Andy Barks is a starting player for Episcopal and has volunteered to do reports as part of a school project. We appreciate his efforts!
Andy may be reached at Abarks3@aol.com.
PA. STATE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS TOURNAMENT
Gtn. Academy 1, Episcopal 0
Sound familiar? In another tight one-run game highlighted by pitching and defense, GA bested Episcopal for the third time this year, and again, the game's winning run was driven in by sophomore rightfielder Matt Brown. Junior righty Joe Matteo threw seven one-hit innings, aided by great defense, and Episcopal sophomore Chris Sherwin matched him all the way until the bottom of the seventh. Defense behind Sherwin was equally exceptional, particularly by the infield of Brint Markle, Dan Williams, Jason Brown, and Joe Rosati.
After Matteo retired the side in order in the top half of the seventh, Sherwin went to work against the middle of GA's order. Cleanup hitter and catcher Alex Kaplan worked a walk on six pitches to start the inning, and Kevin Gordon came up to attempt a bunt. Gordon's first two attempts went foul, but with two strikes he laid one down straight ahead. The ball seemed to die a little, and Sherwin, Markle, and catcher John Finnegan all converged on it. There looked to be a little hesitation between the three, but Markle picked it up and fired a throw a little low to first, where Jason Brown was covering. The throw turned Brown around, went out of play, and GA wound up with runners on second and third with no one out. The game's only error came at a very inopportune time, and by a player who had had a magnificent game to that point. With the base open, EA opted to intentionally walk Dan Overcash, setting the table for Brown again. He whiffed at the first pitch he saw, but then smoked a line drive down the third baseline with the infield up, and that was it.
This was, by all accounts, an amazing game. Great pitching performances, nearly perfect defense (EA turned 3 double plays, GA turned two), timely hitting, and a textbook exhibition by GA of how to push across just one run when it was needed most. If I had to go out in my last Episcopal game with a loss, this was an admirable one. Anyone from the outside would have been impressed, and anyone from the Inter-Ac should have been proud. At some point you have to tip your cap and give the other guys credit, and when the same team squeaks out three wins against you, that's the time. Good luck to GA, who now faces either Malvern or Mercersburg (the bracket was altered because Penn Charter had too many away games this week; PC is now the 4 seed, Malvern the 6). In the other semifinal this weekend, Perkiomen will take on Charter, who topped Haverford, 3-1.
Pa. STATE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS TOURNAMENT
Episcopal 7, Hill School 0
In the first round of the PA State Independent Schools Tournament, 7th seeded Episcopal jumped ahead of 10th seeded Hill with four runs in the second inning, and three more in the third. From there, it was Matt Finnegan's day, as the junior right-hander finished with a complete game, seven strikeout, three walk no-hitter, and two singles at the plate. Finnegan retired the side in order in the first, second, fourth, and sixth, while getting a key double play ball in the fifth on a nice turn by second baseman Jason Brown and shortstop Dan Williams. He had everything on, including a low-80s fastball and a series of different curves and change-ups, all with good control. Special props should also go out to his brother, senior catcher John Finnegan, who called an excellent game. I know a well-caught game often goes unnoticed, but in a no-hitter, the signal-caller must receive some of the credit. Hill School, to their credit, hit a number of balls hard either in the air or directly at infielders. They are, by no means, a weak hitting team---just one that ran into a pitcher who was at his best on this day.
EA's offense was led by soph 1B Joe Rosati, who finally got his first homerun of the year, a lined shot which barely cleared the hill down the right field line. Rosati also had a double and three RBIs. Brian FitzPatrick again got a rally going in the second when he laid down a bunt, forced a rushed throw, and ran directly through first base and the first baseman. The throw got all the way out of play, Matt Finnegan scored the game's first run from second, and FitzPatrick made it all the way around to third. The rally ensued from there, and it would be all Finnegan would need to gain the win. By the way, I have to be leading the nation in getting hit by pitches that don't count as HBPs. In the first, I was hit in the left (back) foot, but apparently neither ump saw it, and the ball kicked off the backstop and Fran Grunde took third. I ended up walking, so it didn't matter, but it was almost as amazing as the game in Florida when I was hit in the elbow, but the umpire ruled the pitch was "in the strike zone". According to the base ump, I need to make it look like I'm in more pain when I get hit because "he'd be hoppin' around if it had hit him". I guess I'll work on that.
EA now faces 2d seeded GA Thursday, at GA. The Patriots breezed by 15th seed Church Farm School, 8-0. Other Inter-Ac victors were Malvern (8-2 over West-Mont Christian), Haverford (9-0 over Abington Friends), and Penn Charter (7-5 over Calvary Christian). CHA played Mercersburg at Mercersburg, but no word on how they did yet. Haverford will play at Malvern and Charter at Mercersburg or home against CHA.
Episcopal 10, Penn Charter 5
In the second meeting of the year between two teams right in the middle of a logjam for second place, Episcopal (5-5) overcame a terrible first two innings to avenge their earlier loss to the Quakers (4-5). Penn Charter jumped to a 5-0 lead after two, but starter Matt Ryan was then the hard-luck recipient of some shaky defense, in part because of the awful hops Episcopal's field can offer up. I'm not sure what the final count was, but from the fourth through the sixth inning, PC must have made at least six errors. EA starter Jason Brown, meanwhile, rebounded from his shaky start (granted, his trouble was in part due to trouble with getting the pitch calls, as assistant Alex Melconian was not allowed on the bench for this game as a result of being ejected against Malvern)to hold PC scoreless through their final five at-bats.
For EA, Brian FitzPatrick came through with a key RBI single to key a fifth inning rally, Brown knocked two hits, and junior right fielder Fran Grunde continued his solid job out of the leadoff hole, reaching base three times. Ryan, who threw five innings and 123 pitches (including an impressive knuckler/knuckle-curve thing he froze me with), was hard not to have sympathy for. At one point, Dan Williams hit two straight pop-ups down the right field line which simply dropped (the first one foul, the second one fair), and he also beaned me twice with curve balls, once with two strikes and the bases loaded. To his credit, Ryan was positive the whole way, never yelling at his teammates or the umpires, but he had to be relieved when he was lifted for eight-grade lefty Mark Adzick in the sixth. Adzick, although he wasn't throwing very hard, looks like he has good mechanics and a solid future for PC.
Charter, I know, does not usually make the kind of mistakes defensively that they did yesterday, and, I'm not going to lie, this was not a particularly pretty game by either team. As the Inter-Ac season closes out, Charter has the no. 6 seed in this week's PA state Independent Schools Tourney, and will face 11th seeded West-Mont Christian. Episcopal is the 7th seed and faces 10th seeded Hill School Tuesday. Other Inter-Ac teams GA (no. 2), Malvern (no. 4), and Haverford (no. 5) garnered high seeds, while CHA is the 14th seed, and faces Mercersburg Academy. All the games in the first two rounds are played at the home field of the higher seed, and the semifinals and final will be played at Perkiomen School Saturday.
Malvern 9, Episcopal 1
Malvern obviously knew that we stole one from them a week ago, and came out determined to avenge that loss behind the pitching of junior lefthander Mike Lorentson. Lorentson threw six innings, allowing one run on only three hits, and throwing very few deep counts, which allowed him to get into a number of good rhythms out there. Dan Onorato, a former Conestoga Generals Bert Bell football teammate of mine, came on to close in the seventh and was lights out for the save.
Episcopal, however, helped the Friars out by being feeble with the bats for the second straight game. Putting up a combined one run against GA and Malvern will not win you a lot of games, and we found that out this week. You know it's bad when you're hitting fourth and you barely get to your third at bat (1-2, walk, single), as I did. In my first at bat, I attempted a drag bunt, which trickled foul, and a Malvern bench player told me, "Put that in your column!" So here it is. I bunted one foul. Awful, I know. I'm sure Malvern subs never bunt anything foul.
Malvern's offense was led by D.J. Reagoso (2-run homer), Buck Schaff (2-run homer), Joe Illgas (two hits), and Dan Plunkett, who reached base three times. I feel like every time we play these guys, D.J., who played on my Drexel Hill AAU team a couple summers ago, kills us. Episcopal starter Chris Sherwin threw well other than the second and sixth innings, when he gave up four and five runs, respectively. I'm sure Chris would deny it, but I think he could have used a couple more days rest, having pitched Tuesday. Defensively, EA junior 3B Brinty Markle had an outstanding day, with six assists, many on difficult balls. Brint has been very steady at the corner for us all year, and definitely deserves some recognition. With the win, Malvern (4-4) climbs ahead of EA (4-5) in the Inter-Ac standings, as the league season closes out this week.
Gtn. Academy 1, Episcopal 0
Today we wasted a great pitching performance by Jason Brown, who went the full seven only to get the loss on one unearned run (courtesy of me). The win went to GA lefty Pete Vernon, who threw seven strong as well, working his way out of a number of jams and mixing his off-speed stuff well with his fastball. He also got a key out in the sixth using a nice pickoff move to stifle a rally. He has definitely improved since the last time I faced him, no doubt thanks in part to new GA pitching coach Tyler Green, who is, as Sean Woods noted, definitely still rocking the mullet.
GA's one run came in the fourth, when Dan Overcash hit a two-out line drive to right center. GA's grass is high and slow, so I anticipated the ball just rolling easily to me, but it instead bounced up on the heel of my glove, momentarily got behind me, and allowed Overcash to reach second. I thought maybe he was thinking two out of the box, but in the book it was ruled a single and an error, so I'll take the heat for this one. Matt Brown followed with a line drive single up the middle, and I had no chance of getting the runner, moving on the swing with two outs, at home. It would prove to be enough, as Brown has now twice beaten us with clutch hits, and, as far as I know, GA (7-1) clinches a tie for the league title with the win. I'm not sure how the math all works out, but I know EA (4-4) blew any remaining chance at a share of the league title.
Sophomore second baseman Craig Wallace has been asking me to hook him up and mention him in a report, which is tough to do when the man gets DHd for every game. But Wallace had a very solid day in the field today, making at least four assists and one putout, and deserves a mention. Solid defense, aside from my error, was not the problem. We simply couldn't manage any runs, and as a result, Jason earned the tough luck loss again.
Episcopal 8, Hav. School 2
You knew this game was big because not only was the legendary Ted Silary himself in attendance, but also the Bunt King, Sean Pender, whose instructional videos (also featuring the great Tom Emansky) we watched earlier this year, made it out. If you've never seen anyone put 8 of 10 bunts into a bucket, buy this video, and watch Pender at work. Incredible. Actually, he didn't come to teach us the way of the Bunt. Instead, I found out, his son is a freshman on the Fords. He pinch-hit in the seventh and was beaned, which has to be some sort of sacrilege, hitting the Bunt Prince. He was then immediately pinch-run for because, obviously, he doesn't run, he just bunts.
The game was highlighted by, as Ted noted on his report, a stellar pitching performance from soph righty Chris Sherwin. Last time I dropped Sherwin's name on here I was expressing my sympathy for him after our GA loss, but today he gets nothing but props. He kept the ball low, kept hitters off-balanced, and was very composed and poised on the mound, specifically after Tom Close's two-run homer cut his lead to 4-2 in the fourth. Chris kept his poise and allowed only one other hit the rest of the way, earning his first Inter-Ac win. Offensively, Joe Rosati had two hits, including a two-run double, and Jason Brown roped an RBI double. I'm surprised Ted didn't mention my 0-4 performance on his report (although I did get on on two errors), but I'm sure he was impressed anyway. EA improves to 4-3, and the Fords drop to 5-3.
Episcopal 2, Malvern 1
Going into this game I had never won at Malvern, in any sport, at any level, with any team. With that said, you can imagine this was a considerably big win in my mind, the minds of our team, and particularly to the four seniors we have on this year's squad. Jason Brown, John Finnegan, Matt Deasey, and I were a pathetic 0-6 heading into this one against the Friars in baseball.
Fully aware of this dubious streak, Jason went to work on one of the most impressive and gutty complete game performances I have seen from him---and that's coming from someone who's seen him pitch more than probably anyone else. Scattering five hits across seven innings, he repeatedly worked out of jams, made big pitches, and got good support from his defense. Most impressive, though, was his will not to allow Malvern to beat him. Before the seventh inning, coaches John Stefanik and Alex Melconian asked him how he felt about completing the game, having a considerable pitch count and a slim 2-1 lead. Jason was honest but unshakable, making it very clear that he was not about to let anyone else finish this game. In the seventh, he retired the first two batters in order before junior James Spinelli turned a great at bat into a two-out single to right, and Paul Keldsen followed with a groundball single to left. With two outs and two on, Jason manned up and got one last out, inducing a fly ball to right from Dan Plunkett, and finishing off a very solid complete game performance.
Still, the game's most amazing stat had to be this: Malvern starter Will Romanowicz and two relievers combined for a seven-inning no hitter---in a loss. Episcopal managed their two runs in the fourth, as Fran Grunde and Joe Rosati led off with walks. After moving to second and third, Grunde scored on a sac fly by Brown, and I then walked with one out. Dan Williams then took a hack with a suicide squeeze on, but hit a roller in the hole on the right side, scoring Rosati. That, my friends, is how you get no-hit but still win. Of course, it was combined with some solid defense and a very gutty pitching performance.
Episcopal 15, Chestnut Hill 2
Now, I don't want to say anything stupid that would get me beaned in the head, so let's just say that this game would have fallen into the same category that Sean Woods placed the McDevitt-Egan game (see Knock on Woods). It was heated, intense, and typical of a league game between two teams who know each other a little too well and who both badly needed a win. As a result, emotions ran high and both teams did their share of talking, my personal favorite being an ongoing jabbering between EA pitcher Jason Brown and CHA catcher Chris McInerney, which made for some nice comedy.
Anyway, EA jumped to an early lead behind the hitting of Brian Fitzpatrick (two-for-four), Dan Williams (two-for-four, two RBI), Joe Rosati (two-for-four, two rbi), and Brown (two-run double). CHA starter Gilly Lane threw strikes, but didn't receive a ton of help defensively, and many EA hits seemed to find small holes. He was lifted in the fourth after yielding six runs, and, to his credit, was one of the few players still alert and in the game for CHA when things got ugly. Gilly is a very solid player who hits the ball to all fields and does a lot of things well, but is in the unfortunate situation of being really the only senior on a very young, struggling team. Still, in my opinion, Gilly should easily make first-team all league this year.
Episcopal tacked on eight more runs in their last three at-bats, as I got in on the action with a double and a single (for the day, two-for-three, four RBIs, three runs), and Brown held CHA in check most of the rest of the way (a tough hop past Fitzpatrick in left field yielded two runs). Junior Matt Finnegan closed the game interestingly, deciding to provide some drama before retiring the last three hitters in order. With the much-needed win, Episcopal improved to 2-3 heading into Tuesday's meeting with Malvern, while CHA drops to 0-5.
Gtn. Academy 6, Episcopal 4
Well, in two games this year against GA, I've now lost on a hail mary and a two-out, seventh inning grand slam. In an eerily similar ending to our devastating football loss, Matt Brown roped a first pitch fastball homer to clear the bases and tie the game at 4, and Kevin Gordon followed three batters later with a two-run double, as GA came up with a 6-spot seventh to remain undefeated in the Inter-Ac. Just as I felt after watching QB (and CF) Sean Grieve toss a last gasp TD pass over my head back in October, I left the field shocked, expecting someone to slap me, tell me it didn't count or something.
Lost in GA's comeback was a great pitching performance by EA sophomore Chris Sherwin. Sherwin was a pitch away from a complete game shutout against arguably the league's best team, but ran into some extremely tough luck. He recorded an out on a fly ball to start the seventh, then gave up a walk to Alex Kaplan, followed by singles to Matt Bruderek and Dan Overcash. After getting another fly out to left, Brown came up and, sitting first pitch fastball, smoked one to right center onto the hill behind me. At this point all of our momentum was lost, and it only seemed to make sense when Gordon knocked in the go-ahead runs a few batters later.
Although it seemed to be no big deal at the time, I'm looking back now on my at bat in the bottom of the sixth and kicking myself. I K'd on a couple big curves from Bruderek with the bases loaded, and despite going 2-4 with two RBIs, I know it's a different game if we go into the seventh up 5 or 6 to nothing. This reminded me once again just how important every play in baseball can be, as I would have loved to see Chris, who pitched an excellent game, get the win. With the amazing comeback, GA improves to 5-0 in the I-A, while EA drops to 1-3.
Haverford School 4, Episcopal 1
Episcopal came into the game hoping to halt a two-game losing streak, while the streaking Fords were coming off a huge win at Malvern. Ben Fineman got the start for Haverford, and pitched very well, allowing only one hit and working efficiently. Episcopal starter Jason Brown rebounded from a shaky first inning, in which he allowed two runs, to retire the next twelve in order.
Down 2-0 in the third, with two outs and a man on second, Brown hit a single through the left side, but Matt Deasey was thrown out at home on a perfect one-hop throw from left field, and Fineman's shutout remained intact. An inning later, the lead was cut in half when Episcopal scored on a first-and-third double steal.
Brown held the Fords scoreless until the sixth, when he retired Noah Cooper and Bryan Savage for the first two outs. With a 1-2 count, he then plunked Mike Fitzpatrick, bringing up designated hitter Tom Close. Close then proceeded to crush a fastball across Lancaster Avenue moments later, giving the Fords all the cushion they would need.
The game was one dominated by pitching and defense, aside from Episcopal's shaky first inning, as the Fords are obviously is accustomed to their turf and use it to their advantage. They play solid defense and know how to make good use of the true hops it provides, as shown on some of their relay throws. Still, the game's best defensive play came in the third, on a long fly to right by Cooper, when Fran Grunde jumped over the fence, extended fully, almost fell over the wall, and lifted himself back into play. I had a perfect view of it from center, and it was definitely one of the best defensive plays I have seen in high school. Cooper was robbed of a sure home run, and Grunde came down with some nice bruised ribs, but it was a great example of the effort put out by both teams in a hard-fought game.
Penn Charter 6, Episcopal 3
This was each team's second Inter-Ac League game of the season, with Episcopal entering at 1-0 and Charter coming in at 0-1. EA started ace Jason Brown on the mound, and PC countered with Matt Ryan. Jason pitched a solid four innings before being lifted for sophomore Chris Sherwin in the fifth. Brown worked out of a number of jams, including a bases loaded second, before giving up a bases loaded 3-run triple to Ryan in the fourth. Admittedly, he did not receive the best defense. Still, Charter put together enough hits and moved enough runners along to support Ryan, who went the full seven.
EA's one big inning came in the top of the sixth, entering the inning down 6-0. I led off with what was technically a double (single that took a ridiculous hop over the right fielder), and Dan Williams moved me to third with a groundout to second. Matt Deasey then snuck a single up the middle, which Ryan nearly fielded with me halfway home (I would have been dead), to knock in our first run. Brinty Markle was hit by a pitch and John Finnegan hit a sacrifice fly to put runners on first and third with two outs. Brian Fitzpatrick then laid down a beautiful bunt for a base hit, scoring Deasey. The threat ended two batters later when Joe Rosati flew out to left-center on a full count with the bases loaded. Initially it looked like Joe had crushed it, but the ball died, as many on the day seemed to, and the inning ended.
EA picked up one more run in the seventh but Ryan again worked his way out of any real trouble, and the teams ended the day tied at 1-1 in the league. We did manage to hold former Churchman and PC first baseman Taylor Baum hitless, a small victory in itself. Late in the game, when our first base coach remarked to me and Taylor that balls seemed to be dying a lot, and that Ryan's triple looked like it was headed for the street, Taylor informed us that "Matt can't hit the ball to the street". Easy, Taylor, your boy dropped five ribbies and got the win (smile).