JACKSON TWP — Having missed out on earning the pitching win Tuesday afternoon, Ethan Edkins helped determine the outcome in another manner.
Seneca Valley's senior pitcher had shut out North Allegheny on three hits through the first six innings. With one out in the seventh, he walked Erik Sundgren and was pulled from the mound because he was nearing the 100-pitch limit.
Sundgren later scored on Aaron Posey's triple to tie the game at 1.
Reliever Alex Mortier escaped the inning with no further damage and Edkins, who remained in the game defensively, led off the bottom of the inning with a single.
He moved to second base on Conor Carney's sacrifice bunt and Clayton Blucher was intentionally walked.
That brought Quinn Burke to the plate with one out and he launched a Joe Lang pitch to deep left, where the fence at Raider Field is over 20-feet high.
The ball came within two feet of being a home run. It bounced back into the field of play, but the Tigers had no chance of getting Edkins, who raced in with the winning run in a dramatic 2-1 victory.
“I thought that ball was gone, but I waited,” Edkins said. “When I saw it hit the fence, I took off. I was dead-tired, exhausted ... but I knew I had to score.”
Edkins cruised through the first four innings, allowing just a pair of base runners on walks in that span. He gained the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Dustin Horn's single plated Mortier with the game's first run, chasing NA starter Brady Palmer from the mound in the process.
The Tigers (2-1, 0-1) forced Edkins to show his mettle in the fifth. Their first two hits of the game — an infield single from Sundgren and a double from Posey — gave them runners at second and third with just one out. Edkins responded with strikeouts of Nathan Hess and Ethan Gavlik to end the threat.
“My curveball was working for me all day and it came up big for me there,” he said. “If I'm down in the count, I like to throw my curveball because most hitters aren't going to swing at it when the count's in their favor.”
That strategy works as long as the pitch is thrown for a strike and on Tuesday, Edkins was on target. His curve helped him come within two outs of pitching his second 1-0 shutout of the season. He tallied seven strikeouts and three walks.
“He has confidence in his pitches and that's big,” said SV coach Eric Semega. “He gives us a chance to win every time he takes the mound.”
The Tigers came close to taking the lead in the seventh. After tying the game, they had a runner at third with one out, but Mortier stranded him and was eventually the winning pitcher thanks to his teammates' bats in the next half inning.
The Tigers tallied just four hits in the game.
“We feel like we're a good hitting team, but we did not do well with it today,” said NA coach Andy Heck. “Our at-bats with runners in scoring position was the difference today.”
Third baseman Ethan Baer singled three times for SV (3-1, 1-0).
“I thought we played great today ... offense, defense and pitching,” said Semega. “These kids believe in themselves, you could tell just by watching the dugout.
“I've had a ton of individual players over the years who wanted to be coached, but this is the most coachable group I've ever had.”
North Allegheny 000 000 1 — 1 4 2
Seneca Valley 000 100 1 — 2 11 0
W: Alex Mortier .2 IP (1K, 0BB). L: Joe Lang 2.2 IP (3K, 1BB).
North Allegheny (2-1, 0-1): Erik Sundgren 1B R, Aaron Posey 2B 3B RBI
Seneca Valley (3-1, 1-0): Ethan Edkins 1B R, Quinn Burke 1B 2B RBI, Alex Mortier 2-1B R, Ethan Baer 3-1B, Dustin Horn 2-1B RBI
Wednesday: Seneca Valley at North Allegheny