FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> Even four-year varsity starters get butterflies sometimes. Especially when it’s the first time in a while they’ve taken the mound for a big game.
Methacton head coach Paul Spiewak said he has two No. 1 pitchers in Ben Christian and Zack Griffin, but Christian was ‘passed over’ several times late in the season, including the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals, as Griffin got the nod and continued to deliver quality starts.
Ben Christian on his outing and the Warriors’ district win over Boyertown. pic.twitter.com/vi0M8SIsiB
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) May 22, 2019
A patient Christian got his opportunity Wednesday against Boyertown in the second round of the District 1-6A playoffs. After a nervous start, the senior Lehigh commit settled in and gave the Warriors six strong innings as they defeated the Bears, 8-2, for the third time this season and advanced to the district quarterfinals, where No. 4 seed Methacton will host No. 5 seed Downingtown East on Friday.
“This was my first major start in a couple weeks, so I was pretty excited to get the ball,” Christian said.
“A little district jitters, but after I worked through the first inning, I felt fine,” he added.
Christian allowed a run in the first inning after Boyertown shortstop Chris Davis led off the inning with a single and scored on a wild pitch. He found himself in several jams after that but did not concede another run until the fifth inning when Davis scored on a two-out single by Billy Coleman to tie the game, 2-2.
Methacton’s right-hander stranded runners on second and third in the second with a strikeout and left another runner on third in the next frame. Christian finished his day with two runs allowed and eight strikeouts in six innings.
“There were a lot of innings when he was in trouble,” Spiewak said. “Instead of being nervous Ben turned it up a notch today. You could tell by his body language. You could tell by his mannerisms.
“He’s been passed over a few times late in this season, and it had nothing to do with him not being great … I was extremely confident and happy to hand him the ball in a huge game, but there would have been a lot of people who maybe would have questioned that [because of Griffin’s success].”
Methacton took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after Conor Smith singled in Trevor Rambo and Smith later scored on a high bouncing ball up the middle by Mike Daddazio that hopped over Davis’ head.
Boyertown starter Trey Yesavage, who struck out nine batters and allowed just five hits, didn’t get into any other trouble until the bottom of the fifth inning. A leadoff double by Smith, an error and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Boyertown coach Todd Moyer replaced Yesavage, who was six pitches away from the limit with left-hander Jared Waldman.
Christian, who had struck out in two previous at-bats against Yesavage, poked a fastball down the right field line for a two-run double. Kevin Trafford singled up the middle to score another, and Nolan McCloskey loaded the bases for leadoff man Perry Corda.
Perry Corda busts this game open with a double to clear the bases. 8-3 Methacton pic.twitter.com/qyYSWXVtz0
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) May 22, 2019
Spiewak calls Corda the heart and soul of the Warriors. The senior third baseman struck out in his three previous at-bats, twice with runners in scoring position. He delivered this time, clearing the bases with a double to the left center gap and capping a six-run bottom of the fifth.
The Warriors carried an 8-2 lead into the sixth inning. Christian worked the sixth and Rob Maloney closed out Methacton’s win.
“(Spiewak) was pretty much just like, ‘Relax, I know you’re 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, but I believe in you right now and you’re the right person for the job,” Corda said of his coach’s advice before he got to the plate.
“It wasn’t just three strikeouts,” Spiewak added. “It was two strikeouts with what felt like the game was on the line, huge situations. We had a couple conversations about it during the game, and he just kept his head up and came up with the biggest hit of the game.”
The two Pioneer Athletic Conference foes met up last year in the same round of the district tournament with Boyertown edging the Warriors. This was Methacton’s third win against the Bears this season.
Boyertown had to replace 13 players from last year’s team. After starting the season 1-2 in the Liberty division, the Bears just missed the PAC playoffs and won a district playoff game for the second year in a row. Boyertown had won six straight games heading into Wednesday.
“We had a little bit of a slow start because we were getting used to varsity action,” Moyer said. “The guys came around real nice, and they were playing as well as anybody at the end of the season. It was just that we had one bad inning right there, and it’s a shame.”
Davis, Coleman, third baseman Shayn Horrocks, left fielder Sean Sutterby and pitcher Nolan Kline, who pitched in the Bears’ opening round win on Monday, lead another large group of seniors who will depart after this season.
Yesavage, first baseman Cole Hertzler and center fielder Derick Basile, who had two hits Wednesday, give Boyertown a strong core to build on next year as they try to reload once again.
“They came together really well as a group,” Moyer said. “We had a really good senior group with Billy, our catcher, who settled things down. Chris and Shayn did a good job, and Nolan threw a great game the other day … We’ll see. It’s the same thing. We’ve got about six senior starters leaving, so we’ll have to get better.”
Methacton had a disappointing showing in the PAC Semifinals, falling to Spring-Ford, 9-2. The Warriors have that defeat behind them and are now focused on winning the school’s first district title since 2014, which was also the last time they defeated Boyertown three times in a season.
They’ll have their other No. 1 Griffin ready to go.
“We accepted the loss, we ate it, we regained focus,” Smith said. “We saw what we had on the table, and that was districts. Now we gotta take it.”