On Friday, the Northern Lebanon Vikings host the West Perry Mustangs in the First Round of the PIAA District 3 AAAA Baseball Playoffs. The Vikings earned the #7 seed after finishing the regular season with a 14-6 record. Having gone 7-13 a season ago, this was a marked improvement under first-year head coach Travis Thome. The success of the season earned the Vikings this District Playoff appearance, the program’s first since 2014.
West Perry entered the day as the #10 seed, having finished the regular season with a 10-10 record, but won three of their last four games to make it into Districts. Whatever their record was, it’s baseball and any number of factors can swing the pendulum in a one-game playoff.
After a quiet 1st frame, West Perry drew first blood when they scored two in the 2nd. They went on to add two more in the 3rd, putting Northern Lebanon up against a wall and breaking through against one of the Lancaster Lebanon League’s best young pitchers, Adrian Gonzalez.
The Vikings responded in the bottom half of the 3rd, scoring two to halve the deficit and make the score 4-2 in favor of the Mustangs. In the top of the 4th, West Perry again scored in order to give them a 5-2 lead. However, if there is one thing to know about Northern Lebanon is that they have shown resolve all year and they again struck back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it a 5-4 game.
Entering the 5th inning, Coach Thome pulled his freshman fireballer in favor of junior Dylan Fegley. Seeing a new pitcher for the first time, their bats went silent. Unfortunately, the Vikings were unable to cut into the lead in the Bottom 5th.
In the 6th inning, West Perry tacked on an insurance run, making it 6-4. The run was unearned, but that does not tend to matter when considering the final score of a playoff game. For the Vikings, their time was running out as they would only have two more chances at the plate.
Facing the two-run deficit in the last half of the 6th inning, the Vikings got two players on base with the go-ahead run coming up in the form of Moises Gonzalez. The junior has been one of Northern Lebanon’s best offensive weapons all season and had driven in one run earlier in this game. The question at that point was if he would have what it would take at this moment in time. Facing a 2-2 count, Gonzalez answered that question with an emphatic “YES!”, smacking the ball over the left field fence for this second home run of the season. When he crossed the plate after rounding the bases, the Vikings now had a 7-6 lead.
Baseball ⚾️: In the Bottom 6th, Northern Lebanon’s Moises Gonzalez hit a 3-run bomb that put the Vikings ahead on their way to defeating West Perry, 7-6. @nation_nl @_NLHS_Baseball @Longshots_BBall pic.twitter.com/8sZ7EcCTAT
— LebCoSports.com (@LebCoSports1) May 20, 2023
Fegley shut the Mustangs down in the Top 7th, having completed three innings of relief without surrendering a hit. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the win as the pitcher of record. However, it is the prevalent attitude of the Northern Lebanon players that when they win, it is everyone responsible for that win.
Over the course of the game, the Vikings collected ten hits to score the seven runs. Moises Gonzalez was the leading offensive threat, plating four RBI on 1/4 hitting. Riley Messinger (Jr.) went 2/4 with an RBI. Freshman Adrian Gonzalez was 1/2, walked, reached on an error, hit a triple, and scored twice. Senior James Voight was 1/4, tripled, and scored a run. Catcher DJ Byerley (Sr.) went 2/3 with a double. Andrew Via (Fr.) was 1/1 with a double and a run scored. Xander McQuaide and Connor Stoltz also scored in the winning effort.
With this win, Northern Lebanon will now move into the District Quarterfinals, where they will play #2 Boiling Springs on Monday afternoon. For more on the District 3 Playoffs, check out our LebCo District Playoff Tracker.
Earlier in the season, Northern Lebanon secured another key comeback win. To read more about it, check out: Baseball Thriller: Northern Lebanon Shocks Camp Hill