Cooper Thomas gave Northmor a pair of fifth-inning insurance runs with a double in his team’s win over Mechanicsburg Wednesday.

Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

Northmor overcame a slow start to advance to the district semifinals in Division IV baseball on Wednesday.

The host Golden Knights found themselves in a 2-0 hole midway through the first inning, but gave their opponents no additional offense the rest of the way. Northmor would then wake up their bats midway through the contest, picking up three runs in the fourth inning and a pair of insurance scores in the fifth to claim a 5-2 decision.

Starting pitcher Drew Hammond struggled a bit in the first inning, walking leadoff hitter Jayden Roland and, with one out, giving up a run-scoring double to Mason Hess. A wild pitch moved Hess to third base, where he was driven in by a Lane Poland grounder.

However, the Northmor hurler was dominant the rest of the way, finishing with a three-hitter. He struck out nine, walked two and only faced trouble in the final inning, when the Indians took advantage of a walk and single to put runners on the corners with two outs. However, one strikeout later and the Golden Knights would move on in the playoffs.

“That’s what Drew does,” said head coach Buck Workman. “He gets stronger as the game goes on. You’ve got to get him early because if he gets settled in, he’s hard to hit later.”

In the early going, Northmor found Indian pitcher Brennin Eyink difficult to hit. Through the first three innings, Northmor only had two hitters reach base — Grant Bentley by being hit by a pitch in the first and Bryce Cooper via walk in the third. The fourth frame would be a different story, though.

Hammond led off the inning with a ground ball, but was safe at first after an Indian error. Mechanicsburg would record two straight outs, but Trevor Brubaker was able to get Northmor on the board with a run-scoring double. After Caiden Martinez was hit by a pitch, Cooper then brought both runners in with a hit.

“We got ourselves in a hole and we came out in the second inning and hit three hard-hit balls right at people,” said Workman. “It’s one of those days where you think this isn’t going to be our day, but we got those big two-out hits in the fourth inning that were just huge. We had Brubaker and then Bryce Cooper have big hits with two outs that gave us that 3-2 lead.”

Northmor would strike again in the fifth with another big two-out hit. After singles by Bohdi Workman and Hammond, Cooper Thomas drove the ball to the fence for a two-run double that staked the Golden Knights to a 5-2 lead.

Workman noted that Mechanicsburg did a lot to disrupt his team’s usual offensive strategy.

“They scouted us pretty well, I think,” he said. “They knew what we like to do with the small ball, so I just kind of let my guys sit back there and square up some baseballs. We did a heck of a job, especially in the fourth through seventh innings, to get some things going for us.”

After his third-seeded Golden Knights finished off their fifth-seeded opponents, Workman knows the postseason path is only going to get more difficult. Next up will be Fairfield Christian Academy — the second seed.

“They’re a really good team,” he said of Mechanicsburg. “I had them at two on my seeding bracket and they ended up playing us in the second round. You don’t expect that to happen, but that’s what we’re dealing with. It’s not going to get any easier because we’ll have Fairfield Christian, who’s the two seed. If we’re fortunate enough to get through them, we’re probably going to get Newark Catholic, who’s the one seed. It’s one district winner. You’ve got to beat everybody anyway.”

Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS