PLUMSTEAD >> Jenkintown knows what it’s getting from John Contoudis.
The senior is a three-sport athlete but he shines most on the baseball diamond and this year, he’s been something special on the mound. Monday afternoon, following a long ride up Easton Road, Contoudis did what he’s done all season.
He shouldered the load and led the Drakes to a win and this was an important one.
Behind 6 1/3 innings and 10 strikeouts from Contoudis and some clutch defense, Jenkintown topped Plumstead Christian School 3-1 to begin the final week of the regular season.
“We thought we were the better team but we didn’t show it in the first game,” Contoudis said. “They have two good pitchers but we were ready. We’ve been hitting in the cage all week and were just ready to go.”
The teams had met just 11 days earlier, with Plumstead taking a back-and-forth 8-6 decision. Jenkintown was second in the most recent District 1 Class A rankings, trailing only Plumstead, so Monday’s meeting had a lot riding on it. With a potential rematch looming in the postseason, the Drakes wanted to prove they were a better team than the first meeting had shown.
As he warmed up, Contoudis wasn’t expecting a high-scoring affair like the last time, not with Plumstead sending Austin Pfaff to the hill with Brock Hewitt waiting in the wings. Still, the senior was exactly the right man for Jenkintown.
“I saw a lot of poise,” Jenkintown coach George Vafiadis said. “He’s not just up there throwing, he’s thinking, he does a lot of things well. He’s really a leader out there and willing to take the team on his shoulders. He was (BAL Constitution) Player of the Year last year and in my eyes, he was awesome. He had a great outing and I’m proud of him.”
Whichever team scored first was going to have a decided advantage and Jenkintown was able to capitalize. Outfielder Jake McGrath singled and Contoudis walked on five pitches with one out in the top of the first to bring up senior first baseman Michael DiValentino.
DiValentino cashed in, hitting a single to score the fleet-footed McGrath. The Drakes loaded the bases but couldn’t push any more runs across. Instead of dwelling on it, Contoudis knew he had a lead and went to the mound ready to attack.
Once there, the righty went right after Plumstead’s batters by mixing his fastball, curveball and change-up and pounding the corners of the zone.
“When you’re pitching, it’s comforting to know you’re up and a runner on first base at worst will only tie it on a double,” Contoudis said. “I just want to pitch my game, dominate the strike zone, hit the inside and outside corner, use all three pitches.”
Contoudis struck out the side in the first and would ring up at least one batter in every inning except the sixth. The only inning where he ran into any trouble was the fourth, when the first two Plumstead batters reached on errors.
Instead of letting it get to him, Contoudis bore down and chipped away, getting a fielder’s choice, handled a pop-up and struck out a batter to end the threat.
“It was great to see and that’s a big boost for the guys in the field,” Vafiadis said. “You have your head down a little bit, it’s hard to forget about it and when John can do something like that, it’s a way he can lead without saying anything. It’s him going out there to pick those guys up in a sense.”
Contoudis helped himself out by manufacturing a run in the third inning. After he singled with one out, the senior swiped second then took third on DiValentino’s long fly to center field. A wild pitch then allowed him to score standing up for a 2-0 lead.
Jenkintown is a senior-led team and they’ve been playing together for quite a long time. Alec Griffin keyed in and framed Contoudis’ pitches behind the plate and has been doing well as the leadoff man, putting the ball in play and getting on base.
McGrath had two hits Monday and three really solid at-bats, working pitches off Pfaff and Hewitt, DiValentino had the crucial first RBI and made some good plays at first while Jameson Kolb got the last out to save the win.
“There’s only 45 kids in our (senior) class so we’ve known each other since kindergarten,” Contoudis said. “It’s our last chance to all play together and we’re just trying to do what we can. It’s just fun, we all do it because we like it.”
Griffin walked in the seventh and later scored when a grounder by Contoudis led to an error, putting the Drakes up 3-0. After expending 95 pitches to get through the first six innings, Contoudis was hoping to stretch his last five as long as possible.
Unfortunately for the senior, he only got one more batter but he made it count, using his 100th pitch to punch out Plumstead’s Josh Pritchard to open the seventh for his 10th strikeout.
“I was trying to get the first out quick,” Contoudis said. “Pat (Morrin) and Jameson (Kolb) were able to come in, get us two big outs and end the game.”
It wasn’t a clean finish for the Drakes, as Plumstead got a run back off reliever Pat Morrin with two outs to bring up Hewitt. Kolb was summoned to finish the game but even that wasn’t without a scare.
Hewitt, who struck out eight batters in the four-plus innings he pitched, launched a hard-hit ball to center field. Drakes outfielder Christian Solis, another senior, charged in and dove, his long hair flowing under his cap as he extended and held on to the ball for the last out.
“I was just staring at the umpire thinking ‘give me the (sign for a catch),’” Vafiadis said. “What a great effort and an awesome catch. I was hoping he got the out, he did and it was just an awesome ending.”
Jenkintown 3, Plumstead Christian 1
JENKINTOWN 101 000 1 – 3 4 2
PLUMSTEAD CHRISTIAN 000 000 1 – 1 4 2
WP: John Contoudis. LP: Brock Hewitt. SV: Jameson Kolb. SO-BB: J – Contoudis 10-1, Pat Morrin 1-0, Jameson Kolb 0-0; PC – Austin Pfaff 3-2, Brock Hewitt 8-0, Ben Read 1-0.
Jenkintown: Jake McGrath 2-4, R; Michael DiValentino RBI.
Plumstead Christian: Chrsitian Roberts 2-3.