POTTSTOWN >> Winter weather and baseball can create a curious mixture.
The same could be said for Monday’s matchup between geographically-close, but non-traditional foes Pope John Paul II and host Hill School.
Those forces combined managed to create an oddly appropriate result as the Golden Panthers and Blues played to an 8-8 tie during their non-conference matchup in sleet and chilling conditions.
“This whole thing, top to bottom today, was bizarre,” said Hill School head coach Bowen Borgeson with a laugh, noting that he and PJP head coach Josh Hartline had agreed to treat the game as a means to get just about every player in-game reps.
The game featured a combined 10 different pitchers with 28 different hitters stepping into the batter’s box.
Although it proved to be an anticlimactic finish, Hartline believes it will go a long way for his Golden Panthers (1-1 Pioneer Athletic Conference, 1-1-1 overall) considering their inability to get on the practice field this spring due to weather conditions.
“I think he (Borgeson) said he’s had two practices outside all year, I’ve had zero. We’ve been in the gym the entire time,” said Hartline. “This is our third game and we haven’t been outside practicing once.
“That’s why we wanted to get out here — see some live pitchers, get some playing time, some at-bats.”
Last season, Pope John Paul II opened up the season on a 10-game winning streak and eventually went into the postseason as one of the area’s hottest teams. That all came to a screeching finish, though, as the Golden Panthers lost in the opening round of the PAC then District 1-4A playoffs.
Now with an experienced bunch back for their senior seasons, Hartline and the Golden Panthers look poised to make some noise.
“There’s no easy game in our league,” said Hartline. “We don’t have an easy stretch. We started with Phoenixville (9-1 loss April 5) and Upper Merion (9-2 win April 6) and then we’ve got Methacton and Spring-Ford as our first four games to start the year. So we’ve got to hit the ground running early on.”
Senior first baseman Matt Pinone finished 2-for-2 with a triple and a double while center fielder Mike Kelly was 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
The Golden Panthers crossed four runs in the first inning, then added another two in both the third and fifth innings.
Sean Sutterby was solid pitching the final two innings for PJP. He scattered three hits and three walks before letting a run cross in the bottom of the sixth.
Borgeson and the Blues are in a similar situation as the rest of the team’s across the area. With just one game under their belt prior to Monday — a 2-0 Mid-Atlantic Prep League win over Peddie School — the Blues will take any sort of experience they can get at this point.
“We’re feeling good, feeling optimistic about this season,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of arms; not seasoned pitchers but guys who can throw. So in that respect we’re feeling good.
Luke Allain, Michael Eze and Michael Rockovich each looked sharp in an inning of work on the mound.
Senior third baseman Danny Monzo finished 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Batting out of the three-hole, Monzo hit everything hard, including an RBI triple in the gap to left-center in the bottom of the first inning.
“Danny Monzo is swinging the bat well, he’s locked in right now,” said Borgeson. “When he gets hot, he goes on tears frequently. He’s a kid we’re gonna miss at the end of this season.”
Southern Draw >> Oddly enough, Monday night’s draw between PJP and Hill School wasn’t the only tie of the day. Neshaminy and Pennridge played to an 11-11 tie after eight innings in a Suburban One crossover contest.
However, that game counts for district power points and will likely be finished at a time and date later in the season.
Up Next >> Pope John Paul II will return to league play on Wednesday with a game against Methacton in a PAC crossover matchup. The Warriors pulled out a 1-0 11-inning win over Boyertown Monday night.
Hill School will have another non-league matchup Wednesday as they’ll host Westtown at 4:30 p.m.
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