by Jonathan Vander Lugt
Sometimes, you just have one of those days.
You pitch well, play good defense, even hit a little bit. Usually, that’s good enough for a win, but on Friday afternoon at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, it didn’t quite do it. On the heels of a tough, 3-2 loss to Malvern Prep three days prior, the Blue Devils lost a tight one to the Episcopal Academy, 5-3 in eight innings.
“It’s a tough one to drop,” said SCH head coach Joe Ishikawa. “But they beat us.”
Sans context, it’s an obvious statement, but what he went on to say was that Episcopal performed when they had to, and that’s what led to their win, rather than any Blue Devil mistakes.
“They executed,” Ishikawa said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to that. They did everything well today.”
SCH started out pretty well themselves. Nick Rowland roped a ball to left center and legged out a triple to lead off the game for the Blue Devils. Bubba Alleyne subsequently drove him in on his RBI groundout, giving SCH a 1-0 lead.
Matthew Hoffman held the Churchmen in check for three innings, allowing just a walk and a lone single (that he subsequently picked off) before running into trouble in the fourth, when he gave up three runs in the first two-thirds of the inning.
After a hit batsman, he gave way to Gunner Hayes, who gave up an RBI single to the first batter he faced (charged to Hoffman) before getting the batter in the nine-hole to ground out harmlessly to second base.
At that point, SCH was down, 3-1, but not quite out.
The Blue Devils halved the gap in the bottom of the inning on a Hayes RBI two-bagger, and that’s how the score stayed until the bottom of the seventh. Andrew Singer singled with one out, but got caught trying to steal with Bryce Cunningham up to bat. Cunningham worked a walk, putting Rowland up.
He didn’t do much—he hit a standard grounder to third—but his wheels forced an errant throw, sending Cunningham home. Alleyne grounded out in the next at-bat, this time to first, but the game was headed for extras nonetheless.
From there, it ended pretty quickly. Kyle Virbitsky launched a solo rain-maker over the left field fence to put the Churchmen ahead. They tacked on another run later in the inning, and SCH went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half to seal the game.
“That’s the game of baseball,” Ishikawa said, still upbeat after the tough loss. “We’re hitting the ball hard, it’s just not falling. It’s not finding air right now, but that’s okay. It’ll turn around for us.”
Hopefully it does soon. SCH would need a bit of help from Malvern Prep to make a run at the league title, but if the Friars stumble, the Inter-Ac, based on what’s happened so far, appears wide open.
“We played 15 innings this week and lost by a total of three runs,” Ishikawa said. “That’s just the nature of it. You’re not going to be able to change that, so we’ll just keep battling and going at it.”
The Blue Devils are nearly halfway through their first tour around the conference, and at 2-2, they’ve learned plenty—both good and bad—about the workings of their team.
“The little things make a difference,” Ishikawa said. “We have to put the ball in play, put guys in scoring position.”
That’s vital for any team, but for one like SCH that relies on speed, defense, and slapping the ball—not big boppers—it’s particularly important.
“Fortunately, everything that’s been wrong is correctable,” Ishikawa said. “Once we get it straightened out, we’re going to be fine.”
“There’s nothing that I’ve seen that I didn’t like,” he continued. “Even in this game. It would have been easy to pack it in, but we didn’t. We fought back and tied the game, and after that, [Episcopal] did everything they needed to to win. Sometimes that just the way the ball rolls.”