by Jonathan Vander Lugt
Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Joe Ishikawa needed a minute after last Friday’s 6-2 loss to Penn Charter. The Blue Devils – now 5-3 in the league – fell in extras after Penn Charter scored four runs, all with two out, in the top of the ninth.
The first two came on a Demetrius de Ramus RBI double down the third base line – about a foot foul if you asked any of the irate members of the SCH bench. The next run came on a ball hit deep in the hole to short. Freshman Joe Jaconski ranged to his right and uncorked a strong throw off his back foot but PC’s Aaron Maione beat it by a hair. Again, if you asked anybody on the now-fuming Blue Devil side, he was out by a step.
“I’ve got no comment on that,” Ishikawa said. “We didn’t lose because of the umpires. You can never ever put a loss on them. Bottom line is we had several opportunities and didn’t convert.”
In the next at-bat, prospective MLB first-rounder Michael Siani hit a rocket to shallow right to plate the last two. Save for an error by the PC second baseman, the Blue Devils went down harmlessly in the bottom half. What had been a tight, well-contested game had unraveled in the blink of an eye.
The baseball gods gave SCH plenty of opportunities before that too, considering PC gifted them 12 baserunners prior to the ninth: five walks, five errors and two hit batsmen. Only two came around to score, each on a fifth-inning error by the Quaker second baseman.
The lord giveth and the lord taketh away: for each squandered PC miscue, a hard-hit Blue Devil ball to the Quaker outfield seemed to find a glove.
“We smoked about eight or nine balls and hit right at their guys,” Ishikawa said. “What are you going to do?”
The prime example was a fifth inning at-bat where, with two outs, Pat Elliott torched a line drive back to the pitcher. The ball had a homing beacon set straight on an unwitting Tom Snipes glove, and nine times out of ten (maybe 99 out of 100) that type of contact would score at least two. It was just one of those days for the Blue Devils.
Ishikawa reiterated: “We have to execute.”
Penn Charter had similarly poor luck for the game’s first eight – SCH’s defensive effort featured an eighth inning web gem by center fielder Kyle Williams, along with nearly flawless play in the infield throughout the contest – but the Quakers managed to get the job done nonetheless.
Now 4-4 in the league, PC head coach Justin Hanley was in great spirits despite the miscues.
“With how our season has played out, this was one of our more rewarding wins. We were down to our last out against a very well-coached team, and at a field we haven’t won at since I’ve been with the program,” he said. “To see Demetrius – who has struggled in that spot all year – get that RBI and put up a four-spot with two outs, that’s what I’m most proud of. I’m pretty pumped.”
De Ramus, in addition to his ninth-inning knock, was down to his team’s final out in the bottom of the seventh before poking a ball through the left side of the infield to tie it.
“Timely hitting has been elusive for us this year,” Hanley said, “so I’m really pleased to see the kids step up with two outs.”
Blue Devil junior hurler Carter Davis kept them off-balance all game by changing speeds, pounding the zone and using his long, lanky frame and unorthodox three-quarters delivery to gain an extra advantage. He went eight innings, struck out three and walked none. His only real blemishes came on a pair of hit batsmen.
“We had quality at-bats, but it came down to getting into their bullpen. They really rely on their starting pitchers,” Hanley said.
His starting pitcher (Snipes) went three before giving way to freshman Jordan Wilson, who went three more. Staff ace and senior Will Samuel pitched the last two on just three days’ rest. He was lights-out on the mound, but wasn’t from third base, where he made three errors prior to his relief call.
“Will’s a mentally tough kid, and he’s used to having a short memory,” Hanley said.“He didn’t take it out to the mound and he’s a kid who we know can handle that situation. He’s our ace and he wanted the ball.”
With one league week left, Penn Charter has two at home against the Haverford School and Malvern Prep.
“We can play with anyone,” Hanley said. “We can battle and claw when our backs are up against the wall. Obviously we need some help from a league standpoint, but all we can do is control our own destiny and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Blue Devils have a pair on the road: Tuesday at Malvern Prep and Friday at the Episcopal Academy. SCH is a game back of the Friars, and will have the opportunity to play for a league title if they beat them. With a little help from(ironically) Penn Charter, they can clinch outright if they sweep their week and the Quakers beat Malvern on Friday.
“It’ll be their number one against ours, and it’ll come down to who executes and does the little things,” Ishikawa said. “The winner has an opportunity secure a championship, though there’s still a game after – let’s not forget about that.
“This is what it’s all about. We’ve earned this.”
Around the league
Elsewhere in the Inter-Ac, Germantown Academy scuffled, dropping a close one to SCH on Tuesday (4-2) and a less close one (12-1) against Malvern Friday. Shane Harkins crushed a two-run home run against SCH, and the Patriots (3-5 in the league) will look to close the conference season strong against Episcopal and Haverford next week.
La Salle College High School lost its first conference game –5-4 to Archbishop Carroll – but bounced back strong with a 9-2 drubbing of Archbishop Ryan Wednesday. Tied for first in the league with Archbishop Wood, the Explorers have three conference games remaining: Lansdale Catholic this Monday, Cardinal O’Hara on Wednesday and a potentially title-deciding match against the Vikings in their season’s finale next Monday.
Germantown Friends wrapped its conference regular season Friday with a 5-4 win over Abington Friends. Currently 6-4, the Tigers are headed for the Friends League playoffs but the seed is up in the air depending on the results of a three-game slate Tuesday. The three teams clustered around GFS in the standings – Moorestown Friends (5-4), Friends Central (6-3) and Westtown (6-3) all play, and the Tigs only hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Westtown. MFS and Westtown would each have to lose for GFS to avoid the league’s play-in game between the fourth and fifth seeds.
Information from tedsilary.com was used in this article.