by Jonathan Vander Lugt
When an Inter-Ac team fields a batting lineup with five underclassmen and has a pitching rotation of three sophomores like Penn Charter does, there are a couple of things that you can divine about the squad.
One: they’re talented. Freshman and sophomores don’t play varsity ball in the Inter-Ac unless they can really hang. Two: they’re going to be inconsistent. Players that haven’t really been around the block are going to make mistakes. It’s one of the inevitabilities of high-school baseball.
So sometimes PC will be the team that beats the Haverford School 8-2, or the team that beats Shipley (currently tied for second in the Friends League) 10-0. Other times, it will be the team that fell 10-1 to Malvern Prep Tuesday, or that lost to Germantown Academy 7-3 on Saturday despite a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh inning.
“We came out flat, both offensively and defensively,” PC coach Justin Hanley said after the Malvern Prep game. “We were in a position to put a really good team against the ropes and they came out and punched us in the mouth.”
The Friars scored three in the first and didn’t look back, with two more the next inning, one in the third, two in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
PC scored its lone run in the second, after Gavin Zavorski’s sacrifice fly drove in Jake Siani.
“We needed better energy all around,” Hanley said. “I don’t think there’s one aspect that we did all that well today, and clearly the score indicates that. If we want to win in this league, we’re going to have to have a better effort.”
Malvern Prep pitcher Tristan Corcoran “did a great job out there changing speeds,” Hanley said. “They’ve got one of the better pitching coaches I’ve seen. He had those guys prepared, and they were hitting their spots. We were off-balance most of the day.”
Corcoran went five innings, gave up five hits, three walks and struck out seven Quakers. On the day, PC struck out nine times, good for more than 30% of their plate appearances. For reference, a 30% strikeout rate for a pitcher is considered elite at just about any level. If the Quakers want to bounce back, they’re going to have to start putting the ball in play.
“Offensively, I’d like to see a better approach out of my guys,” Hanley said. “It’s just frustrating from our standpoint. They pitched well and we didn’t.”
PC had Danny Will on the mound for the first three innings and Colin Lewandowski for the next three and two-thirds. Both gave up five runs, and neither looked particularly sharp for more than an inning or so at a time. Freshman Colin Schumm retired the final Malvern hitter after a back-to-back home run and double chased Lewandowski in the seventh.
“We didn’t pitch as well as I would have hoped,” Hanley said. “We just didn’t get it done – everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face. We’re young, so these are some mistakes we’re going to learn from.”
The lone bright spot was the play of pro prospect Sammy Siani. The senior went 2-for-4 with a deep double over the left fielder in the third and a sharp single to right in the fifth.
“Sammy’s the man. He’s got an approach and he knows what he’s doing,” Hanley said. “He put a couple good swings on it today, which is great for him especially against a tough pitcher.
“When we can get him going, the rest of the team tends to follow,” Hanley went on. “Hopefully we can keep him hot and make some things happen.”
The Duke commit has had a trail of about 20 scouts wherever he goes and by now, the team is acclimated to the attention.
“You never get totally used to it, but the guys have embraced it,” Hanley said. “There’s no added pressure, though. We have to prepare just as well regardless of who’s in the crowd.”
Up next for PC (14-5-1, 1-3) are games against the Episcopal Academy on Tuesday and Springside Chestnut Hill on Friday. The Quakers still have a shot at a league title, but will likely have to win their last six in order to do so.
“Anybody can beat anybody in this league,” Hanley went on, “but with an effort like today’s we won’t beat many teams.
“This league is like a pressure cooker. You live and die week-to-week, and the margin of error is really slim,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this league – there’s a lot of parity. But we can only control our own destiny, and we’ll need to put together a nice little streak.”
Around the Area:
After beating Penn Charter Saturday afternoon, Germantown Academy capped what was “quite possibly the best week” in Tim Ginter’s tenure as the Patriots’ head coach. GA beat the Haverford School 7-2 on Tuesday before winning against PC, and both games featured five-run rallies in the last inning. The Pats blasted three home runs against the Fords (Matt Brittingham, Shane Harkins and a three-run Grant Giampalmi shot in the eighth), and timely hitting from Jack Popolizio and Alex Browne sealed the deal against GA. In a crucial week, the Pats (7-7, 3-2) will host SCH on Tuesday and head to Malvern Prep on Friday.
The Blue Devils (9-8, 3-2) had a similarly good week, with a pair of wins over the Haverford School and the Episcopal Academy by a combined margin of 14-2. SCH will take on Germantown Academy Tuesday before heading to PC on Friday.
Germantown Friends (4-10, 3-4) remains stuck in the middle of the Friends League standings with a split week (9-2 loss to Friends Central, 10-1 win over Moorestown Friends). Kai Cummings continues to impress (3-for-6 across the two games with a double and a run scored against FCS) while Justin Needles provided thump (2-for-3, two runs, one RBI and a triple) against Moorestown Friends. In a big week, the Tigers will take on Abington Friends on Tuesday, the George School on Wednesday and Shipley on Friday.
La Salle (8-4, 7-1) is shaping up to be a force in the Catholic League, and swept Neumann-Goretti and Bonner-Prendergast by a combined score of 18-3 last week. This week, the Explorers will head to Conwell-Egan on Monday and will host Father Judge on Wednesday.