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Northwestern baseball wins eight of last nine

Bring on the playoffs! The Tigers finished the regular season schedule on Monday and are certifiably hot, having won eight of their last nine games, including wrapping up a 12-inning win over Palmerton that had been suspended because of darkness and completed with the final inning being played this past Sunday.

A day before their trip to Palmerton (13-5 overall, 11-5 Colonial), Northwestern Lehigh played a key game at Salisbury High School against the Falcons. Salisbury (9-11, 8-9) needed a win against either the Tigers or Southern Lehigh in their final regular season game this past Monday to qualify for districts. Northwestern (13-7, 11-6) worked its way to a 7-3 win over the Falcons and the Spartans ended Salisbury’s hopes for a playoff spot by beating them in the season finale.

Josh Farber got the start against Salisbury and got the win, throwing five strong innings after working his way through some early struggles. In the first, Salisbury led off with a double down the third base line from Nate Nunez before Tom Lovelidge added an infield single to put runners on first and second. Farber got a strikeout against Matt Nunez, but a base hit by Jake Bucchin made it 1-0 and a wild pitch brought home the second run of the inning for Salisbury.

“I felt I was struggling early until I made an adjustment in the second and third innings and it worked well and allowed me to get ahead early in the count,” said Farber. “I started throwing my curveball earlier in the count rather than when I was up in the count, and it worked well for me.”

Northwestern cut the lead in half in the top of the third when Austin Eisenhard reached on a fielding error and went to second when Josh Lichman worked a walk. Bob Croneberger, who had two hits in the game, singled to left center to bring home Eisenhard with the first run of the game for the Tigers.

“Josh pitched really well for us today and that was important,” said Tiger head coach Chad Cooperman. “We wanted to get some innings out of him because we knew we have the continuation of the suspended game tomorrow and another game Monday, so he gave us what we needed on the mound and then he helped at the plate, too.”

Farber led off the fourth with a double to right and went to third when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, but Lovelidge responded by putting down the next three hitters to frustrate Northwestern and keep his team’s 2-1 edge intact.

As Farber continued to pitch well, Wes George led off the fifth with a base hit to right and went to third when Lichman followed with a double for his first of two hits in the game. Croneberger then lifted a high fly ball to center that tied the game when George raced home and one out later, Chase Moyer got into the act with a base hit through the middle to give the Tigers their first lead of the day at 3-2.

Farber allowed just a two-out walk and a stolen base to Bucchin in the bottom of the inning and Lovelidge put Northwestern down in order in the top of the sixth. Shaun O’Donnell came on in relief of Farber in the sixth and with two outs gave up a hit and two walks to load the bases before calmly getting Lovelidge to fly out to left to end the threat.

“It helped that I was able to pitch with a lead later in the game,” said Farber. “I know we can put some runs up, so I just look to keep the game close.”

Not comfortable with a one-run lead, Northwestern got to a tiring Lovelidge in their final at-bat of the game. Again, it was Lichman and Croneberger doing damage when Lichman led off with a single to right and Croneberger doubled to again give the Tigers runners on second and third, this time with no outs. Justin Augustus lifted a sac fly to make it 4-2 and a base hit by Moyer and walk to Farber loaded the bags. Cooperman sent Shane Hulmes up to pinch-hit for Eli Zimmerman and it worked perfectly with Hulmes emptying the bags with a double off the fence in left that made it 7-2.

George moved onto the mound for the seventh and with one out, Bucchin again hurt the Tigers when he reached on an error and would advance to second on a wild pitch. Jordan Tocci lined a hit to right center field that made it 7-3, but George allowed just a walk that was sandwiched between two strikeouts to lock up the win.

The regular season schedule came to an end when the Tigers downed Catty 12-2 Monday.

Northwestern will see Palmerton again to open the playoffs when the two teams meet in New Tripoli Friday in the quarterfinals of the Colonial League playoffs.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Erik Mather lays down a bunt during a recent Northwestern Lehigh baseball game.