GLENOLDEN >> Anthony Viggiano doesn’t mind getting screamed and yelled at — he actually prefers it.
Strath Haven’s exciting junior shortstop has to pay extra attention to the words spoken to him, whether it’s from friends, teachers, or his parents.
“Whispering, that’s tough to hear,” he said. “You’ve got to be right next to me.”
Viggiano is hearing-impaired. When he was an infant, he underwent surgery for a cochlear implant, an electronic device for the deaf.
“My parents believe that, since I was in and out of the hospital with a bunch of ear infections, it (his hearing) kind of slowed down,” Viggiano said. “I became deaf and I got surgery when I was 18 months old.”
Viggiano only uses the one hearing aid. He said it was his choice not to have two implants.
“I decided not to get surgery on the other side because I just didn’t feel comfortable with it,” he said.
If being hard of hearing is a disability, well, don’t tell that to Viggiano. It doesn’t affect the way he lives life. And his hearing loss doesn’t negatively impact the way he plays baseball.
In a nonleague game at Interboro Monday afternoon, Viggiano went 1-for-3 with a single and a sacrifice fly, and recorded a four-out save, as Strath Haven earned a 9-5 victory.
Viggiano has become an expert at lip reading. He uses that skill to his advantage countless times a day.
“If someone is talking,” he said, “I can see it, from miles away.”
That brought some laughter to Viggiano, an excellent ballplayer who is one of Strath Haven coach Brian Fili’s top guys.
“He’s going to be a college baseball player someday,” Fili said. “He’s got it. He’s a good shortstop, with a good swing. We need to get him some more time on the mound. Right now, he’s the fourth guy we have, but he’s going to be a guy we’ll need to rely on, next year for sure. He’ll get there.”
Viggiano entered with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. He allowed a two-run single off the bat of Tim Convery, but he wriggled out of further trouble by getting Anthony Pagan, who had led off the inning with a single, to ground out to second base.
In the seventh, Viggiano worked around a single and an error to close the door for the Panthers.
“I didn’t pitch last year because we had enough pitchers on the team. This year, it’s been more of a challenge,” Viggiano said. “I have to step in whenever they need me. I’ll go in anywhere.”
Tall and athletic, Viggiano possesses a prototypical, new-gen shortstop look. No longer a defense-first position for little guys, Viggiano certainly has
the potential to excel at the position at the next level. At the plate, he shows a quick, compact stroke, with the ability to hit to all fields.
Fili has high hopes for Viggiano the pitcher, just as he does for Viggiano the shortstop.
“The first time we brought him this year was the Haverford School game (opening day) and he closed it out for us. That was a close game, 8-7. He did a really nice job. Then we ended up bringing him in in the Springfield game and we ended up playing 12 innings,” Fili said. “He’s going to be big for us. He already is.”
With the win, Strath Haven (4-4) reached the .500 mark for the season. The Panthers play in the small-school division of the Central League — divisions that are designed for scheduling purposes only — and have endured difficult, one-run losses to Springfield, Penncrest and Radnor.
“We just have to battle,” Viggiano said. “We’ve been struggling to close out games. Against Radnor, and a couple of other games, we had the lead but at the end, they rallied and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Perhaps a nine-run, 10-hit blistering against previously unbeaten Interboro (6-1) will change the Panthers’ fortunes going forward. They have scored 21 runs combined in their last two wins, including a 12-0 rout of Phoenixville last week.
Haven scored six runs in the third inning to take a 9-0 lead. But when the left-hander Convery relieved starter Mike Ventura in the third, Haven’s bats went quiet the rest of the way. Convery limited Haven to one hit, an infield single in the seventh inning that was only ruled a hit because the ball took a nasty hop on the shortstop Pagan.
“We were up 9-0 after three innings and we lost a little bit of focus,” Fili said. “We had one hit the rest of the game because of a bad hop to the shortstop in the last inning. Offensively and defensively, we lost some focus. That’s one of our weak spots right now; we’re not finishing games, putting teams away. That’s where we got to get better so we can make a little run here.”
Noah Atsaves needed only 60 pitches to throw five strong innings of three-hit ball. He allowed no runs and struck out three.
Interboro’s bats came alive in the sixth against Andrew Yates, who gave up five unearned runs. Anthony Stankewiecz stroked a two-run single and pinch hitter Tariq Asadi coaxed a bases-loaded walk. Convery’s two-run single off Viggiano trimmed the deficit to four.
First baseman Will Carey, a recent Susquehanna commit, and third baseman Chase Davis paced the Panthers on offense. Carey went 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs, while Davis finished 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.
In Catholic League action:
Cardinal O’Hara 12, Lansdale Catholic 0 >> Eric Stewart laced a pair of doubles and had four RBIs, while Greg Manning went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs scored for the Lions (5-5, 3-2). Jimmy White collected three hits and scored three times, and Mike Davis had a single, a double, two RBIs and three runs scored.
The middle of the lineup — three-through-six — accounted for 12 of the Lions’ 14 hits and all 11 RBIs.
Brian Bromley pitched four innings with three strikeouts for the win.
Neumann-Goretti 7, Archbishop Carroll 2 >> Errors and walks doomed the Patriots (6-2, 4-1), who allowed only three earned runs en route to their first league loss of the year. In his first varsity start, freshman Drew Butera went 2-for-2 and Cole Chesnet had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs.
Top photo: Strath Haven relief pitcher Anthony Viggiano, right, gets a slap of congratulations from starting pitcher Noah Atsaves after Viggiano pitched the seventh inning against Interboro Monday. The Panthers won 9-5. (Photo by Pete Bannan – Digital First Media).