By Pete Chiodo
May 28, 2013 7:00 a.m. SLIPPERY ROCK —
It’s the bottom of the fifth, bases loaded, two outs and the game is tied 1-1. Cochranton’s Ryan Northcott heads toward home plate, picks up the bat that the last batter had used and tosses it back towards the dugout. And as he does this, he’s got this giant grin on his face.
Everyone on the Cochranton side now had a pretty good feeling about what was coming next.
Sure enough, Northcott belts a two-strike pitch into center field, bringing home a pair of runs. The relay to the plate is way high, allowing a third run to score and Northcott to get to third. Head coach John Svirbly greets Northcott at third. And Northcott still has that big grin on his face.
Everyone wearing red would soon be smiling just as wide after Cochranton wrapped up its first District 10 championship with an 8-1 victory over Eisenhower in the Class A title game Monday at Slippery Rock University’s Jack Critchfield Park.
“It feels great.” said Northcott after the game, his grin still ear-to-ear.
The D-10 trophy is the program’s first since 1983.
“That’s just awesome,” said first-year head coach John Svirbly. “I couldn’t be happier for these guys.”
Now 11-6 on the season, the Cardinals now advance to the PIAA playoffs where they will face the runner-up from District 7, either Western Beaver of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Those two teams square off for the WPIAL championship Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Consol Energy Field.
The first round of states is Monday. The site and time for Cochranton’s game will be confirmed later.
More fun ahead for the Cardinals.
“That’s what we’ve been all about this postseason,” said Svirbly. “We’re relaxed, having fun, not putting too much pressure on each other. Like, the other day at practice we were out there just having fun. We weren’t being too serious because they can play the game — defensively, offensively — and they realize that. There’s no need to put extra pressure on them. It’s just one batter at a time, one play at a time, one out at a time.”
It was the D-10 championship game, however. And the Cardinals couldn’t help but feel a little pressure. That was obvious in the first inning as the Redbirds allowed Eisenhower to slip in the first run with one single and two errors.
“I think we were a little nervous,” said Northcott. “I know I was a little nervous on the mound.”
Cochranton got that run back in the bottom of the second. Jesse Staudt reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch.
That’s the way the game would remain until the fifth. Northcott settled in on the mound for Cochranton and pitched yet another gem. And Eisenhower pitcher Casey Vincent did a nice job icing the Cardinals’ bats as well.
“He’s a very good pitcher,” Svirbly said about Vincent. “He’s only a freshman. He pitches very well.”
Finally in the fifth, the cracks in the Knights’ armor started to show. With one out on the books, R.J. Boozer struck out swinging, but the ball got away from catcher Logan Bellardo allowing Boozer to get on board.
Now with two outs, Joel Mowris smacked a double to right center field to put two on. Then Adam Nageotte drew a walk to load the bases.
Up came Northcott and his pearly whites.
“When (Northcott) is feeling it, you can tell because he’s got that huge smile on his face and he’s having fun,” said Svirbly.
Smack! — Northcott’s hit cleans up the bases, putting Cochranton in front 4-1.
Then Jesse Staudt knocks a ball into the dirt. Vincent can’t field it in time, putting Staudt on and scoring Northcott. Then Caleb Peterson comes up, and he cranks a double to score Staudt. The inning ends with Cochranton leading 6-1.
“We finally got to (Vincent) there in the fifth,” Svirbly said. “I think he started to get a little tired. He was leaving some balls up and we were driving them. And these kids feed off each other. It just takes that one to get it going.”
Cochranton tacked on two more runs in the sixth. Once again, Northcott found himself at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He drove another pitch into the outfield, bringing two more home.
He would end the game going 2-for-4 with four RBIs. He also got the win on the mound, allowing no earned runs on three hits with zero walks and eight strikeouts.
Through 14 innings this postseason, Northcott has let to yield an earned run, has held his opponents to a batting average of .118 and has struck out 15.
“He’s in the zone right now,” said Svirbly. “I can’t say enough about him. We had a team effort. But they know it, we wouldn’t be here without him. He’s okay with that, they’re okay with that.”
Peterson also had a nice day at the plate for Cochranton, going 3-for-3 with a double and one RBI. Mowris added a single and a double in four at-bats and scored twice.