BUCKTOWN >> It was like money in the bank.
Norchester had Cal Endy as its starting pitcher for Thursday’s playoff game with Twin Valley. Standing ready to take over, if needed, in the opening round of the Berks County League tournament was Ben Hakun.
The duo proved key to the Bulldogs’ 6-5 victory at Owen J. Roberts High’s Wildcat Field. Endy worked deep into the eighth inning before Hakun came on to close out the second-round contest.
“Cal did a great job. That’s one of the better games I saw him throw,” Norchester manager Rick Harrison said at the conclusion of a rainy night’s work. “Ben goes in there and throws strikes. He showed composure.”
The composure, coupled with some timely hitting and defense, proved necessary for top-seeded Norchester to hold off TV. The fourth-seeded Raiders, coming off a 6-5 win over Exeter Wednesday, worked their way back from a 6-3 deficit with single runs in the eighth and ninth innings ... and mounted the threat of pulling even when they had a runner on third with two outs.
But Hakun retired Colin Hartey on a fly out to center, moving Norchester into the winners’ bracket final against West Lawn — a 10-5 winner over Boyertown in other Thursday action — when the tournament resumes Saturday at Bear Stadium.
“Ben is really good in situations like this,” Riley McGinley, who drove in three of the Bulldogs’ runs with a pair of hits, said. “He pounded the strike zone.”
Twin Valley got the jump on Norchester in the third, scoring a pair of runs when Colby Hiddemen doubled home David Sabulsky and Colin Hartey, both of whom singled with two outs. McGinley got the runs back in the hosts’ half of the frame, his single up the middle plating Austin Levengood and Josh Fulmer (3-for-5, two RBI) after they drew leadoff walks.
The clubs traded runs in the fifth: The Raiders, with Drew Donnellan (safe on error) coming home off Hartey’s grounder to the left of first base, the ‘Dogs answering with McGinley singling Levengood (walk) to the plate.
“When I get up with guys in scoring position, we’re down early and there’s an opportunity to tie the game,” McGinley said, “I hit the ball into the gap.”
The Bulldogs’ sixth-inning roll was highlighted by Fulmer singling up the middle to score Andrew Fisher and Levengood (hit by pitch). That was after Ryan Cusic (walk) took advantage of a couple wild pitches to score the go-ahead run.
That lead held up in spite of TV’s attempts at a comeback. In the seventh, Hartey (2-for-4) hit a booming double down the right-field line; and after Hiddemen (2-for-3, two RBI) got hit by a pitch to reach base, Zach Rice followed with another double to the right side to bring Hartey in.
In the ninth, Brad Rutherford (3-for-4) led off with a single, moving to third off the hitting of Donnellan and relief pitcher Joe Brosius (sacrifice bunt). He came home as Sabulsky grounded to shortstop for the second out.
“Twin Valley is a hot team. It’s been playing good baseball of late,” Harrison said. “Getting the first win against a team like that is good.”
Endy, who last week was named to the Berks County League All-Star team and was named Outstanding Pitcher of the regular season, finished the night with the pitching decision. He was touched for 11 of TV’s 12 hits and its first four runs, but he countered with six strikeouts while walking none.
Hakun came on with two away in the eighth and got Norchester out of the inning without further damage. He finished with a strikeout for 1-1/3 innings’ relief, helping put Norchester in good stead for the remainder of the tournament.
“We have the rest of our staff,” Harrison said, “and Hakun threw just 25 pitches, so we can get him back.”
The moist weather didn’t hamper the Twin Valley defense, which turned a pair of double plays and got a particularly inspiring effort from shortstop Blake Greenley, whose lunging catch of a Fisher liner stole a hit from the Norchester outfielder. Norchester’s “D” also had a double play to its credit.
“We got here and had to sit, wait and see,” Harrison said. “The field was playable, and we did what we had to do to win.”
The bonus of a first-round bye — the reward for finishing first in the league during the regular season — further paid Norchester dividends.
“It was big, especially since we didn’t have to see anybody’s ace,” McGinley noted. “If we win one more game, we’ll be in the championship round.”
TV’s starting pitcher, Joe Storz, left in the sixth after being touched by Norchester for all its runs. He had three wild pitches and gave up seven walks. ... Levengood drew four of the Raiders’ walks, all in his first four plate appearances. Ryan Cusic also walked twice. ... McGinley and Leif Wergeland had pairs of stolen bases among the eight Norchester pilfered.