Northwestern scored six runs in the first inning, enough to allow the Trojans to hold on for a 7-4 win over J.L. Mann Saturday night in the Region 3-AAAA playoffs.
The Trojans will play Wednesday at home against the survivor of the Richland Northeast and J. L. Mann contest. Northwestern needs just one win to move to the Upper State playoffs.
Northwestern turned in a complete team effort to move to 20-2 on the season and stay unbeaten in the playoffs. The Trojans got timely hitting, good pitching and some outstanding defense in the win against the Patriots.
Most of the hitting came in the first inning in the six-run outburst, which came on six hits. Colton Pagoota’s single scored the first two runs. And DuPre Hart’s two-run double capped the inning and gave Northwestern a 6-0 cushion. Hart also had a single in the inning as did Ryan Hardee, Cameron Smith and Tripp Barringer.
The pitching came from starter Will Chitwood and reliever Stuart Hodge. Chitwood, a right-hander, worked the first four innings, scattering three hits and striking out seven for the win. Hodge, a left-hander, was credited with a save with three strong innings in relief. He allowed four hits and two runs, and worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth with minimal damage.
The defense provided an error-free performance, made even better by center fielder Josh Crump’s pair of diving catches that saved at least one run.
J. L. Mann cut the deficit to 6-1 with a run in the second. Patrick Henry’s single knocked in the run.
The Patriots made it 6-2 in the third with another single tally. Henry’s infield groundout got the run home.
Northwestern added a run in the fifth to make it 7-2. Pagoota singled to open the inning, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Justin Peddy. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Smith, who drove in two runs for the game.
The Patriots tried to claw back in the sixth, cutting the score to 7-4, but they could get no closer. Jonah Whit and Ryan Pelko both had infield groundouts to score the runs.
“We are happy to win,” said Northwestern head coach Mitch Walters. “We came ready to play.”
The veteran Northwestern coach says his team is right where it wanted to be.
“Our first goal was to go into Wednesday undefeated,” said Walters. “However, we have not reached our total team goal. We just need to keep working hard and getting better.”
Hank Nichols, Alex Grier (1), Will Fuqua (6) and Bryce Leasure; Will Chitwood, Stuart Hodge (5) and Garrett Rast.
WP - Chitwood, LP - Nichols. 2B - Hart (N).