Orange sorely needed a win but it didn't appear Northwood was going to be Panthers' victim on Tuesday.
Orange (8-8-1, 4-1-1 Big Eight) had dropped a pair of nonconference losses to teams with losing records last Friday and Saturday. But the Panther came out a different team against Northwood as the two teams battled it out for the top spot in the conference.
Orange manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh to take a 2-1 victory over the Chargers (15-2, 6-1), who entered the game riding 14 straight wins and had been unbeaten in the Big Eight.
Panthers' leadoff hitter Jaydin Poteat delivered the game-winning single up the middle off Northwood's Davis Palermo to knock in the winning run. Ryan Puckett drew a walk to start the inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Eric Nichols.
He executed the bunt against a bunt-shift defense that had Northwood's first and third basemen pulled in and the second baseman holding the runner at first. Their shortstop took up residence on second base to prevent an easy steal. Nichols' bunt went back to Palermo, whose only play was to take the out at first.
Orange coach Dean Dease said it was an unusual defensive alignment Northwood used in the situation and that Nichols' bunt went exactly where it needed to go for the sacrifice to work.
"Normally you don't want to bunt so the pitcher fields it but this time it worked," Dease said. "With the way the corners were pulled in on defense, it was the only place to bunt it and it worked."
Northwood almost escaped as Palermo got Cooper Porter to pop out to short for the second out. But he wasn't able to record another out. Palermo walked nine-hole hitter Rodney Brooks to put runners on first and second and that brought up Poteat, who went on to drive in the winning run and was 2-for-4 at the plate.
Derek Lindaman picked up the win for the Panthers, while Palermo took the loss.
The Chargers were led by Max Hundley, who was 3-for-3 from Northwood's leadoff spot.
Northwood coach Thomas Parks said it was a game that could have gone either way.
"It was two good teams battling out there," Parks said. "The pitching was good from both sides. The fielding, too. You can't ask for much more."
The teams will square off again on Friday at Northwood but not before Orange takes on another Big Eight contender by going to Chapel Hill on Wednesday.