UPPER PROVIDENCE >> The Phoenixville Phantoms benefited from timely hitting and a solid pitching performance from Quinn Danna to beat Pope John Paul II by a score of 7-3 on Thursday afternoon.
Danna labored through four innings, but allowed just one earned run and struck out nine Panthers before giving way to Colin Bowdish, who allowed just one hit in the final three innings en route to a save.
“The more pitching you have, the better,” Phoenixville manager Neil Herman said. “We have so much depth this year with Quinn doing a great job and Bowdish, who was a starter in the past, but we’ve utilized him in the bullpen. And then we have a number of guys who haven’t seen a lot of innings, but I have trust in them moving forward.”
The Phantoms manufactured runs early and often, scoring one run on a groundout in the first inning. Kevin Cushing then led off the top of the second with a double and advanced to third on an infield hit by Brandon Fink. One batter later, Cushing scored on a fielder’s choice to push the Phantoms’ lead to 2-0.
The Panthers responded in the home half of the third, loading the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. Danna managed to strike out the next two batters, but he then hit Ryan Schwab with a pitch to force across Pope John Paul’s first run of the game.
But as they did all afternoon, errors plagued the Panthers as a dropped infield popup in the fourth inning led to two more runs scoring on a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly by Nick Opalkowski.
“Our defense put a lot of stress on our pitching because of a few plays,” Panthers head coach Josh Hartline explained. “We had dropped popups, bad throws and mental mistakes that won’t show up in the box score. That puts a lot of stress on a pitcher because our guys are then trying to strike everyone out.”
AJ Stento led off the bottom of the fourth by reaching on an error. Brett Leighton came in to pinch-run for the designated hitter and scored on a passed ball later in the inning to cut the deficit to just two. The Panthers employed a very patient approach at the plate and got Danna’s pitch count all the way up to 90 in just four innings.
“That has been our approach all year,” Hartline explained. “We worked counts and made their guys pitch to us, but we couldn’t come up with that big hit to break an inning open.”
The Phantoms extended their lead in the sixth by loading up the bases and scoring a pair of runs on a walk and a hit batter. Phoenixville scored their final run in the seventh on another sac fly by Opalkowski.
Phoenixville managed to get their leadoff hitter on base in five of their seven at bats and scored a run in four of those innings.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the other team when you can get your leadoff hitter on,” Herman said. There are so many things you can do — steal, bunt, hit and run. Because of our success, we were able to score in almost every inning.”
Logan Mabry was the starter for Pope John Paul and went 5-1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs, only three of which were earned. Stento went the final 1-2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out three. Stento, Josh Undercuffler and CJ McCafferty notched the only three hits for the Panthers.
The Phantoms’ offense was led by the trio of Cushing, Devon Goryl and Colton Brown, who went a combined 5-for-12, scoring four of the Phantoms seven runs. Opalkowski finished the day with three RBIs.
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