STATE COLLEGE >> Sean Standen’s biggest fan, his dad, was not in attendance last Thursday to watch his son throw 4⅓ innings of shutout baseball in the PIAA Class 5A championship game.
Mike Standen is battling cancer and couldn’t make the trip to Penn State.
For Sean, every time he took the mound during Marple Newtown’s magical 2018 season, he thought about the one person who has always believed in him.
He wanted to share the news with his dad that he had just helped the Tigers win a state title.
“My dad loves it,” Standen said after the Tigers’ 2-1 walk-off victory in 10 innings. “He’s sleeping right now, but I recorded the game for him. He’ll watch it all tomorrow. He’ll probably watch it 50 times. When I’m out on that mound, I do it all for him.”
Standen was looking forward to getting back home and reliving the experience with the one person he wishes could have been there to see it all live.
Standen relieved Luke Zimmerman with two outs in the sixth inning, then pitched the rest of the way. He allowed only three hits and three walks while striking out five. All in all, Standen was excellent.
While waiting to be called upon out of the bullpen, Standen kept reminding himself of what his dad said to him prior to leaving home for State College. Mr. Standen had a simple few words of advice, something he often repeats to his son.
“Just throw strikes,” he said. “That’s all he says, and to have fun.”
Standen was in line to pitch at some point Thursday. In all likelihood, Zimmerman would reach his pitch count limit against a stubborn Lower
Dauphin lineup that fouled off a lot of balls and worked deep counts. Standen was preparing for the unexpected, and to go out and do what his father said.
Just throw strikes.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “The defense helped me out a lot, like they’ve done all season. Zim battled hard tonight. I know he didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled hard and got us into the sixth inning. I just closed it out, I guess. I didn’t think I would be out there as long as I was but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
When Zimmerman handed the ball to coach Mark Jordan with two outs in the top of the sixth, the senior lefthander knew the rest of the game would rest on Standen’s broad shoulders. That is, of course, before Zimmerman’s walk-off with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th inning.
There was a common belief among the Tigers that Standen would get the job done.
“I had 100 percent confidence in Standen. I knew he was coming in and he was going to finish it,” Zimmerman said. “He was excited for that big spot and he made the most it.”
Standen isn’t an overpowering pitcher. He’s an imposing figure on the mound, but he won’t blow fastballs by you. Nevertheless, as he’s shown all season, he has a great idea of how to pitch and do it well.
“I just know I’ve got to mix it up,” he said. “I’m not going to throw 95.”
Standen came a long way, from mainly a JV player the last two years to a varsity asset in his senior campaign. If anything, the Tigers had a lot of unproven candidates to slide into a rotation that featured senior veterans Zimmerman and Steve Morrison. Junior Alden Mathes’ workload increased once the postseason rolled around, and sophomore Andrew Cantwell received steady work throughout the year.
Standen emerged as a rock in the rotation, finishing with a 2.24 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 32⅔ innings. Because Mathes had pitched a gem in the state semifinal round, Standen was tabbed to get the first shot out of the bullpen when or if Zimmerman needed relief.
“I was ready,” he said.
Jordan had two opportunities to pinch-hit for Standen in crucial spots in the seventh and ninth innings, but didn’t play that hand. He trusted that Standen would give the team length out of the bullpen, and trusted that he would keep the Tigers in the game.
Standen found a way to work out of trouble, and fielded a hot-shot back to the mound. Lower Dauphin made some loud contact, sending three deep fly balls to the outfield, tracked down nicely by Rob Weimer in right and Mathes in center. Tyler Bogan, the third baseman, made a diving catch in foul territory to end an inning.
Senior catcher Luke Cantwell made sure that Standen stayed on track.
“All of last year he was between JV and varsity. This year he came back and got seven wins (7-0 pitching record),” Cantwell said. “His excitement is just incredible. He’s a guy who just wants to be out there playing baseball. The coaches really gave him the opportunity. He can battle, he can hit his spots and put the curveball where you can’t hit it. I can’t say enough about him.”
As Standen said, it was all so hard to believe. After junior year he never thought he’d become a critical part of Marple Newtown’s run to a state championship.
What’s better is that Mr. Standen eventually watched his son produce a memorable outing on the biggest stage.
“It’s great,” Standen said. “You can’t beat this feeling. State champs.”
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