By Frank Foreman
VERNON TOWNSHIP —
The rain may have stopped early on during Wednesday night’s District 1 Little League loser’s bracket contest between Cochranton and Vernon, but that didn’t stop Cochranton from pouring on the offense at Roche Park.
A big fourth inning and dominant pitching combined to lift Cochranton to a 10-0 victory over Vernon in five innings, and in the process keeping its season alive for at least one more game.
For Cochranton manager Matt Bernarding, that’s just enough.
“We’re ecstatic. We’re ready to go,” Bernarding said. “We are ready for any challenge, and we know we can step up.”
If Cochranton performs like it did Wednesday, it has as good of a shot as any team left in the tournament at making some noise.
While a 10-run outburst kept the bats red hot, it was the pitching of hurler Curtis Freyermuth that stole the show.
Freyermuth was lights out from his first pitch to his very last, keeping Vernon’s lineup off-balanced and jumpy in the batter’s box. Freyermuth allowed just one hit over five innings while striking out nine.
No wonder Bernarding could only think of one word to describe the performance: Dominant.
“When (Freyermuth) is up there, his teammates relax,” Bernarding said. “He was dominant. He’s a leader on the mound.”
For Freyermuth, it was bouncing back from his last outing that motivated the youngster.
“I felt good, a lot better than last game,” Freyermuth said. “I focused a lot more.”
Cochranton jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first when an Ian Haynes sacrifice fly with the bases loaded scored Alex McKay to make it 1-0. Two pitches later, Kohl Bernarding scored on a wild pitch to give Cochranton a 2-0 advantage.
Cochranton made it 3-0 when Zack Snedeker reached first on a fielder’s choice, then came around to score on an RBI single by Caleb Glancy.
While Vernon was still trying to figure out Freyermuth, it was Cochranton’s bats that sparked a five-run fourth inning to put the game away.
Four consecutive errors led off the inning, three of which came on hard hit balls, to plate a pair of runs for Cochranton. Back-to-back walks followed to set the table for Glancy and Brandon Richter to hit sacrifice flies of their own, and before you knew it, it was 8-0 in favor of Cochranton.
A leadoff double by Bernarding in the bottom of the fifth, followed by a walk, put two runners on base for Cochranton. A pair of wild pitches followed to bring home both runners, ending the game.
Kohl Bernarding had a big game at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Haynes went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI in the win.
Cochranton took advantage of errors by Vernon, but hard hit balls and timely batting kept Vernon from keeping pace.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well lately,” Bernarding said. “We started off slow, but we’re doing a lot better now. We think we’re pretty solid up and down the lineup.”
With the win, Cochranton gets a shot at Mid-East on Friday, a match-up of two teams who are pretty familiar with each other.
Freyermuth plans on channeling the Cochranton victory into Friday’s contest, and perhaps beyond that.
“It gets us pumped up for the next game,” Freyermuth said. “Hopefully, we can win the rest of them.”