McKEES ROCKS —
Bedford never could get its offense rolling in Thursday’s PIAA Class AA quarterfinal baseball playoff game.
Three days after the District 5 champion Bisons had tallied 10 runs in a first-round state playoff victory, Northwestern right-hander Nate Noe limited Bedford to four hits, with three of those coming in the third inning.
Meanwhile, District 10 runner-up Northwestern collected nine hits, executed a run-scoring safety squeeze and a perfect hit-and-run in an 8-1 victory over Bedford at Frank Marko Field in Robinson Township’s Burkett Complex.
“You’ve got to give their pitcher some credit because we’ve been swinging the bats well,” Bedford coach Scott Waugerman said after his team closed a 12-7 season. “We just gave up too many easy at-bats and too many fly balls. On the flip side, baseball’s cardinal sin is to walk the lead-off guy, and we did that multiple times.
“To their credit, every time we walked someone, they pushed him across.”
Bedford’s Dylan Daniel blasted a solo homer over the 363-foot sign in left field to pull the Bisons within 4-1, but that was as close as they’d get.
“I thought maybe that would get us going a little bit, but for whatever reason we didn’t follow through with good at-bats,” Waugerman said. “Maybe some of it is being in the state playoffs in the quarterfinals. I don’t know. Our guys usually swing the bats better than this.”
Noe struck out three batters and walked four. He retired the side in order in the second, fourth and sixth innings and faced only four batters in the fifth and seventh.
“His offspeed was working well,” said Northwestern coach Jon Light, whose team is 15-5. “He was using his change-up, dragging it down early. His curve ball looks like his change-up and his change-up looks like his curve ball. Once he started locating those pitches, it’s kind of hard to get on that fastball.”
Northwestern will face the winner of a Thursday game between District 10 champion Franklin and District 6 champ Central. The semifinal will be played on Monday.
“The last game was our first-ever win in our high school history in state play,” Light said of a first-round 7-6 win over District 9 champion Karns City on Monday. “The sky is the limit for this team. They’re just a hard out right now.
“I’ve been saying this for a long time. We may not look like a whole lot when we get off the bus, but we come to play.”
Noe singled and Pete Buckoski walked to open the second. One out and a wild pitch later, Sam Yochim hit a well-placed safety squeeze bunt to plate a run. Greg DePalma smacked an opposite field single through the hole in right as the Wildcats had a hit-and-run play on.
“That’s been our MO all season,” Light said. “We’re not afraid to put the ball down on the ground, and we’re not afraid to run the bases. It’s not like we have a lot of speed. I thought we executed the bunt well and didn’t chase balls in the dirt. Overall it’s got to be one of our better games.”
Jay Clinger and Bird had run-scoring singles in the third to make it 4-0. Daniel’s blast provided Bedford’s lone run in the bottom of the frame, though the Bisons stranded two runners that inning.
“(Noe) did a good job of changing speeds, his location was good and he threw strikes,” Waugerman said. “He wasn’t going to give us free passes. He made us work to get on.
“We can’t complain about this season but we’re obviously disappointed not just with the results but with how we played today to be honest,” Waugerman added.
Northwestern sandwiched a two-run fifth inning between single runs in the fourth and sixth. Bedford used three pitchers – Jeremiah Bingham, Robert Hernandez and Austin Montgomery.
The Bisons will lose two senior starters in Kody Blevins and Travis Hickey.
“One thing we did say to the kids who are coming back was, ‘We feel really sorry for the two seniors that don’t get to advance, but this is a learning experience for you guys to get an idea of what you need to do to get back,’” Waugerman said. “We’re really going to miss Travis and Kody because those guys have been three-year starters and they’ve come through in big situations for us all season long.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.