by Jonathan Vander Lugt
Last Friday night was the wrong day to go see the Mt. Airy Stars in action.
Twenty-four hours after peppering hard contact all over the field in their 8-6 win over Huntingdon Valley, Mt. Airy got shut out in a 1-0 loss to Centennial.
Coach Jeff Istvan didn’t seem terribly concerned.
“I think we’re doing well,” Istvan said. “All of our games have been really close.”
“It’s definitely more fun for the kids,” he said. “We’ve found a league we belong in – we could be either undefeated or winless at this point.”
After a Sunday afternoon split against Horsham, the Stars sit at 3-4-1 on the season. No loss has come by more than three runs, and no win by greater than four.
Against Centennial (which hails from the area that William Tennent High School serves), recent Masterman grad Colin Brown started and gave up two hits, a walk and tallied three strikeouts in two quick innings of work.
Istvan pulled him heading into the third – American Legion’s pitch count rules necessitate some finessing of the pitching staffs – and called on Brown’s high-school teammate Chazz Person. He pitched the rest of the game, tossing five innings and allowing just one run.
“Getting those innings out of him was huge,” Istvan said. “That was the first time he’s pitched this year.”
Offensively, the Stars struggled to get much going the entire night. Sam Istvan flared a ball to right for their first hit in the fourth, and Mt. Airy didn’t get another knock until Colin Brown’s bunt single in the seventh.
That inning represented Mt. Airy’s best chance to score. Eli Meredith led off by taking a pitch off his kneecap, and Brown’s bunt put runners on first and second. Thomas Primosch just missed one in the next at-bat, flying out to left field, and Jaron Ellison’s fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with two outs for Avi Cantor.
After a long at-bat, Cantor went down swinging to end the game.
“It’s hard to find a whole lot to say about a game like that,” Istvan said after the short, two-hit effort.
Person’s outing was admirable. He walked seven batters but struck out four and allowed just one hit, which is what kept the damage low. Centennial’s lone run was scored on a bases-loaded six-four-three double play in the fourth.
“We had five games this week so with pitch count rules and the kids’ arms, you’ve got to find innings,” Istvan said.
Mt. Airy was sharp in the field and – despite not having much opportunity to show it Friday – has generally been wise on the basepaths. Already heading into the middle third of the season, playing smart baseball is going to be even more crucial in a league where the talent differential is so thin.
“We’ve figured out where guys fit in the field and where to position them best. We don’t usually make a lot of errors or make mistakes on the bases – we’re smart now,” Jeff Istvan said. “It makes a huge difference.”
Meredith, a newcomer, is making a name for himself: against Huntingdon Valley the night prior, the lithe center fielder drove in two runs in a four-run seventh inning to put Mt. Airy ahead and made a game-saving catch in the bottom half to seal it.
They will even have the aforementioned Primosch back sporadically, as the rising Haverford College sophomore is rostered for when the Stars are running short on players.
So, the elder Istvan is pleased with the direction his team is heading, even if he’s had to adapt.
“We’re trying to work on smallball a little bit. In games like this, situations where we aren’t hitting, we’ll try to just change the tempo of the game,” he said. “It hasn’t been working for us yet, but we’re trying.”
“It’s not usually my philosophy to be a small-ball coach,” Istvan continued, “but when you’re in a scenario like this you’ve got to find something that works.”
Around the Area:
La Salle College High School’s outstanding season came to an end Tuesday with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Bensalem in PIAA 6-A semifinal. The Explorers finished at 23-4 and suffered just one blemish in league play on their way to a Catholic League championship. Head coach Kyle Werman is going to have to replace a lot of talent in 2019 – five Explorer seniors were named all-league, including offensive and defensive players of the year Andrew Cossetti and Eric Marasheski, respectively – but for now the Explorers should take some time to celebrate their stellar season.
The Phillies Carpenter Cup – the yearly all-star tournament consisting of teams featuring the best of southeastern Pennsylvania and south New Jersey’s athletic conferences – kicked off last week. The Catholic League team lost on Wednesday, but the Inter-Ac/Friends League squad, filled with players from Germantown Academy, Springside Chestnut Hill and Penn Charter, advanced to the second round with a 12-3 victory over the Bucks County team.
Information from TedSilary.com was used in this report.