GLENOLDEN >> To his Interboro buddies, Brandon Welden is not known as Brandon.
His name is … Chip.
“It’s from youth league baseball,” Welden said. “I used to play third base and they’d call me Chipper Jones. It’s stuck since the sixth grade.”
Like the former Atlanta Braves third baseman, who is bound for the Hall of Fame, Welden always could pick it at the hot corner and swing the bat. But on Tuesday, the Interboro senior was known as Chip the Ace.
Welden hurled six innings of no-earned run baseball with seven strikeouts to lead Interboro to an 11-1 thumping of Chichester. The lithe right-hander combined a two-seam fastball with a nasty curveball that had slurvey bend to it. For the most part, Chi hitters were left scratching their heads.
“The two-seamer kind of tails off. But I like using my curveball the best,” said Welden, who scattered four hits and two walks. He recorded a complete game after Interboro scored its 11th run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to trigger the 10-run rule.
Brandon Welden notches his 5th strikeout for Interboro. Good tailing fastball. pic.twitter.com/mSZLIQ5EK6
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) April 4, 2017
Welden is one nine first-year starters on the Bucs. Last spring the Bucs captured the Del Val League championship, going 19-0 in the regular season before losing to eventual District 1 Class AAAA champion Pennridge in the second round.
Needless to say, the Bucs have a lot to prove with an entirely new cast. Welden, who pitched sparingly on varsity as a junior, will help fill the void this year created by the departures of All-Delco Jason Lincoln (0.35 ERA) and Ronnie Bailey (0.53), who were one-two in the county in earned run average.
“We came into this season … like it was a test for playing time and every position was open,” Welden said. “Everybody was going to be competitive and earn their spot on team.”
Chichester (3-1) has been impressive in the early going, which provided Interboro (2-1) with extra incentive to give its best performance of the young season. Even though they’re a new-look squad, the Bucs showed Tuesday they’re still the team to beat in the Del Val.
“We treated this game like a playoff game. We always expect a tough game from Chi, no matter what,” Welden said. “They lost a lot of guys from last year and we lost a lot of guys. We know that every time we play them, it’s going to be a competitive game. They came in hungry and we act like it’s the biggest game of the year every time we play them.”
The Bucs attacked the Eagles from the start. They sent 11 batters to the dish in the first inning and scored five runs, all of which were charged to starter Aaron Smith, who got two outs before he was replaced by Andrew Rodriguez. Welden supplied the big blow with a ringing double to left field, plating two runs, and came all the way around to score after a two-base error. The rally started when the first two hitters, Anthony Pagan and Dom Scrivano, were hit by pitches.
If there is one player who will emerge as a team leader, watch out for Pagan. A slick-fielding shortstop — he made a tremendous diving grab to take away a base hit from Hunter Killinen in the sixth — Pagan doesn’t mind letting his voice be heard. He can be heard motivating his teammates between innings and on the bench.
“The big thing we have is intensity,” said Pagan, who reached base twice, scored a run and collected an RBI on a groundout to third. “Nine starters graduated and I was one of the guys who was lucky enough to play on varsity last year. That was my responsibility, to carry the energy and to make sure we are constantly talking on the bench. As my coach (Anthony DiNicola) says, me and the second baseman have to carry a lot of energy. You probably hear us most of the game because we’re very loud.”
Having the adrenaline flowing was crucial against Chi.
“I saw it from the moment Chi stepped onto the field. I felt like they came here, and since we lost all of our players, they thought they could beat us easily,” Pagan said. “But if we have the energy the entire way and make all the plays, it’s a ballgame.
“We can’t take a play off because once you do, that’s when the other team can put crooked numbers on the scoreboard. We couldn’t let that happen.”
The only crooked numbers being tossed around came from the Bucs, who churned out nine hits. Leading the offensive attack were centerfielder Joey
Pitts, first baseman Sean Flynn and second baseman Mike Ventura, each of whom had two singles. Flynn scored three runs and Ventura racked up three RBIs.
Rodriguez grinded out five innings in relief, allowing five hits and six runs (four earned), while striking out two. Chi pitchers hit six batsmen and issued four wild pitches.
One bright spot for the Eagles was junior shortstop Jason Riberio. Batting third in the lineup, Riberio launched a pair of bombs to left field for doubles and was excellent in the field.
“I know the team kind of depends on me, and I like that a lot,” Riberio said of batting in the middle of the Chi order. “I’ve been playing since freshman year, but now as a starter, it kind of takes on a different role.”
The Eagles and Bucs will play each other two more times this season. It’s not time to panic. Riberio is confident the Eagles will recover from the blowout and give a better performance next time.
“We played bad, but we just have to work together as a team more and get the bats going. In the field, we’ve got to make the plays,” Riberio said. “When times are tough, you have to lean on one another.”
In nonleague action:
Haverford School 8, Cardinal O’Hara 3 >> The Fords jumped on the Lions with a six-run first inning and never looked back. Tommy Toal collected two hits and two RBIs, while Bryan Hyland and Logan Keller both chipped in with two ribbies.
Grady Nance pitched five solid frames with four strikeouts and no walks to get the win. Zak Summy closed the door with two spotless innings of relief.
Eric Stewart belted a homer and Isaiah Hammond rapped two doubles for O’Hara.
Top photo: Brandon Welden pitched a complete game four-hitter with seven strikeouts as Interboro thumped Chichester, 11-1 (Photo by Anne Neborak — Digital First Media)