LANGHORNE – With a chance to share the Suburban One National League title with Pennsbury, Neshaminy needed a win to stake its claim to the crown.
Visiting Council Rock South, on the other hand, was facing a much dire consequence, however. The Golden Hawks had to get past the Skins in order to have any chance to extend their season into the upcoming District 1 Class 6A Tournament.
South (11-9, 7-5 SOL) got all the runs it needed to win the critical game in the first inning as it pushed three runs across the plate on RBI doubles by Josh Kim and John Crane along with walks to Matt Smith and Evan Fisher. An eventual 5-1 triumph over Neshaminy pushes the Hawks to 11-9 overall, and more importantly 7-7 in games that count toward the D-1 standings.
“All of us were just focused on winning the game,” said center fielder Eric Jeronis, who led his team in RBIs with two. “We didn’t really care if they shared the (league) title or if Pennsbury got it.
“We just wanted to win so we can get in the playoffs.”
CR South was already up 2-zip when Jeronis launched a fly ball to centerfield to score Fisher from third base and give the Hawks an early 3-0 edge. In the fifth inning with runners on second and third base, he came through with a bunt single on a squeeze bunt down the first base side that handcuffed Neshaminy starter Zach Boop.
“You gotta do your job,” stated Jeronis. “On the sac-fly, I was just trying to play it to the outfield and get the run in.
“That was a safety squeeze but I managed to get it down and score another run.”
South had men on first and second after Boop clunked the first two batters then threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance into scoring position. It certainly was not a typical outing for the Neshaminy senior righthander headed to Lehigh. Indeed, Boop – who entered the contest with an ERA under 1.00 – walked three batters his first time around the Hawks’ rotation.
His counterpart on the mound for South – Hawks lefty Zach Mayer – allowed a lone run in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Ben Raab then followed with five scoreless to send the home team to the bottom of the final frame, staring at a 5-1 deficit.
“Mayer – I love that kid; I love the intensity that he brings to the game,” stated Hawks head coach Ted Kirner. “He’s the epitome of a team player. I was really happy to see him excel.
“He hasn’t always had run support but he’s never wavered from his job.
“This one is for Zach – he’s our team captain, most valuable player and most consistent guy.
Boop didn’t overpower the Skins hitters so much as he lulled their batting order to sleep.
After surrendering a two-out double in the third inning to Neshaminy second baseman Brian Nicolas, he retired first baseman Eddie Parry – a dangerous cleanup hitter – on a fly ball to center field. In the sixth inning with runners on first and second base, he tossed a wild pitch to catcher Eric Gale to run the count full and allow the runners to advance into scoring position. But he painted the inside corner of the plate for a called third strike to retire the side with no damage done.
According to Kirner, Mayer’s pitching arsenal includes a fastball, curveball, change-up and a two-seamer “he uses to get after some people.” Because he uses the same arm slot no matter what he’s throwing, Mayer is tough to pick up, the coach added.
“He pounds the zone and he’s tough,” says Kirner. “People get over-confident with him because his velocity isn’t as great as you might see from a (Evan) Matthews or a (Zach) Boop or some of those other guys.
“He deals and he lets his teammates make the plays.”
While South committed three errors in the game, the Hawks certainly had their share of good defensive plays, especially a grounder swallowed up by shortstop Matt Smith in the fourth inning. With a runner on third base, Parry stroked a ball to the right side of second base that had eyes for the outfield. Smith gathered it up, then whipped around for the throw that just nipped Eddie at first base and saved a run from scoring.
Jeronis caught a pair of fly balls launched to centerfield by Parry in the first and third innings. Eric started the bottom of the third off by catching a sinking liner to shallow center by leadoff hitter Anthony Raposelli. With one out in the inning, a Brian Nicolas double – the Skins only extra-base hit in the game – surely would have scored a run.
Nicolas was left standing at second and Neshaminy stranded eight runners in the contest.
“Our clutch hitting is not where it needs to be,” admitted Skins head coach Dan Toner. “All we need is one guy to step up in any part of the order and that’s a struggle for us right now.”
“We’re not getting guys in when we need to.”
Kim helped manufacture South’s final run, drawing a leadoff walk off reliever Evan Matthews, reaching second on a sac bunt and scoring on Crane’s grounder to third. On the play, Neshaminy infielder Jerry Scavone whipped the ball to first base in time to retire Crane but Parry’s relay back to third squirted past the bag, allowing Kim to score.
The Skins (15-4, 9-3 SOL) started the week seeded third in the District 1 standings and their 13-3 record against D-1 rivals will certainly assure Neshaminy of a first-round bye. That gives the Skins eight days to regroup.
“We’ve been relying on our pitching and our defense and when that’s not where it needs to be on a given day, our hitting has not picked it up.”
The coach is confident, however, that Boop will bounce back from this. The loss to the Hawks was only the senior’s second of the season. After the game, Zach’s ERA was a solid 1.00 and junior Evan Matthews possesses an ERA of 0.87.
While South started the week ranked 22nd in the district, the 5-1 win at Neshaminy will certainly improve its footing in the D-1 standings.
Mayer (5-3) also pitched a gem in last week’s 1-0 loss to league Pennsbury, but Falcons righthander Ryan McCarty was just a little bit better that day, tossing a five-hit, complete game shutout.
Pennsbury solidified their standing in the league with an earlier 6-1 triumph over the Skins and a 14-3 win May 12 at Council Rock North.
The Falcons grabbed at least a share of the league title with Monday’s 2-0 win at Truman and secured the SOL National crown all to themselves with the Hawks’ 5-1 victory over Neshaminy.
When South junior reliever Brendan Carter retired the Skins in order in the seventh, cheers arose from the other side of the right field fence as that side of the perimeter was lined with players from Pennsbury.
Meanwhile, the District 1 seeding meeting takes place Thursday night. The Hawks must await the outcome of that session in order to find out their fate.
NOTES: Neshaminy also earned a spot in districts last year, topping PAC-10 rival Owen J. Roberts in the first round before falling to third-place finisher and Ches-Mont rival Downingtown West. CR South did not make districts last year.
TOP PHOTO: Council Rock South lefthander Zach mayer limited Neshaminy to a lone run on six hits, helping the Golden Hawks to a much-needed 5-1 victory over the Skins May 16 at Neshaminy. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)
Council Rock South 5, Neshaminy 1
(May 16 at Neshaminy)
CR SOUTH (11-9) 300 010 1 – 5 5 3
NESHAMINY (15-4) 100 000 0 – 1 6 2
WP — Zach Mayer (6-3) 6IP, 1R, 6H, 2BB, 2SO, 0HB; LP — Zach Boop (6-2) 4IP, 4R, 5H, 3BB, 2SO, 2HB.
MULTIPLE HITS: CRS — none; N — Zach Tredway 2-for-4.
DOUBLES: CRS — Josh Kim. John Crane; N — Brian Nicolas.
RBIs: CRS — Eric Jeronis 2, Josh Kim, John Crane; N — Ben Raab.
RUNS: CRS — Matt Smith, Kim 2, Fisher 2; N — Tredway.