RIDLEY TWP. >> Strath Haven’s Evan Atsaves unleashed a breaking pitch in the first inning Monday that had some nasty spin to it. It then fell off the plate and the batter flailed away for strike three.
It was an unhittable pitch.
What was it, exactly?
“That’s the slider — well, more like a slurve,” the junior righty said. “It comes out a little faster.”
With a steady diet of fastball, circle change, curveball and, yes, a filthy slider, Atsaves had Ridley guessing at the plate. He chucked four strong innings with seven strikeouts as Strath Haven rolled to a 14-1 Central League win.
With a deliberate, albeit smooth delivery, Atsaves once again gave the Panthers another strong start. That’s pretty much been the story of the season for Strath Haven baseball. They’re going to be in a lot of games because the starting pitching — led by Atsaves, Henry Dawes, Anthony Viggiano — has been sensational. Atsaves, with an ERA close to 1.30, carries himself with a cool confidence when he’s dealing, which was the case Monday. He has a lot of trust in his stuff.
“We’re working with four pitches and I feel I can use any one of them at any time,” Atsaves said. “It’s hard to guess what’s coming. Throwing a slider and a traditional 12-to-6 curveball, if you don’t see it coming right out of the hand, then you’re left guessing.”
Atsaves was the beneficiary of plenty of run support. In a 20-minute top of the first inning, the Panthers struck for eight runs on five hits. Brady
Multz and Chase Davis drove in a combined three runs with back-to-back doubles, while Justin Malley hammered a three-run triple down the left-field line.
With their lineup cooking, the Panthers (9-2, 7-2 Central League) have pieced together an impressive six-game winning streak. After getting shut out at home to first-place Marple Newtown, the Panthers have been unbeatable.
“Since then, we’ve been rolling,” Atsaves said. “We’ve 10-runned three or four teams and our batting average has skyrocketed. We have been hitting very well, and that’s the key to our success.”
Atsaves didn’t have to worry about grinding out every pitch. He was up 8-0 before he stepped foot on the mound and was able to relax all
afternoon. With the game-time temperature at 70 degrees and sunny, Atsaves couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable outing.
“That kind of big lead makes it so much easier for a pitcher,” Atsaves said. “You just go out there and have fun.”
The Panthers had a lot of fun cheering for their long-time team manager, Jack Kedson, who received the game ball. Kedson has an interesting story.
Strath Haven coach Brian Fili said he had to cut Kedson after tryouts his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Kedson, though, always served as the team tech whiz every season. That is still the case in 2018, but this year, he’s been a Strath Haven baseball player for the first time.
Kedson got his first career hit in the top of the fifth, a line drive single to the outfield. His teammates erupted on the bench.
“It was his second at-bat ever,” Atsaves said. “Now he’s batting .500, which is the best average on the team. It’s awesome and it’s something you want to see.”
Kedson will take his talents to Dickinson in the fall where he hopes to serve as a student assistant with the ballclub.
“He’s a really smart kid and is really good with technology,” Fili said. “I told him after last year’s banquet, I’m giving you a uniform next year. The fact that he’s shown persistence and was able to get a pitch today and hit a line drive, that was great and the entire team is really happy for him.”
After the Panthers sent 13 hitters to the plate in the first inning, they tacked on two runs in each of the next three frames. Ridley was forced to use four pitchers on the afternoon. Malley’s three-run triple in the first inning to put Haven ahead 8-0 was the best offensive highlight among many.
“He came at me with a curveball,” said Malley, who pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning to seal the win for the Panthers. “He kind of hanged it and I was able to tear it through the zone and it went pretty far.”
As for Malley’s pitching prowess … well, he would admit he doesn’t have much history throwing against live competition.
“It’s literally the second inning I’ve thrown in my high school career,” the senior said. “Save an arm here or there, put me out there.”
Mutz, the Panthers’ catcher, went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs. Davis was 2-for-3 with two ribbies and three runs scored, while slick-fielding third baseman Koll Peichel chipped in with two RBI singles. All nine starters for Strath Haven picked up at least one knock, including Luke Mutz, Andrew Yates, Jake Fisher and John Francis.
John Lockhart collected an RBI single for Ridley (5-5, 4-5). Despite the loss, the Green Raiders have played well this season, and have already matched last year’s win output.
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