NORTON — The Norton baseball team remained undefeated in dramatic fashion with a walk-off victory on Monday over visiting Woodridge.
Senior Parker Hray delivered a game-winning RBI single in the seventh inning to score senior Andrew Kozak and give the Panthers a 4-3 win.
Kozak reached base twice by being hit by a pitch and scored both times for Norton (12-0, 8-0). Senior Clayton Borrelli, senior Ben Aiken and junior Steven Cruz each had two hits for Norton in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division game.
“All of our kids play with confidence,” Norton coach Rod Swartz said. “Last week, we had a couple of close games with Springfield. We had a one-run win, 2-1, and then we ended up getting down in the sixth inning. We were down 6-5 going into the seventh inning, and I approached our kids and said, ‘Hey, we want to be a good team and you have to come back and believe that you can do that.’ We scored three runs in the top of the seventh of that game and won 8-6.”
Kozak was hit by a pitch as he led off the seventh on Monday. Borrelli followed with a bunt single and then Hray came through with his single to right field.
“My approach was to try to hit the ball out of the infield,” Hray said. “I looked at the outfielders and they were way spread out, so there were a lot of gaps. It was a submarine pitcher and the ball was tailing as it was coming in, so I tried to take it the other way.”
Norton took a 1-0 lead in the first after Kozak was hit by a pitch and stole second base. With one out, Hray walked, Aiken reached base on an infield single and Kozak came home on an error.
“I knew I needed to get on base in the seventh, and if I got on base I knew that my teammates would propel me to victory,” Kozak said.
Woodridge (10-5, 7-1) made it 1-1 in the third when junior Kyle Mottice reached base on an error and scored on an RBI single by junior Andrew Mekeal.
The Panthers took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when Borrelli hit an RBI double that scored senior John Cline and Aiken hit an RBI double to score Borrelli.
The Bulldogs then drew even at 3-3. Junior Carson Murphy led off the sixth with a walk, and scored when senior Kyle Schneider hit a single and senior Brian Fitzsimmons hit a sacrifice fly. Mottice lined a double to lead off the seventh, advanced to third when senior Brad Goodyear walked and Mekeal hit a bunt single, and scored on a sacrifice fly by junior Brandon Albright.
Norton junior Evan Cefalo (4-0) pitched the seventh inning after senior ace Luke Bosley (3-0) pitched six innings.
Woodridge senior Jarrett Martin (5-0) also pitched six innings, and coach Dennis Dever praised his ace for being “a Bulldog out there.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.