By Jim Hunter
Welcome to the Ryan Express II, Kennedy Catholic.
Resembling the original Ryan Express (Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan), Cochranton ace hurler Ryan Northcott handcuffed the Golden Eagles with a three-hit 1-0 shutout Wednesday night in the opening round of the District 10 Class A baseball playoffs on the beautiful Northwestern High School baseball diamond.
The Cardinals (10-6) will play Eisenhower — which upset No. 1 seed Rocky Grove, 9-5 — on Monday for the District 10 championship at Slippery Rock University.
“I think it’s been seven years since Cochranton played for the District 10 championship,” said an elated Cochranton coach John Svirbly. “This win was huge.”
Svirbly and Co. can thank Northcott for the opportunity.
The smooth-throwing Northcott had Kennedy Catholic’s number, yielding only a double to Jake Leipheimer in the second inning and singles to Jacob Fiscus and Scott Moore in the third and fifth innings, respectively.
He struck out seven and walked three. Of his 85 total pitches, 57 were for strikes.
“Ryan pitched his best game of the season,” said Svirbly. “I could tell early that he was locked in. When he is smiling out there, you know he has his stuff working.”
Northcott’s counterpart, Moore, also showcased his pitching skills. He only allowed six hits, while striking out five and walking one.
“It was a classic pitching duel,” said Svirbly.
Cochranton’s 10th man also played a role in the game.
In the third inning, Kennedy Catholic scored an apparent run as Moore crossed home plate on Pat Flynn’s flyout to center field.
However, after hearing a chorus of “check him” screams from the Cochranton fans, Northcott appealed that Moore left early. Third-base umpire Jim Moyer agreed, calling Moore out.
After leaving a runner at second base in three of the first four innings, the Cardinals finally cashed in in the fifth.
With one out, Joel Mowris reached base via a bad-hop single and stole second. Adam Nageotte followed with an infield hit to put runners on the corners.
The Cardinals then tried a double-steal. A mistake. Mowris was thrown out at the plate.
A rally killer? Not with Northcott at the plate.
Unleashing a sizzler at Kennedy Catholic second baseman Ethan Feldmiller, Northcott drove in Nageotte with a double that rolled to the fence.
“Ryan basically won the game for us from both sides,” said Svirbly.
With a 1-0 lead, Northcott only got stronger as he retired the last seven KC batters.
When Cochranton second baseman Mowris caught Patrick Shober’s popout for the final out, the Cardinals mobbed their main man — Northcott.