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Big first inning beats Palmerton N’western eliminates Bombers

It set the tempo.

And it proved to be the difference in the game.

Northwestern took advantage of a scoring opportunity in the top of the first inning during Tuesday’s District 11 Class 3A quarterfinal game at Palmerton. After jumping out to an early lead, the Tigers then thwarted a Blue Bomber threat in the bottom of the frame.

While that scenario didn’t win or lose the game, it gave Chad Cooperman’s team momentum, which they rode to an 8-1 victory and a berth in Saturday’s semifinal round.

“To come out and get runs on the board first, especially when you’re playing away, is huge,” said Northwestern’s head coach. “You grab momentum right away, and then to get a zero on top of that really sets the tone and gives your guys a lot of confidence. That’s what you need to do to beat good teams.

“I think in the first inning, (starting pitcher Chase Moyer) really won the game for us there, and set the tone getting out of that jam ... It kept the lead, and allowed us to build up that lead as we went on through the game.”

An error, and singles by Bob Croneberger and Justin Augustus, gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead just four batters into the game. After another single by Josh Farber, Moyer lifted a sacrifice fly to left to plate another run.

Palmerton looked to answer, but came up empty.

A looping single to right by Trey Sterling, a passed ball, an intentional walk to Cole Serfass and a double steal put runners on second and third with just one out. Moyer, however, bore down and got back-to-back strikeouts to kill the rally.

“The big thing for me was I wanted to try and get a shutdown inning, but it doesn’t always happen like you want it,” said Moyer. “I think being able to work through that adversity really gave us a confidence boost.

“I think that first inning showed that some bloops fall and things happen, and you just have to pitch through it.”

Moyer did more than just pitch through that inning. He kept the Bombers at bay during his 5 2/3 innings.

“Chase was phenomenal today,” said Cooperman. “He threw good quality strikes, and mixed in a breaking ball and made big pitches when he had runners on base.

“He was on today, which was good to see. We need him to keep pitching like that for us to have success moving forward.”

The Tigers doubled their lead in the fourth with a pair of runs. Moyer started the uprising with a walk, and Aidan Freeman followed with a single. After a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch allowed one run to score. An error later in the frame made it 4-0.

“The way we’ve been going offensively the last couple of games, we know our margin of error is very slim,” said Palmerton mentor Tyler Svetik. “That includes playing good defense, making pitches, getting ahead, not walking guys. We booted some balls, and you can’t do that at this point of the season ... They played a very clean game, and we didn’t play a clean game, and that’s one of the reasons they’re moving on.”

The Bombers (13-8) managed to get one back in the home fourth. Chase Reph singled and his courtesy runner, Derek King, moved to third on a ground out and a stolen base. Nate Steinmetz brought in King with a sacrifice fly.

Palmerton threatened again in the sixth, as a single by Jacob Grammes and a walk to Steinmetz brought the tying run to the plate. Cooperman brought in Shaun O’Donnell to relieve, and the lefty registered a strikeout to keep the score 4-1.

“Chase seemed to fatigue a little bit and his pitch count was starting to get up there,” said Cooperman. “Shaun’s been our most consistent arm throughout the entire season, and comes in and throws strikes”

The Tigers (15-8) put the game away in the seventh, putting up a four-spot. Farber came through with a two-run single, while Moyer hit another sacrifice fly.

“Definitely took a deep breath and the heart rate went down a little bit (after those four runs),” said Cooperman. “I think going into the last inning 4-1 would be a completely different feeling.”

The feeling in the opposite dugout was obviously disappointment as the loss ended Palmerton’s season.

“It was a good season,” said Svetik. “The tough part to swallow was losing to that team three times because we feel we’re right there with them. But I’m super proud of my guys. The last few years my seniors have given me everything and more than I can ask from them.”

GLOVE WORK ... Northwestern played strong defense, not committing an error. Croneberger made two tough plays at short, while right fielder Freeman threw out a runner at third to end the game. “The guys behind me are all great,” said Moyer, who allowed four hits and struck out six. “We struggled early fielding, but we’ve improved every day at practice and we’ve really worked on solidifying our defense.”

NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Josh Lichman reaches for a throw at first base to retire Palmerton's Daniel Lucykanish (2).