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Freeport Palomino team savoring success

To celebrate each home win this season, a few members of the Freeport Palomino baseball team have emulated the Pirates' post-victory routine and jumped into each other.

Fortunately for the Gators (6-6), they've had more opportunities than usual to make the celebratory leap. Their six wins equals or surpasses the total the team had each of the last five years, said coach Ernie Sipolino, and six games remain in Freeport's regular season.

"The team is doing about as good as we expected it to do," Sipolino said. "There's some wiggle room for improvement."

Freeport's improvement is the product of a matured lineup, the coach said.

"They're pretty much all the same kids," Sipolino said. "There's just a difference between seven 16 year olds starting and seven 18 year olds and three 19 year olds."

Freeport, which will play North Hills today, secured its sixth win Tuesday night with an 11-7 victory over Lyndora. The Gators rallied after trailing, 7-5, through the top of the fourth and gave itself some breathing room in the fifth and sixth innings.

"We're staying loose," said Jason Hinchberger, a fifth-year member of the team. "We're not all tight at the beginning. ... In years past, we didn't do as well, so at the start of each game, we felt like we had to win."

Credit player chemistry for the in-game easiness.

"The team you see here, it's been the same team for like the past four years, so that helps," Hinchberger said.

Sipolino identified Hinchberger as one of the hotter bats in a lineup that has benefited from top-to-bottom production. In yesterday's win, Hinchberger drove in three runs with two doubles and a single. Other contributors included John Fetchko, who gave Freeport the lead with a two-run triple; Tyler Singer, who scored twice and had an RBI; and Taylor Elko, who drove in two runs.

"We definitely feel like we have a shot to make a run in the playoffs with the way we've been hitting," Fetchko said.

Freeport's success during the rest of the regular season likely will hinge on the availability of its pitchers, Sipolino said. The Gators have leaned on three starters — Fetchko, Austin Sipolino and Andrew Wagner — and closer Taylor Elko while using position players such as Singer and Alan-Michael Wisniewski when desperate for relievers.

Fetchko did not pitch for Freeport's Palomino team during previous seasons because he played for Kiski Valley Legion as well, but he opted to focus strictly on Palomino ball this summer.

Austin Sipolino pitched a complete game yesterday, and only three of the seven runs he allowed were earned.

"On any given night, if we have the right pitcher and the right defense behind him, we can compete with anybody," Ernie Sipolino said.

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