Northlake Christian relied on strong pitching to reach the baseball postseason.
The Wolverines got more of it Tuesday, as well as a momentum-grabbing grand slam.
Sean Tweedy, a senior left-hander, scattered five hits in six innings to handcuff Calvary Baptist batters. Fellow senior Taj Porter pitched a perfect seventh, and also hit the big home run in the first inning. They were key in Northlake’s 7-3 victory in a Class 2A playoff opener at Mula Family Field in Covington.
Tweedy, a Southern Miss signee, struck out 10. He said he felt relaxed on the mound, especially after Porter cleared the bases with a blast to left-center field in the first.
“That’s a huge sigh of relief when Taj hits that ball,” Tweedy said. “Right away, a huge burden was lifted off my back. We had momentum, and that made my job easier.”
Porter said the homer came off a fastball that stayed up in the zone.
“The bases are loaded, so you try to find a hole or find a gap,” he said. “Defense wins championships, but you have to score to win.”
Calvary starting pitcher Cole Downey walked three of the first five batters in the first inning, which set up Porter’s grand slam. But the Cavaliers answered with two runs in the top of the second. Cade Hart had an RBI single and Kyle Jones scored him with an RBI triple.
Northlake (20-6) tallied again in the bottom of the inning when Justin Ethridge singled, and eventually came home on a groundout by Logan Stevens.
Calvary (16-13) had a chance to score in the fourth when Jones led off with a double and Ty Matthews walked. But Tweedy coaxed a strikeout, and Jones eventually was caught in a rundown between third and home. Porter ran him down from third base for the second out, and one pitch later, Tweedy struck out Downey to end the inning.
Northlake, the 13th seed, padded its lead in the fourth when Ethridge walked, Cole Bilbo singled, and Logan Stevens scored them both on a double to the center-field wall. That hit made the score 7-2, and it chased Downey, who was replaced on the mound by Hart.
Hart got two quick outs to end the inning, but the damage was done. The Wolverines totaled six hits and five walks against Downey in 31?3 innings.
The 20th-seeded Cavaliers got a run back in the fifth when Jake Bartley tripled on a ball that fell not far behind first base, but scooted into the right-field corner after landing on a sandy area. He came home on a fielder’s choice by David Fitzwater to make the score 7-3.
“We’ve struggled to start out quickly all year,” Northlake coach Tim Rogers said. “I have a lot of confidence in our bats, but we have gotten a slow start before. We were fortunate to get the quick start today.”
Northlake advanced to the regionals, and will play the Episcopal/Welsh winner. That “best of three” series will be played Friday and Saturday.