EAST WHITELAND >> Mark Jordan returned to Marple Newtown hoping to repeat what he accomplished in his final season at Radnor.
But to do it in his first year back? That’s crazy.
Piloting a high school baseball team to a District 1 title isn’t something that magically happens with a snap of a finger. Jordan worked hard to build a winner at Radnor. In Jordan’s final year, the Raiders claimed the District Class 3A title after years and years of frustration.
Last fall, Jordan jumped on the opportunity to replace Steve Smith, who guided Marple Newtown to the PIAA semifinals last spring. With seniors Cameron Mathes and Scott Hahn anchoring the rotation, the Tigers were in good shape coming into the season.
Oh … it wasn’t simple. Mathes was shut down from the mound most of the spring, limited to playing the field and hitting. But Mathes’ sore elbow healed with rest, and by late in the regular season, he was available to throw from a hill again. After Tuesday’s masterful outing, MN improved to 5-0 in Mathes’ five starts since the layoff.
For the second time this month, Mathes dazzled Springfield. The Villanova recruit held the Cougars’ high-powered bats to one hit over six innings, with eight strikeouts, as sixth-seeded Marple Newtown captured the District 1 Class 5A title with a 7-2 victory at Immaculata. Earlier this month, Mathes and the Tigers spoiled Springfield’s outright Central League championship party with a 5-2 decision.
So, Jordan had done something pretty rare. He won a district title with two different programs in back-to-back campaigns.
“To get a win in the district final, the first one at Marple Newtown,” Jordan said, “that feels pretty good That’s what matters most.”
The Tigers had never won a district title in basebl prior to 2017. In recent memory, Marple Newtown’s football team advanced to the District 1 Class 5A semifinals in the fall, but fell two wins shy.
“It’s cool to do this with a lot of the same guys who play football,” Mathes said. “A lot of us play both sports, so we have (spent a lot of time) together. It’s nice to be able to get it done.”
While Mathes dominated with six one-hit innings, the Tigers played smart baseball all day. They continued their trend of making teams pay with their hitting, pitching and fielding.
Since stumbling to a 5-4 record, including a brutal loss to rebuilding Ridley, Jordan has guided Marple Newtown to a 10-1 mark. Over that time, the team’s batting average has improved from .233 to .333.
“A 100-point increase,” Jordan said. “Kids are doing a better job, staying patient and working good counts. (They are not) missing (many) pitches, either. Focused kids.”
In the first inning, Springfield committed three miscues, allowing three runs to score. Springfield was staring down a dark hole right out of the chute, and although the Cougars posted three come-from-behind wins in district tournament play, Marple was a different beast. Springfield hasn’t figured out a way to get past MN in two years, and the lightbulb wasn’t about to shine Tuesday. No way, not with Cam Mathes on the mound
“He controls every game like that,” said Alden Mathes, who was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. The sophomore centerfielder worked a free pass off Springfield ace Jared Morris to start the game.
“I don’t know how he does it — he just pounds the zone, to get every pitch for a strike,” Alden added about his big brother. “The way he attacks the zone is amazing. He never lets us down, never has a bad day. “
Mike Smith, who had the best day of any Springfield hitter, broke up Cam Mathes’ no-hit bid in the sixth inning with a (legitimate) single to the outfield. Smith certainly made Mathes sweat in his three ABs, going 1-for-2 with two walks. There was a 10-pitch sequence in the bottom of the first, which led to a base on balls, before Mathes retired the next three Springfield hitters with ease.
Hahn drove in Alden Mathes with a single in the first inning. An attempted pickoff throw by catcher Andrew Todaro sailed to the outfield and Cam Mathes (who reached on an error) scampered to score from second base and make it 2-0 Tigers. Corey Woodcock then smoked an opposite field triple to right field to enhance the Tigers’ cushion to 3-0.
Marple’s Luke Cantwell stepped in with the bases juiced in the sixth inning and promptly worked a walk off Jared Morris, who lacked command of his offspeed pitches. It’s worth noting that Morris was plagued by four errors over four-plus innings of duty. The big righthander and All-Delco allowed six runs (three earned) on four hits while fanning four. The southpaw Smith relieved Morris and yielded a run on four hits across three frames.
“We have everyone — one-through-nine — who steps up and just does their jobs,” said MN second baseman Bobby Steven, who singled and knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly. “Whether it’s getting a guy over, bunting them in, whatever … everyone does their job.”
And the Tigers celebrated history.
MN will take on the District 3 finisher — Cedar Cliff or Red Land — in the first round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament next week. Meanwhile, Springfield will play District 12 runner-up, Franklin Towne Charter.