PHILADELPHIA >> The Inter-Ac/Independent stars defeated their Delaware County counterparts, 2-1, in the first round of the Carpenter Cup Friday.
While it was one-and-done for Delco, the same could not be said of the McNeely baseball family.
Sophomore outfielder TJ McNeely commiserated the defeat with his Delco teammates. His father Tom, a coach at The Haverford School, is alive as an assistant with the Inter-Ac squad. It’s the first time the father-son duo squared off against each other.
“It was a win-win situation,” Tom McNeely said with a grin. “And it was exciting. My four seniors, we won. And if TJ had won, it would have been good. I knew one of us was advancing on Monday, which is a good thing.”
Longtime Haverford School coach Bob Castell, who assisted Inter-Ac coach Dave Miller, of Penn Charter, made certain the McNeelys got together for a post-game photograph.
TJ McNeely obviously wished the circumstances were reversed in a game featuring stellar pitching, dazzling defense and just enough offense to for the marathon at FDR Park to end in nine innings. The game looked like it might not be over until the next Eagles tailgate.
“It was exciting and it was strange,” TJ McNeely said. “He’s coached me since I was like 4.”
The Ridley connection was news to Paul Bagosian, the Haverford High coach who directed the Delco team.
“That’s really cool,” Bagosian said. “It was a great game, I thought. It came down to a pitchers’ duel and we were on the short end of the duel. You’ve got to tip your hats to them and move on. It’s a shame for us.”
The Inter-Ac stars took the lead when Dave Hogarth (Haverford School) plated Jack O’Reilly (Episcopal Academy) with a fourth-inning single off Cameron Mathis (Marple Newtown).
“It was the first pitch of the at bat, a curve ball,” said Hogarth, who resides in Havertown. “I was sitting something slow to the plate and I got the pitch I was looking for. And I squared up right in the middle. It’s really great to see the competition from everywhere around the Tri-State Area. The guys on you compete with all year long. You come here, they’re your friends.”
The Delaware County stars knotted the game the top of the sixth inning when Mason Miller reached on a single and scored on a passed ball.
It looked like the game was headed for extra innings until Adam Holland was hit in the head by a Michael Conran pitch and after advancing to second on a walk, was driven in by Penn Charter teammate Sam Siani.
Holland turned the corner like a Big League player.
“I’ve always been taught to try to get the best angle,” Holland said. “I knew it was going to be a close play if he would have thrown it.”
Holland, playing shortstop, threw out a Delco star in the next inning after getting to a grounder so deep in the hole he wound up on the outfield grass.
“I definitely got a good jump to it,” Holland said. “My favorite infielder is probably Francisco Lindor. He’s really smooth, he’s really quick and he has a good arm. So I definitely try to play like him in the infield.”
The Delaware County stars made several solid defensive plays.
Second baseman Jake Stoller (Lower Merion) and shortsop Liam Bendo (Garnet Valley), who showed his arm strength, kept Delco close.
David Bingaman (Springfield) played stellar defense at third and Luke Mutz (Strath Haven) turned a huge double play at second early in the game.
“There were no errors,” Begosian said. “And it was 6 to 4 in hits. Great pitching on both sides and some excellent defensive plays on our end.”
The Inter-Ac/Independent stars advance to the second round against Olympic Colonial, Monday, at FDR Park.
“It’s like going up the stairs,” Holland said. “Every step is important. You can’t miss one or you’re going to fall. Every game is important. We’ve got to play hard. We can’t take any team lightly because every team is good, every kid is good.”
Top photo: Inter-Ac League/Independent celebrates its 2-1 victory over Delaware County. (Photo by Anne Neborak – Digital First Media.)