SCH head coach Joe Ishikawa receives the ceremonial Gatorade bath after his Blue Devils clinched the Inter-Ac title outright on Friday. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

by Jonathan Vander Lugt

For six years now, Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Joe Ishikawa has worked to turn Blue Devil baseball into a family.

As with any family, there are ups and downs. The lowest point for SCH this year was starting the Inter-Ac slate 1-2, with the second loss, to Malvern Prep, coming thanks to six unearned runs.

That game, said Ishikawa, was not indicative of his team’s true spirit. He knew they were better, and they just had to do the work.

“You can measure the character of a team with how they react to losses – not wins,” he said. “And there was no dejection from the team. There was no quitting, in-fighting or pointing fingers. They realized that as long as they do what they’re supposed to do, good things will happen.”

“The way we played at the beginning of the season was not the way we should have been going about things,” said SCH senior ace Carter Davis. “Everyone started looking out for each other more. We realized that a selfless playing style is the best way to go, and we proved it.”

Now, after seven straight conference wins, the SCH Blue Devils are the outright 2019 Inter-Ac champions.

“It’s unbelievable,” Ishikawa said. “I’m extremely proud for this senior class. They really led the team, and that’s what it’s all about.

“Obviously I’m proud for the school and for the community, but I’m especially proud for the players because they put in a lot of work. They deserve this.”

The clincher came in last Friday’s 5-0 win over Penn Charter. SCH scored the game’s first two runs on a two-out, two-run single by Jonathan Bautista, and scored another two in the second on an RBI fielder’s choice by Scott Bandura and Pat Elliott’s run-scoring single.

Meanwhile, Davis was on the hill flummoxing PC bats. He went all seven innings, allowing three walks and just three hits while fanning seven.

Blue Devil senior Carter Davis deals against the Quakers Friday. Davis, a side-arming right-hander, tossed a complete-game shutout. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

“I just tried to let my defense do the work,” Davis said. “I’m nothing without those guys and they made every single play out there today.”

“Carter has to be the most poised baseball player I’ve ever been around,” Ishikawa said. “When he gets the ball, we have an extra level of confidence.”

The rest of the game passed largely without much excitement, save for SCH’s final run on another Elliott RBI single in the sixth. Davis ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh – he retired the first two batters only to have the next two reach on an error and a walk – but recovered to strike out Jake Siani and end the game.

When Siani went down, Davis immediately embraced battery mate Sam Aslanson, and quickly found Elliott for another hug. Everyone on the SCH side was jubilant.

“I’m so excited, and I honestly can’t even put it into words,” Davis said. “I’m so proud of this team. We started off a little slow but fought our way back to the top.

“It’s a dream come true,” Davis went on. “I tried to think about this moment from the beginning of the season all the way through that last pitch.”

SCH last won the Inter-Ac in 2016, a title it shared with Malvern Prep after both teams finished 7-3 in the league. Its 8-2 finish this year gives it its first outright Inter-Ac crown since 1989.

“We’ve [won the Inter-Ac] twice in my six years, but even in the years that we didn’t, we still have kids coming back to support the program,” Ishikawa said. “That builds, and I think that’s what legacy is.

“We’re not just one team from year-to-year – we’re a culmination of one big team,” he went on. “The kids that have graduated feel this one just as much as anybody, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Brandon Gibbs (9) cheers on his teammates after a second-inning run. Gibbs, the team’s first baseman, is one of a handful of core seniors that powered the Blue Devils to their title. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

In the other dugout, PC ended the season with a relatively disappointing 3-7 league record. The Quakers were young, featuring a lineup and pitching rotation made primarily of underclassmen, but that didn’t temper head coach Justin Hanley’s disappointment.

“I won’t be lowering my expectations, nor should they want me to,” Hanley said. “You’ve got to be prepared every Tuesday and Friday. The margin for error in this league is so slim and you need to stay sharp and make adjustments.

“We failed to do that a lot this year, whether it was at the plate, in the field or on the mound. The silver lining in all of this is that the guys are ticked off, and I’m happy about that. They know they left some meat on the bone this year.”

Around the Area:

SCH and PC’s fates will remain intertwined for the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament – as the top seed, the Blue Devils will face the winner of Tuesday’s PC-Westtown matchup on Wednesday.

Germantown Academy fell to PC last week, 6-3, leaving its conference record a disappointing 4-6 after a 3-2 start. The Pats will take on the Hill School on Tuesday, May 21, in the PAISAA tournament.

La Salle fell to Archbishop Ryan 1-0 in its final conference game, and ended up tied with Roman Catholic for the regular season Philadelphia Catholic League crown. The Explorers did beat that same Ryan team in the first game of the PCL playoffs, and will play Father Judge in Tuesday’s semifinal.

Germantown Friends had a quiet week – it passed without a game – ahead of its Tuesday matchup in the PAISAA tournament at Friends Central. There, the Tigers will look to avenge a 9-2 loss to the Phoenix from earlier in the season.

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