WATCH VIDEO | PHOTO GALLERY | North Star learns from previous losses to beat Northern Bedford County for first District 5 baseball crown since 2013

BEDFORD, Pa. – When trailing by a run in Tuesday’s District 5-8 Class 2A baseball championship game, North Star used its collective experience with six seniors and nine returning starters from a year ago to surge ahead in the third inning.

The top-seeded Cougars lost the previous two district title games, but the veteran squad was not going to be denied against No. 3 seed Northern Bedford County at Bedford High School. Seniors Cayden Turner and Vance Kimmel combined to strike out 12 batters and escape multiple jams.

Three runs in the third inning and two more in the fifth helped the Cougars claim their first district crown since 2013 with a 6-1 victory.

“Just glad to finally win it after being here three years in a row,” said Turner, who struck out eight batters over 42/3 innings and reached base all four times at the plate Tuesday. “I’m proud of the team for fighting until the very end as we have this entire season.”

North Star (19-4) will face the loser of Wednesday’s District 7 championship game between No. 1 seed Serra Catholic and No. 3 Seton LaSalle Monday to begin the PIAA tournament.

Northern Bedford County junior left-hander Reece Musselman fanned five straight batters between the first and second innings, but North Star made the necessary adjustments the second time around the order.

“It feels great,” North Star coach Jake Klukaszewski said.

“First off, I do want to thank God. We relied on him heavily this year. Just to put our faith in him and put faith in our guys to come out and do a job, it was really special to finally get it done. It was a huge weight off our shoulders.”

The 14-7 Black Panthers took the lead in the top of the first inning against Turner. Aaron Bowers singled to left, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Musselman singled to center for a 1-0 lead.

Turner escaped further damage by stranding two runners.

North Star touched up Musselman in the third. Three straight singles from Andy Retassie, Turner and Connor Yoder tied the game at 1-all.

Braden Livingston followed with a sacrifice fly to left. Glendon Griffith added an RBI single to left as North Star led 3-1.

“It was just seeing what he had and just seeing how we can make adjustments to drive the ball into the gaps,” said Turner, a Penn State Behrend recruit.

“Putting good at-bats together to get his pitch count up so we could get him out of there.”

Retassie and Yoder each totaled two knocks. Third baseman Bryson Durst completed a double play in the fourth inning with two runners on.

Turner needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning.

The southpaw was able to last 42/3 innings and toss 101 pitches.

Northern Bedford County, which went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, received two hits from Rece Dibert.

In the fifth, Retassie was hit by a pitch and Turner walked as Musselman was relieved by Josiah Bowser. Yoder ripped a two-run triple on a 1-2 offering to center to increase the advantage to 5-1. Veteran leadership led the way as the Cougars grabbed control midway through the contest.

“We’ve been here before and have that experience,” Klukaszewski said. “We knew they were going to be a great, well-coached and tough team, so we knew that we just had to dig deep. We’ve been in games, especially this year, where we’ve had to do that. I think just the regimen of the games we had this year and the experience we had, it really helped us today. It was just good to get seven good innings of baseball.”

Retassie’s RBI single in the sixth set the final.

Kimmel, who has yet to allow an earned run this year with 57 strikeouts in 332/3 innings, fanned four batters over the final 21/3 frames for the 39-pitch save. Northern Bedford County swung and missed 26 times against Turner and Kimmel.

“They’re great,” Klukaszewski said of the senior pitching duo. “They’re seniors and they’re our two aces for a reason. They don’t let the moment get bigger than them. They just try to be humble, hard working and they work hard every day. That’s why when they’re in situations like that, they’re able to get out of them.”

Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.