FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> Ethan Hellberg doesn’t know much about the car insurance business.
On Tuesday afternoon, though, he nearly got the introductory 101.
The lefty Hellberg launched a three-run home run onto Germantown Pike to put a stamp on Spring-Ford’s offensive charge during a five-inning 14-1 win over host Methacton at Robert Morris Childress Memorial Field.
“I was looking to put it in play, maybe get it into the air for a sac (sacrifice) fly,” said Hellberg, sitting on a 3-2 fastball. “It was a fastball inside — my spot — so I turned on it. Got it.”
Hellberg’s three-run blast — Spring-Ford’s second home run of the inning — kept the spark as the Rams’ offense posted a five-hit, 11-run top of the fifth to break open what was a 3-1 lead. Center fielder Jake Kelchner led off the inning with a solo blast over the Methacton scoreboard.
The result gives Spring-Ford head coach Jamie Scheck his first win as varsity head coach. Methacton falls to 0-1, the Warriors dropping their Pioneer Athletic Conference opener for the third consecutive season.
Ethan Hellberg just bounced a three-run shot off the street! Wow. Spring-Ford up 8-1, top 5. pic.twitter.com/AzR4VtHWA0
— Thomas Nash (@Thomas_Nash10) March 29, 2017
Spring-Ford was limited early by Methacton starter Ben Christian. Once he left after four innings, though, the Rams’ offense found a charge.
“For Jake to lead off the fifth inning there, to be able to jump on a fastball when he got ahead in the count — that let our guys relax a little bit,” said Scheck. “They started looking for their pitch more and stayed back and drove the ball.
“We have a strong offensive team,” he added. “We don’t have a ton of team speed, but we’ve definitely got some guys who can drive the ball and make good, solid contact.”
Third baseman Sean McHugh finished 2-for-4 with a double, four runs scored and a pair of RBIs out of the two-hole while Hellberg was 2-for-3 with a double and five RBIs. Kelchner scored three times out of the leadoff spot and Brad Clemens had a double and two RBIs out of the nine-hole.
Conor Larkin picked up the win on the mound, yielding just one hit and an unearned run to go along with seven hits and a strikeout. The Penn State University commit was in control throughout, mixing in his off-speed with some overpowering velocity. His pitch arsenal also featured a tricky slider, which comes out of the hand like a fastball, then tails off just before crossing the plate.
“I had command of all of my pitches, used all them and kept them off balance,” he said. “My slider is a pitch I’ve been working on all offseason. It’s a pitch I wanted to learn because once I get to the higher level I want to be able to rely on more than just my curve.”
Christian was a bright spot for Methacton. The sophomore righty gave up two runs in the first inning, but then settled in, limiting Spring-Ford to three runs across four innings on three hits and four strikeouts.
“I have no doubt that he would have wanted to go back out there for another inning,” said Methacton head coach Paul Spiewak, “but we’ll be cautious with our pitchers this early in the season.
“When he comes out and throws strikes, he can be very good in our league as only a sophomore. It was nice to see him settle in after giving up a couple runs early on.”
The Warriors scored their lone run in the bottom of the first inning with Andrew McMonigle scoring after Conor Smith rolled one up to shortstop. Nick Wheeler landed a pop fly in no-man’s land in shallow right-center for Methacton’s lone hit.
Although the final score doesn’t indicate, the Warriors showed plenty of promise.
“It’s only one game,” said Spiewak. “We still believe we can compete with the best teams. We’ll obviously have to start proving that before we can start calling ourselves the elite in the league.”
Yes, the road to the postseason certainly isn’t paved after the opening game of the season. However, it becomes just a bit harder to navigate.