RED HILL >> When Trey Livingstone glanced down the third base line Thursday afternoon, he saw the last thing he’d expected.
“When my coach gave me the bunt sign down two strikes,” recalled Livingstone, “it definitely caught me off guard. When I got into the box, I just thought, ‘I’ve got to get this down’ because I could see Bryan Pijanowski starting to move down the (base) line out of the corner of my eye.”
Facing a two-strike count during the bottom of the sixth inning, Livingstone executed a textbook squeeze bunt to score Bryan Pijanowski from third base for Upper Perkiomen’s lone run before he backed it up on the mound by finishing his one-hitter in a 1-0 win over Phoenixville.
A gutsy call? Of course. But what better way to pick up the first win of the season?
“I’ll admit, I was questioning myself the whole time I called it,” said Upper Perk head coach Frank Mercon with a laugh. “Trey executed in that situation, that was the bottom line. We trusted him and he came through.”
The brave call lifts Upper Perk to 1-1 on the season, a rebound from Wednesday night’s walk-off loss against Upper Merion. Phoenixville falls to 0-2 to start the season on the heels of Wednesday’s season-opening loss against Pope John Paul II.
Hardly overpowering but quite consistent, Livingstone was dominant on the mound for Upper Perk. The right-hander held the Phantoms to just one hit — lead-off man Nick Opalkowski to start the game — before scattering three walks and three strikeouts across seven innings. He never let a man stand safely on second and finished just one batter above the minimum while benefitting from two double plays by the defense and a pair of runners caught stealing by catcher Ben Tryon.
“All my pitches were working,” said Livingstone, who posted four 1-2-3 innings. “I was spotting my fastball, then changing the pace with my changeup and my curve.”
Phoenixville starter Kevin Cushing was equally impressive in his own right. The right-hander held Upper Perk scoreless through five innings where he scattered five hits and a pair of walks. He struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning on the way to six strikeouts for the day.
Timely hitting was simply not there for the Phantoms for the second straight game. Though disappointed, Phoenixville head coach Neil Herman carried a positive outlook.
“We can’t find our stroke right now,” he said. “It’s tough, but the positive is that in this league, this early, 0-2 doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a long way to go.
“We’ve got to keep plugging away at our lineup and keep working to figure out how we’ll manufacture runs. They’ll come.”
Devon Goryl came up with what appeared to be a game-saving play in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With a man on third base and the infield playing in, the shortstop sprawled out to stop a screaming grounder off the bat of Logan Curley, then got to his feet and fired it home in time to catch Tryon at the plate to keep it scoreless.
An inning later, though, they found themselves in a similar situation.
A dangerous base-runner, Pijanowski led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, then moved to second on a single by Brandon Reil. After a bunt by Nolan Graber to move him over to third, Pijanowski stood just 90 feet away.
“When I got to third, coach told me, ‘Watch for the squeeze,’” said Pijanowski. “I knew it was coming. As soon as his (Phoenixville pitcher Zach Masalski’s) foot landed, I was taking off for the plate.”
Certainly a sign of good things to come for Upper Perkiomen.
Thursday served as Upper Perk’s first win over Phoenixville since May of the 2013 season. The Phantoms had won the previous six times the two teams met.