2 R.
North Penn: Bealer 2-4, 2 R; Miles 2-4, R, RBI; Stouffer 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Collins 2-4, R; Drop 1-1, 2 RBI.
Top Photo: Tyler Siddal scores for North Penn on a wild pitch in the Knights’ game against Pennridge on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)