WORCESTER >> Alden Mathes is a very good ballplayer who will no doubt become an excellent one by the time he’s a senior.
That’s an exciting thought for Marple Newtown and its fans.
The sensational sophomore showed Tuesday why he is arguably the Tigers’ MVP of 2017.
OK, OK. Perhaps that honor deserves to be shared with Mathes’ big brother, Cameron, who battled on the mound for 6 1/3 innings at Methacton High School in a PIAA Class 5A first-round game against Red Land, the District 7 runner-up.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) June 6, 2017
But it was little bro who picked his teammates up and lifted the District 1 champion Tigers to a 6-4 victory in come-from-behind fashion.
Alden Mathes delivered the go-ahead two-run single in the bottom of the sixth, then relieved Cameron with one out in the top of the seventh. Alden allowed a single and a walk to load the bases, but buckled down to get two strikeouts. He blew a pitch by Red Land’s Luke Wagner on a full count to end the game while also sending Marple Newtown to the second round of the state tournament. The Tigers will hit the road to play District 2 champion Wallenpaupack at Parkland High Thursday night. As the second game of a doubleheader, first pitch is scheduled for 6:30, but … you know how baseball goes.
Alden Mathes’ two-run single to left field came after Kevin Merrone struck out with the bags juiced and no outs. That’s been the Tigers’ M.O. most of the year — they have each others’ backs.
“We came here to win this game and I knew I had to do whatever it took to get the win. With runners on second and third, I’ve got to put the ball hard in play. I found a crack a there through the infield,” said Mathes, who singled, walked, hit a sacrifice fly and knocked in three runs.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) June 6, 2017
And what about the job he did in relief of Cameron? Surely he felt the pressure of the big moment, called upon to extend the Tigers’ storybook season, right?
Not at all.
“I just knew I had to go in there and throw strikes,” Alden said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let them win the game. I love to thrive in those moments. I always work at a quick pace. I don’t change there, it’s just another inning to me.”
The Tigers entered the bottom of the sixth down a run. Soon, they were in rally mode. A wild pitch on a strikeout, one costly balk and two bunt singles set the stage for Alden Mathes’ heroics. Corey Woodcock led off by whiffing on a third strike, but sprinted to first safely on account of an errant pitch by Red Land reliever Brayden Lee.
And that’s when the fun began.
Marple Newtown coach Mark Jordan told his next two hitters, Bobby Steven and Carmen Christiana, to lay down bunts. They did so with aplomb, dropping a pair of beauties in no man’s land. Steven and Christiana beat out both would-be sacrifices for infield singles.
The bottom of the MN order — Steven, Christiana and Merrone — went 5-for-9 with an RBI and three runs scored.
“All we have to do is try to get on and turn it over to the top of the order,” Christiana said. “We have bigger hitters in Alden, Cam, Scott (Hahn), both Lukes (Zimmerman and Cantwell). I had to look for something down in the zone. I just never lost hope in the game and knew we would come back.”
The balk was called with Alden Mathes at the dish, allowing Woodcock to trot home from third with the tying run. Two pitches later, Mathes ripped a single through the hole at second base, scoring Steven and Christiana with the go-ahead runs.
“We kept the positive energy going,” Alden Mathes said. “It’s easy for a team to go down 4-0 and feel like you want to quit. We stayed hyped, fought back slowly and eventually got a big inning and broke it open.”
Cameron Mathes overcame a rocky first two innings and was excellent the rest of the way. Red Land jumped on the Villanova signee for three runs on three hits in the first. Mathes’ pitching counterpart, Zeb Stough, smacked a two-run single. An RBI groundout by Josh Snyder in the second gave Red Land a 4-0 advantage. After the second inning, Cameron Mathes gave up only two hits and finished with six strikeouts.
“I think I was a little too excited with being my first states game,” he said. “I was missing my spots, leaving pitches out over the plate. I started to settle down and focus more on where my pitches were going.”
Catcher Bryan Protesto, who threw out a runner attempting to steal and was excellent behind the dish, knew it was a matter of time before Cameron would hit his stride.
“I knew once he found the zone, he’s good,” Protesto said. “I think early on, he wasn’t settled in. But once he gets settled in, you can’t hit him. They were just hitting all the low pitches, they were driving them. Once we started throwing up and in, they couldn’t hit it. The curveball, too, they weren’t hitting so once we threw them that, it was good.”
The Tigers chipped away at the hard-throwing Stough, a big righty with good stuff and a menacing groan, starting with Scott Hahn’s RBI single down the third-base line in the third. Christiana went the opposite way to left field in the fourth to drive in Zimmerman, who led off with a double. Alden Mathes then lofted a sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game.
Top photo: Alden Mathes, shown in a file photo, had the go-ahead two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning and recorded a two-out save in relief of his brother, Cameron, in Marple Newtown’s 6-4 win over Red Land in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 5A first-round playoff game.