Flat bats can’t hide errors in Knights loss to Hawks

BASEBALL – The Council Rock South Hawks celebrate after their 3-2 win over the North Penn Knights.

HOLLAND – “There is a reason why the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror. It doesn’t matter what is behind you, you just have to keep on moving,” said Council Rock South head coach Ted Kirner.

That saying held true for the Hawks as they beat the North Penn Knights, a team in a very different position than them in terms of post season play. Looking in the rear view mirror, it was the Knights that were 15-2 overall and 11-0  in their conference and looking for a playoff bye, and the Hawks who were 5-7 looking to be one of the last seeds. However, on Monday afternoon, the windshield outlook saw the Hawks beating the Knights 3-2 in a game where all the little things mattered.

The Knights have had many games that have gone into double digits, where their errors can be masked by their bats. However, today some mistakes were exposed by a low energy offense, and it ended up costing them the game by one run.

“Sometimes it just comes down to pure physical execution,” said North Penn head coach Kevin Manero on the Knights’ loss.

Sometimes it just comes down to pure physical execution

— Kevin Manero

Junior pitcher Joe Valenti commanded the mound for the Knights. In the first inning Hawks’ shortstop Jack O’Neill got things going with a single, and he then advanced to second as third baseman Emilio Pallante hit a sacrifice bunt. However, Valenti caught second baseman Matt Smith looking and the infield took care of the next out to end the inning.

Facing pitcher Brendon Carter, the Knights got on base as catcher Jake Drelick and shortstop Zach Miles were walked. However, the Knights did not capitalize on having two base runners. Joe Picozzi and Billy Collins ended the inning, both striking out swinging.

“We didn’t do a good job of jumping on fastballs early in the count. We put together good at bats, we are very patient, but today we were letting too many good fastballs go by early. There were too many times that we were flirting with having to fight a pitch off that was three inches off the plate. We put ourselves in that position, and that is really why I don’t think we came up with any big hits early on,” explained Manero.

The Knights opened up the second inning with an error by third baseman Tyler Siddal, allowing Luke Gregory to get on base. But as Nick Gallow grounded out to second, Gregory was forced out, and Atlee Hasson made a catch in the outfield for the third out on the next batter.

Hasson returned at the plate to start off the bottom of the second, and he was hit with a ball on the third pitch. With Ryan Bealer at the plate, Hasson advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hasson remained on second as Bealer and Hunter Hamlin struck out. Carter then walked Rob Weiss and faced the top of North Penn’s line up with two base runners. However, Siddal gave the Knights their third out to end the inning with a line drive up center field.

Valenti closed out the third inning with help from Bealer who caught two back to back outs in left field. The Knights didn’t get on base in the third inning, still with no hits against Carter.

Collins earned an unassisted out at first base that was followed by an out by Bealer in left field for a quick two outs in the top of the fourth. But a walk by Valenti and another error by Siddal then put two runners on base. However, Picozzi caught a fly to end the inning on the next batter, the score still tied nothing to nothing.

Collins opened up the next inning by getting walked and the advancing to second on a wild pitch. He was then followed by Hasson who was also walked, and a sacrifice bunt by Bealer advanced both players. With two outs, the Knights were looking at the bottom of their line up to stay alive. Weiss managed to keep the Knights alive facing a full count. Getting walked and loading the bases, it was then Carter and Siddal to battle it out. It wasn’t a tough battle though, as four balls walked Siddal and sent Collins home for the first run of the game.

That would be the only run the Knights scored in the inning, not capitalizing on another opportunity with bases loaded. Drelick forced Siddal out at second, but the Knights still led 1-0.

To start the fifth, Hasson had to back to back outs in center field and then Valenti hit O’Neill. Picozzi came in clutch, earning the third out on a pop up to right field.

At his next at bat, Picozzi was hit by a pitch by the Hawks’ new pitcher, Jake Barder. Barder followed the hit by overthrowing first base in an attempt to pick off Picozzi, and North Penn advanced to second. Collins then hit a sacrifice fly, advancing Picozzi to third. The Knights were never able to bring Picozzi home as Hasson popped up out to O’Neill at shortstop.

The next inning was big for the Hawks. Smith ripped a single and then an error by Zach Miles put Evan Fisher on base behind him.  Gregory executed a sacrifice bunt to advance the base runners, and then Gallow got to work.

“We decided that we were going to have him bunt a runner in and tie the game up one to one, exchange an out for a run. But he couldn’t get the bunt down and he was 0-2 against their starting pitcher. He grinded a few fouls balls, sat on a couple outside pitches, and then hits an absolute missile to left field,” described Kirner, “That was a huge momentum swing.”

He grinded a few fouls balls, sat on a couple outside pitches, and then hits an absolute missile to left field

— Ted Kirner

Valenti had him at a 2-2 count when he hit an RBI double, and the Hawks took a one run lead over the Knights. Another unassisted out by Collins and a strike out by Valenti cooled the damage as the Knights took the plate.

Heading into the top of the sixth, the Knights were still chugging without any hits. With one out however, Hamlin recorded the first one with a deep double. Jack Yunaska replaced Hamlin on second and reversed the momentum of the double quickly. Another overthrown pitch by Barder to try and pick of a base runner incited Yunaska to go for third, ultimately getting the Knights second out of the inning. With two outs, Weiss was walked for the third time in a row, and Barder was looking at Siddal with two outs already in his pocket. What should have been an easy out at first wasn’t, as Fisher didn’t have his foot on the bag after a throwing error by O’Neill.

Drelick was then facing two outs, a full count, and a one run deficit. He picked things up with a deep hit into center field. As center fielder Bryan Rieser dove and missed, Weiss scored, but Siddal was ultimately tagged out at home.

The Hawks entered the seventh inning with the game tied 2-2. An early error by Miles allowed O’Neill to reach first, and he soon ended up stealing second.

“We made four errors [today]. In a one run game, you can’t make four errors. Mistakes are a part of the game, but good teams buckle down and find ways to keep guys off the bases. The way Joe Valenti pitched today, they were not going to beat us unless we gave them baserunners, and we did,” noted Manero.

We made four errors [today]. In a one run game, you can’t make four errors. Mistakes are a part of the game, but good teams buckle down and find ways to keep guys off the bases

— Kevin Manero

It was then Smith who came up big with an RBI, prompting North Penn to bring out Mason Blankenburg to the mound to secure the last out.

“I was seeing curveballs the whole game. I saw it off [Valenti’s] hand and I just adjusted to it and put it out there,” explained Smith.

Down one run going into the final inning, North Penn’s bats remained flat. Miles was able to reach first by a dropped pop up, but then Picozzi and Collins struck out swinging. The Knights then called upon Colby Chan with two outs. He wasn’t able to salvage the game, and the Knights took the loss 3-2.

“We weren’t intimidated by them at all. This could have been our last game with all of our brothers, we just wanted to come out and win,” said Smith.

“We have to learn from this because in playoff baseball, they are all going to be one or two run games, and you are going to have to find ways to win those games,” said Manero, “All year long, our bats have been making up for every mistake. We’ve put up double digit runs a lot, but we are smart enough to know that we are not going to put up double digit runs everyday.” 

The Knights will host Pennridge tomorrow at 3:45 for their Senior Day.