All of his effort was worthwhile.
After he’d spent the morning and into the early afternoon doing maintenance on their rain-soaked home field, Pope John Paul II head coach Josh Hartline stood in the dugout and let out a sigh of relief.
“I did about as much as I could for about four hours,” he said with a laugh. “I told them before the game, ‘Guys, all the time I spent out on this field today, you better come out and play.’”
The Golden Panthers got the message.
Pope John Paul II beat Pottstown 3-1 on Wednesday afternoon behind Matt Grimm’s solid six-inning effort on the mound to put an end to his team’s two-game losing skid.
Pope John Paul II's Christian Wagner is congratulated by Mike Kelly (14) after scoring the go-ahead run against Pottstown Wednesday. (Austin Hertzog - Digital First Media)
The win improves PJP to 10-2 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference (11-2 overall) right on the heels of consecutive losses against Boyertown and Perkiomen Valley after an eye-opening 11-0 start. Pottstown, having now lost eight straight, drops to 1-10 PAC and 2-12 overall.
Much like his coach, Grimm had the Golden Panthers on solid ground from the get-go. The senior right-hander allowed just four hits across six innings and didn’t walk a single batter. He also finished with three strikeouts and stranded a runner at third base twice.
“I was relying on my curve ball,” said Grimm, making just his second start of the season. “So far this year, I haven’t been all that efficient throwing strikes, but today I made some adjustments on the mound – hitting my spots, taking a little bit off (my pitches), and things were working.”
Pope John Paul II pitcher Matt Grimm delivers to the plate against Pottstown Wednesday. Grimm got the win in the Golden Panthers' 3-1 victory. (Austin Hertzog - Digital First Media)
The Golden Panthers came through with timely hitting, which they had fallen victim to during Wednesday’s 2-0 loss against Perk Valley.
PJP picked up its opening run in the bottom of the first inning when catcher Ryan Harvey doubled home leadoff man Dan Cirino. The Golden Panthers racked up seven hits in the win, with center fielder Christian Wagner coming around to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fourth inning when a grounder by Matt Ahmad was misplayed by the Pottstown first baseman.
“We had some things we were able to work on (in the base paths),” said Hartline. “That was good to see — these guys getting on and producing runs.”
Pottstown's Dalton Mullen slides safely into second base on a steal as Pope John Paul II second baseman Ryan Lynn can't field the throw cleanly Wednesday. (Austin Hertzog - Digital First Media)
Hardly overpowering but plenty efficient, Pottstown starter Chris Stone was similarly dominant to his counterpart. The right-hander pitched all six innings scattering seven hits and three runs (one earned) with only one walk.
“Chris deserved a better fate,” said Pottstown manager Jeff Evans, referencing Pottstown’s three errors. “He did a good job and kept us in it.
“When you’re struggling with scoring runs — which we’ve struggled to do all year — everything is magnified. When you put that much pressure on yourself in a close game, that becomes the difference.”
Speedy leadoff man Josiah Wiggins finished 2-for-3 with an RBI double in the top of the third inning to score Owen Morton. Wiggins was stranded at third with one out in the top of the first inning, which Evans described as a missed opportunity out of the gates.
Pottstown pitcher Josh Gery delivers to the plate against Pope John Paul II Wednesday. (Austin Hertzog - Digital First Media)
“You’ve got to find a way to get him in there — a ground ball to the right side, a ground ball, fly ball or something,” said Evans. “That’s big. Especially in the early stages.”
As Matt Brunetti took his strides out to the mound to close it out in the top of the seventh inning, the sun finally worked its way out from behind the clouds. The moment admittedly brought a smile to Hartline’s face.
“Of course the sun comes out now,” laughed Hartline.
After consecutive losses, Hartline and PJP were happy to be back upon brighter times.