NORTH PENN 3, PENNRIDGE 0
Just like North Penn's baseball team this season, senior righthander Brian Maher has been a late bloomer. Not so much in his mechanics, but in what coach Kevin Manero calls his "game readiness."
"He's a little hyper and wiry," the Knights skipper said. "It's tough sometimes to keep the reins on him. Now, on game days, he's learned how to be physically and mentally ready."
Maher, composed from the start, threw another gem in Tuesday's PIAA Class AAAA semifinal versus Pennridge. His four-hit, complete-game effort keyed a 3-0 triumph at Spring-Ford's Ram Stadium.
In advancing to the state final for the second time in five seasons, North Penn reversed three straight losses against its Suburban One League Continental Conference rival, including a 4-3 decision in the District 1 semis.
"That was in the back of our minds," Maher said. "We definitely wanted to get this one. And this is the one that mattered the most."
Maher, pounding the strike zone and finding the corners, scattered three hits, all singles, through six innings. Overall, he threw 72 pitches, with 53 for strikes.
Of his trademark control, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder said, "I've hadgreat pitching coaches my whole life. I've never thrown that hard. I have to hit my spots."
The Knights, who placed fourth in districts after arriving as the North region's No. 12 seed, will take on District 3 titlist Lower Dauphin for top honors at 6 p.m. Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Unable to find an answer for Maher, who did not allow a walk, Pennridge (20-8) fell two victories short of its first state championship since 1987.
"You have to tip your cap to him," Rams coach Tom Nuneviller said. "We were trying to be aggressive. We just didn't get guys on today."
North Penn (16-10) touched Pennridge ace Evan Myersfor three runs in the bottom of the third. After Brad Bertucci (2 for 2) delivered an RBI single to left field, Eddie Posavec ripped a two-run triple to right-center.
"He's going to a Division I school for a reason," Maher said of Posavec, a senior catcher and Binghamton commit. "When he gets a good swing on the ball, he has some life in his bat."
Jake Gordon (2 for 3) opened Pennridge's final at-bat with a double to right-center. But he would end up stranded at third base, as Maher drew a pair of groundouts and notched the final out on a called third strike.
With two outs in the third, the Rams, with the aid of a fielding error, placed men on first and second. Maher, whose next stop is Elizabethtown, escaped with the first of his four strikeouts.
Pennridge 000 000 0-0 4 0
North Penn 003 000 X-3 5 1
WP: Brian Maher. LP: Evan Myers. 2B: P-Jake Gordon. 3B: NP-Eddie Posavec.