SPRINGFIELD >> For Springfield, there’s no sugarcoating what happened Wednesday.
The Cougars were shut out by Harriton and missed a golden opportunity to clinch their first Central League championship in more than a decade. Behind the outstanding pitching of Jonah Frankel, Harriton handed Springfield an ugly, 8-0 defeat.
That’s the bad news if you’re Springfield (14-4). The good news? There’s always next Monday. With one game to go on the league schedule, the Cougars can win the title outright, but they have to beat Marple Newtown (which, by the way, lost to Strath Haven to fall out of title contention) at the start of next week. Meanwhile, to earn a share of the crown, Harriton must win out and hope for a Springfield loss.
In other words, despite what transpired Wednesday, the Cougars control their destiny.
But how does the county’s No. 2 team come out so flat? It didn’t help that it took all of three pitches for Springfield to commit the first of five errors. And it didn’t help that the guys in the other dugout were hyped to the nines and out for revenge after Springfield blanked them at their place earlier in the season
The first five batters reached base against ace Jared Morris, who struggled with command of his good fastball and breaking pitches. Before Morris got an out, the Rams were in front, 3-0, thanks to RBI singles by Lorenzo Solon, John Lautenbach and Eddie May.
“They had a little bit of vengeance coming into this game. They took advantage, hit the ball where it was pitched and we just couldn’t execute today,” Springfield catcher Andrew Todaro said. “We’ll be alright, though. We’ll come back on Monday and be stronger than ever.”
The real story wasn’t Sprigfield’s inability to clinch at home, it was Frankel. The junior righthander needed only 97 pitches to go all seven innings in a masterful shutout performance.
“We can only do what we can. We have Lower Merion (Friday) and we got to win that game, and then we got to win Monday against Penncrest. We’ll see what happens,” Frankel said. “Today was a great game. It’s always nice going out there with a nice little lead behind your back. We were awesome with the bats today. We’ve done a really nice job the last few games of putting the ball in play, especially on the ground, and putting up some runs.”
Frankel baffled Springfield hitters by pitching backward. He often got ahead with a slider or change, then overpowered the Cougars with his heater. Frankel allowed five hits while striking out eight and walking only one. To dig deeper, Frankel was economical with his pitches (13.8 per inning) and coaxed nine groundball outs. He threw a ton of first-pitch strikes and got into only four three-ball counts.
“Primarily, I’m not the type of pitcher that’s going to overpower you. I’ll mostly go at you by trying to get ahead with the fastball and then I’ll come right back at you with a changeup, trying to get you to roll over on one,” he said. “I want to keep the batters off-balance. I’ll also throw a slider as an 0-0 pitch to get strike one. Today was definitely the first time I could throw it 0-0 for strike one consistently. It was definitely a key for me.”
Morris lasted five innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Harriton added two insurance runs in the seventh off reliever Dave Strawley.
“Our strength as a team is hard groundballs and line drives,” said the shortstop Solon, who went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. “We don’t overpower a lot, hit home runs or a lot of doubles in the gap. That happens as time goes on. Earlier in the year we had a game where we hit 17 fly balls and lost the game. Now we’ve adopted the (strategy) of hitting the ball on the ground and making the fielders work.”
Springfield’s only true threat came in the fifth inning when they had two runners on and one out. Dave Bingaman singled to left, but Brandon DiChiacchio was thrown out at home plate while attempting to score from second. Mike Smith then grounded out to end the threat.
Springfield is hoping for a good performance Monday so it can celebrate the Central League championship without having to share it with anyone else … including Harriton.
“It definitely can be an elephant in the room and it’s easy to put pressure on yourself,” said Todaro, who nabbed two runners attempting to steal bases. “It would be the first (title for Springfield) in 13 years, so it would be really special. I think maybe that got to us today and we just weren’t as focused, but we’re definitely going to come back strong.”
In other Central League action:
Strath Haven 10, Marple Newtown 5 >> The first six batters in the order produced in a big way for the Panthers. Luke Mutz (double, three RBIs), Evan Atsaves (two runs, RBI), Anthony Viggiano (two runs, RBI), Bryan Riccardi (two RBIs) and Andrew Robinson (two RBIs) all had two base knocks.
Luke Cantwell went yard and finished a perfect 4 for 4 with two RBIs for the Tigers. Scott Hahn added three hits.
Garnet Valley 8, Lower Merion 0 >> Matt Lupoli (eight Ks) and Mason Miller combined to pitch the shutout for GV. Miller was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and Liam Bendo finished 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
In the Catholic League:
Bonner & Prendergast 5, Roman Catholic 1 >> Joe Nestel went the distance for the Friars (7-11, 4-8), allowing four hits while striking out nine. Tim Dougherty swung the bat well all game, finishing with a double and two RBIs. Dom Dellabarba and Pat Lord each chipped in with two hits.
In nonleague play:
Malvern Prep 3, Archbishop Carroll 2 >> Despite the loss, freshman Kamal Gray was impressive for Carroll. Gray struck out five and scattered five hits over five innings of work. Ultimately, though, three errors proved costly for the Patriots (11-6).