FAIRLESS HILLS – Pennsbury struggled with the bats in a recent 1-0 loss to Suburban One National League (SONL) rival Bensalem, leaving eight men stranded in scoring position.
So Falcon coach Joe Pesci decided to shake things up in his team’s May 2 home game against Abington by putting senior Tyrone Hodges Jr. in the leadoff spot – the position in which he resided in the batting order last season.
Hodges responded in kind, getting on base and scoring his first two times at bat and stroking a two-run double to help ignite a six-run rally by Pennsbury on its way to a 14-1 mercy-ruled triumph over the SONL rival Galloping Ghosts.
“Tyrone hit first for us last year but he’s been hitting mostly six through eight for us this season,” stated Pesci. “His on-base percentage has been really good this year so we did the metrics and moved some guys around, based on those percentages.”
“He’s the captain for two years, he’s a sparkplug; he’s got the energy. He took that bag and gets our first run for us by forcing an error.”
Hodges scored three times and pushed the same number of runs across the plate.
In the loss to the Owls, the Falcons failed to improve their chances to win, ending three innings on doubleplays and two more on strikeouts looking.
“We weren’t being aggressive at the plate; we just weren’t competing,” said junior Kyle Dear, who has earned a spot at first base. “We were taking too many pitches right down the middle.
“We needed to come out today and be aggressive – attack the first-pitch fastball.”
Pennsbury certainly accomplished that goal in this game.
Dear continued to impress with a first-inning RBI double, a single off the pitcher in the third inning and a run scored. Senior Nick Price – who was batting in the two spot – also had a good day, with two hits including a double, three RBI and a pair of runs scored.
Sophomore Justin Massielo added two hits including a double, a pair of RBI and a run scored. Senior Ryan McCarty had only one hit – in the first inning – but he also stroked a pair of RBI in the game.
Outfielder Justin Ward – who had been nursing an arm injury – returned to the lineup at designated hitter. Ward had a good day at the plate, getting on base in all three at-bats including a leadoff single up the middle in the fourth inning and scoring twice.
Twin brother Vaughn Ward greeted Ghosts reliever Christian Lavallie with an RBI double in the third inning. He hit 2-for-3 on the day and also scored twice.
“We hit pretty well as a team, collectively hitting balls all over the yard – left field, right field, center field,” stated Dear. “Hodges really got us going today. Last year, he was our everyday leadoff guy and I think he’s comfortable there.
“He was a big sparkplug today – getting us started by getting on base and scoring runs every inning.”
Senior righthander Billy Bethel – who started the game on the mound – recorded the win, after pitching three scoreless innings while allowing two hits. Bethel stuck out six of the 11 batters he faced while walking none.
Winds that reached 40 miles an hour and swept dirt across the infield several times throughout the contest caused problems for the outfielders.
“We hit three or four balls deep that you could see caused some issues and they got one up in that jet stream that wound up being a double,” explained Pesci.
“But weather affects both teams – if it rains, it rains on both teams, if it’s wind, it’s windy for both teams.”
Averaging just two runs in league contests coming into the battle, this was a breakout game, offensively, for the Falcons.
“Before the season even started, consistency at the plate was our biggest need,” stated Pesci.
“We only had four hits against Bensalem and we couldn’t get that clutch hit.
“Today was hopefully a statement game and a reason for the boys to believe in themselves.”
Next up for Pennsbury is a non-league game May 4 against Souderton that counts in the District 1 standings. The Falcons outpaced the Indians 8-4 the first time the sides squared off this season but Souderton will surely put up a fight this time around as it is locked in a battle for the SOL Continental Conference crown with division leader North Penn.
The season heats up in a big way this week with Neshaminy (Monday, May 8 at NHS), Council Rock South (May 10 at home) and CR North (May 12 at CRN) on the schedule. The Skins are leading the pack with just one loss but Pennsbury is still in the hunt with two.
“It’s anyone’s ballgame right now,” stated Dear. “We’re just looking to take it day by day, win by win.”
The Falcons pushed their way to 9-5, overall, 5-2 in the SONL while Abington fell to 3-11, overall, 1-7 in the SONL.
Junior righthander J.P. Nolan sustained the loss for the Ghosts, lasting just 1.1 innings, giving up five runs on three hits, striking out two batters while walking a pair.
First baseman George Jacob stroked the only extra-base hit for Abington, belting a leadoff double in the fifth inning off Pennsbury reliever Nate Derry and scoring on Jordan Grimaldi’s grounder to short.
UPDATE: The Falcons were upended 3-2 by Souderton but blanked Holy Ghost Prep 7-0 May 6 at Arm & Hammer Park.
Pennsbury 14, Abington 1
(May 2 at Pennsbury)
ABINGTON 000 01 – 1 4 1
PENNSBURY 326 3X – 14 12 0
WP – Billy Bethel (P) 3IP, 0R, 2H, 0BB, 6SO, 0HB; LP – J.P. Nolan 1.1IP, 5R, 3H, 2BB, 2SO, 1HB.
MULTIPLE HITS: P – Nick Price 2-for-4, Justin Massielo 2-for-2, Kyle Dear 2-for-4, Vaughn Ward 2-for-3; A – none.
DOUBLES: P – Tyrone Hodges Jr., Price, Massielo, Dear, V. Ward; A – George Jacob.
RBI: P – Hodges 3, Price 3, Massielo 2, Dear, McCarty 2, V. Ward; A – Jordan Grimaldi.
RUNS: P – Hodges 3, Price 2, Massielo, Dear, Bethel, Justin Ward 2, Josh Tesarck 2, V. Ward 2; A – Jacob.
TOP PHOTO: Pennsbury senior Tyrone Hodges Jr. rounds third base on a Nick Price double in the second inning on his way to his second run scored in a 14-1 victory over Suburban One National League rival Abington Tuesday, May 2 on the Falcons’ home field. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)