NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Luke Zimmerman left Cardinal O’Hara for Marple Newtown for one reason.
“Coming back with all my friends,” he said, “was where I wanted to be.”
The junior southpaw was a key addition for the Tigers. After losing 2016 Daily Times Player of the Year Ricky Collings, and several other stars to graduation, Marple Newtown needed an infusion of talent and Zimmerman was the perfect fit.
On the mound against undefeated Springfield Monday afternoon, Zimmerman was good. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and four earned runs, while striking out five. He started to run out of gas against a potent Springfield lineup in the fifth.
At the plate, Zimmerman was money. He was 3-for-3 with a three-run homer off Springfield ace Jared Morris. His jack was the longest blast in a game that went down to the wire before Marple Newtown won, 6-5.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) April 10, 2017
Zimmerman feasted on a first-pitch fastball and launched it well over the right-field fence in the third inning to give the Tigers a two-run lead.
“This year, I’ve been swinging at the first few pitches a lot,” Zimmerman said. “I think I saw four pitches in three at bats today.”
As Zimmerman provided plenty of offense and kept the Tigers afloat with his solid pitching Monday, Steve Morrison was called upon to slam the door.
With the bases loaded, Morrison relieved Alden Mathes, who ran out of juice in his final inning of relief. Morrison needed only three pitches to coax Andrew Todaro into hitting a 6-4-3 double play to end the game, sealing Marple Newtown’s biggest victory of the season.
Morrison can’t remember being so “nervous” entering a game. Best-case scenario, he would get out of trouble and earn the save, but Marple coach Mark Jordan would have been happy to get out of the seventh inning with the score tied.
But the hard-throwing righty quickly got Todaro into a two-strike hole with a fastball-curveball mix.
“When it’s 0-2, I’m looking for a strikeout,” Morrison said. “But I knew my fielders had my back. I was really nervous. It was crazy. I’ve never been in a spot like that, not even close.”
Layne Kelly and Mike Smith led off the top of the seventh with back-to-back walks. After Mathes punched out Brandon DiChiacchio, Dave Bingaman rapped an infield single to bring home Kelly. Joe Kennedy walked to load the bases.
“We all have had to pitch in this season and do our jobs,” Morrison said. “This is one of those games where everyone stepped up.”
Morrison rolled a textbook double play that was executed perfectly by shortstop Cameron Mathes, second baseman Kevin Merrone and first baseman Scott Hahn.
Though it’s only April and the Central League is very much up for grabs, a nail-biting win against Springfield (5-1, 4-1) could go a long way for Marple Newtown (3-2, 3-2) The Tigers handed the All-Delco Morris his first pitching loss in two years.
“For us, it’s a feather in our cap,” said Jordan, who is in the first year of his second stint with the Tigers. “We were able to make some adjustments. Luke had three hits. He ran out of gas at 70 (pitches), but he throws strikes. He’s a bulldog.”
Mathes was credited with the win for Marple. The sophomore lefty struck out five over two innings.
Springfield grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Tom Quinn slammed a double to the gap in right-center. Zimmerman’s three-run bomb off Morris to give MN a 3-1 lead was followed with a strikeout of the Springfield ace in the next inning.
“To strike out the other pitcher, especially him, after hitting that home run, it definitely feels good,” Zimmerman said.
Morris ripped a two-run double off Mathes to put the Cougars back in front, 4-3. Moments earlier, Brandon DiChiacchio chased Zimmerman from the game with a run-scoring single.
Marple responded with three runs in the fifth. Luke Cantwell and Hahn delivered RBI singles and courtesy runner Blake Tomasco scored what proved to be the winning run on a double-steal attempt. Tomasco scampered home from third base as Bob Steven got caught in a rundown between first and second.
“This was a huge game. They came in undefeated and we’ve had some struggles,” said Cantwell, who scored MN’s fifth run with an amazing headfirst slide at home. “We needed a game to really kick off our season.”
In other Central League games:
Radnor 5, Strath Haven 4 >> The Raiders stunned the Panthers with a four-run top of the seventh. George Hoysgaard was 2-for-4 with a double and drove in the game-winning run.
Luke Mutz led Haven with three hits, including a double, an RBI and a run scored.
Upper Darby 10, Ridley 4 >> Nate Rimel powered the Royals with three singles, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored. UD scored four runs in the second and fifth innings while taking advantage of seven Ridley errors.
Nick Pellegrino homered and Ryan Tait supplied a two-run single for the Green Raiders.
Garnet Valley 4, Haverford 3 >> The Jaguars (6-0, 5-0) remained unbeaten thanks in large part to Matt Lupoli’s 10-strikeout performance. Lupoli, who earned the win, allowed no earned runs and one hit over 5 ⅔ innings.
Dom Bertone had two hits, including a triple, and Cole Palis went 2-for-3 with two runs scored for the Jags.
The Fords made things interesting with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut their deficit to one. Chris Trainor delivered a two-run triple.
In the Catholic League:
Archbishop Carroll 11, Bishop McDevitt 0 >> Tyler Kehoe, a recent South Carolina commit, and Christian Argentieri combined for a five-inning no hitter.
Max Hitman was the excellence of execution at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Freshman Trent Pierce went 2-for-2 in his first varsity appearance.
Neumann-Goretti 14, Cardinal O’Hara 5 >> Pete Klein, Greg Manning, Kevin Mckeon and Jim Beaky all collected two hits for the Lions (2-5, 1-2).
In the Del Val League:
Chester 15, Glen Mills 0 >> Chris Gonzalez struck out nine en route to a three-inning no-hitter. Jesus Boneu and Yariele Diaz had a double and four RBIs apiece.
In the Ches-Mont League:
Sun Valley 9, Oxford 6 >> All-Delco Christian Bateman went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Richie June singled twice and Dino Bateman drilled an RBI double as the Vanguards (1-5) got their first win.
In nonleague action:
Interboro 9, Octorara 2 >> Freshman Aaron Stankiewicz paced the Bucs (4-0) with three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. Mike Ventura, who hurled a complete game with six strikeouts, chipped in with two hits.
Top photo: Marple Newtown’s (7) Luke Zimmerman rounds third base past coach Mark Jordan after Zimmerman’s three-run homer in Monday’s Central League game against Springfield. (Photo by Pete Bannan – Digital First Media)