NP on three game winning streak with Valenti’s 2-hit shutout


Anissa Gardizy

BASEBALL- Junior Joe Valenti recorded his first varsity win with a 2-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Pennridge Rams.

PERKASIE- “I think it went great, it feels amazing,” said junior Joe Valenti on his first varsity win, “My strengths were my command with all three of my pitches. They were all working today.”

To say Valenti’s pitches were “working” is an understatement, given the fact that he recorded a 2-hit shutout in the Knights 5-0 win over the Pennridge Rams (2-5, 1-5). The win made the Knights’ three game week one filled with conference W’s (9-2, 6-0).

Pennridge’s Alex Podraza and Valenti kept the first couple of innings pretty uneventful at bat. But when Podraza opened up the third inning with two walks, the Knights immediately took advantage. A sacrifice bunt from catcher Jake Drelick put Rob Weiss in scoring position, and it was Zach Miles who hit him in. With Tyler Siddal on third, Joe Picozzi took the plate, but after four consecutive fouls, Podraza struck him out. The Knights left the third inning up 1-0 in what seemed was going to be a low scoring game.

The Knights backed up Valenti and their early lead with smooth execution in the bottom of the third, quickly ending the inning with a double play.

[Valenti] really attacked the zone and made the guys swing

— Atlee Hasson

“[Valenti] really attacked the zone and made the guys swing the bat. We also made a lot of routine plays to help him get out of innings quick,” noted outfielder Atlee Hasson.

Hasson and Ryan Bealer started to give the Knights momentum with two singles in the fourth. A wild pitch helped both players advance bases, but the batters who followed were not able to make anything out of it.

To start the fifth inning, the Rams took out Podraza and brought out junior Jon Nase who was facing the top of North Penn’s line up. He managed to earn three consecutive outs, but the Ram’s bats were still struggling to get a run against Valenti. Valenti closed out the 5th inning allowing no batters on base.

Billy Collins got things going in the 6th with a hard line drive up the first base line for a single. Hasson followed suit with a single that got Collins’ courtesy runner, Griffin Juckniewitz, to third. Bealer’s bunt brought Juckniewitz home and brought him to first, putting the Knights up 2-0.

“We had a rough start in the beginning. Our first time around we weren’t really getting used to the pitcher, but we did a really nice job getting back to second time around. We made a lot of good at bat adjustments,” explained Hasson.

That’s when the Rams went for their second pitching change, bringing out left handed pitcher Bryce Dickey. Dickey managed to escape the inning with the Rams only down by two runs.

Valenti maintained his shut out status in the sixth inning, and the Knights used the seventh to secure their win. Their small ball tactics brought in three more runs, with RBI by Miles, Collins, and Hasson.

“We know that there are going to be games where we are going to face some good pitching and have a hard time driving the baseball. Those are the games where we have to learn how to execute. We had some small ball, a perfectly executed hit and run by Atlee Hasson, and a big sacrifice fly by Billy. Really a lot of station to station, good execution, and good offensive approach,” noted head coach Kevin Manero.

We know that there are going to be games where we are going to face some good pitching and have a hard time driving the baseball. Those are the games where we have to learn how to execute

— Kevin Manero

In the bottom of the seventh, Valenti walked the first batter, but the Knights backed him up on the next at bat with a double play.

“I think this is the first game since we came back from Myrtle Beach where we didn’t make an error. The double plays were big, routine fundamental defense. Especially the last one, because we were up by five, and you don’t want to rush. If you rush, you get no one and give them a big inning. But we took our time and took one at a time. A double play is going to be a pitcher’s best friend most of the time,” explained Manero about the Knights’ two double plays.

To ice off Valenti’s shutout, Picozzi had a diving catch to end the game 5-0.

“He’s going hard on everything. He made that play just as if it was a one to nothing game in the bottom of the last inning. Our outfielders take bases away. We say that we don’t necessarily need outfielders that are going to throw guys out, we just want guys that can take bases away,” explained Manero.

North Penn will face Central Bucks East this Tuesday while  trying to remain undefeated in the Suburban One Continental Conference.