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Tigers reach league baseball title game

After coming up just short of a Colonial League championship last season, the Northwestern baseball team will return to the championship game this season after a 5-3 win over Notre Dame (Green Pond) Tuesday night at Parkland High School.

The Tigers used a solid outing from Jake Augustus and a two-run triple from Tyler Schreiner to beat the Crusaders. Augustus threw seven innings, allowing seven hits, one walk and three runs (two earned) while striking out five. Schreiner used the game plan that the coaches had developed to deliver what would prove to be a knock-out blow to Notre Dame in the bottom of the second.

“The approach was excellent,” said coach Duran Porrino. “All day yesterday in practice, that’s all we talked about was approach, approach, approach. We preached having our guys go the other way, because we knew that was where they were going to throw it. That tells you that they’re mentally into the game. They knew what pitch they were going to get and they did exactly what they were supposed to do in that situation.”

Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Northwestern came back in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Augustus kick-started the offense with a leadoff single and a fielding error by Crusaders’ pitcher Steven Luke put runners on first and second with nobody out. One out later, Trevor Schreiner drove in the first Tiger run with a groundball to second to tie the game.

After the Crusaders tacked on a run in the top of the second, Northwestern came right back in the bottom of the inning.

Tyler Wiik singled to lead off the inning. Porrino looked to at least tie the game and had Nike Fager sacrifice courtesy runner Jake Hendricks to second. Jake Haas then doubled to tie the game and Zach Stanley added an infield single to put runners on the corners.

One out later, Tyler Schreiner delivered his blast to left-center field to score both runners, giving the Tigers a two-run lead. Brady Mengel’s RBI single scored Tyler Schreiner and put Northwestern up 5-2.

“My eyes definitely got bigger,” said Tyler Schreiner about seeing the pitch come in. “I was just hoping that I wouldn’t swing and miss it.”

The three-run cushion gave Augustus something to work with and allowed him to settle in and rely on his defense to get Northwestern back to the championship game.

“That was tremendous,” said Augustus. “Going out there having a three-run lead is incredible and I was thinking ‘I’ve got a solid defense behind me, and if we keep swinging, they aren’t catching us.”

The Tigers played for the Colonial League title last season, but lost to Saucon Valley 3-2. This year, Northwestern looks to take the next step and finish with a league championship after they face Bangor (12-0, 18-0) Thursday night.

“With last year’s squad, the goal was to start a tradition at the school, and coach [Len] Smith [who retired after last season] has done a tremendous job over the years, and we went through a dry spell,” said Porrino. “It was sort of their goal as seniors, the seniors won a district title in football and we had a couple of those seniors on our baseball team. They knew how to win and they sort of carried us through to the championship game last year. Our goal this year is to win the championship.”

Augustus, who will be moving on to play baseball at Winthrop University in South Carolina, sees a definite reason why this year’s team can come away with that elusive championship.

“Heart,” he said. “Brady [Mengel] and I are both seniors this year and this is a huge season for us. We’re going to college to play college baseball, so we want to be remembered here, we all want to be remembered. We’re all close this year and I love it.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZNiko Fager puts the tag on a Salisbury base runner during a late-season game against the Falcons.