Strath Haven goes on offense to back Eiel

NETHER PROVIDENCE — It was evident early Thursday afternoon that Strath Haven pitcher Matt Eiel had brought his best stuff to battle against Ridley. Then again, for a Panthers team that has kept opponents to three runs or less in each of its previous six games, mound excellence wasn’t much in question.

The mystery for Haven, Thursday and through most of the season, has been whether the bats would show up. Against Ridley they did, early and often.

The Haven offense assembled one of its most consistent performances, stringing together 12 hits and four scoring innings in a 7-0 Central League win.

Strath Haven (6-5, 6-4) was fresh off a 1-0 loss to Haverford Tuesday, the fifth time this season it had been held to one run or fewer. The Panthers have had offensive outbursts — 13 runs against Lower Merion, an 11-run seventh inning against Radnor — but the question still lingers.

Fears of the bats staying quiet were allayed early Thursday, starting with a ringing double by James Kantner in the second at-bat of the first inning. He’d score on David Moore’s sac fly, and when Evan Atsaves followed with an RBI single to chase home Ashton Raines, Eiel already had all the run support he’d need.

Haven’s offense flourished despite two regulars — outfielder Corey Ziring and first baseman Tyler Lashley — out with injuries. Those absences bred opportunities for others to build confidence at the dish.

“It’s definitely just with more kids getting at-bats, putting the bat on the ball and making solid contact,’ Kantner said. “It’s building confidence. And confidence is what you need up at the plate to be able to go up there with the mindset that I can hit the ball, I can do a job for my team.’

Kantner did those jobs Thursday with three hits and two runs scored. Atsaves reached base four times and drove in two runs with his three singles, while No. 9 hitter David Shore also scored twice.

What impressed coach Brian Fili most wasn’t just the numbers of hits and runs, but the approach at the plate. Strath Haven drove the pitch count of Ridley starter Ryan Downs to 50 after two innings and 77 through four, working counts and adeptly using the opposite field.

The more impressive streak for Haven, though, has been authored by the pitching staff, even if it hasn’t been commensurately rewarded with wins. For a seventh straight game, Haven kept an opponent to three or fewer runs, and Eiel made it look easy. He needed just 70 pitches to mow down the Ridley bats, relenting just two hits and striking out six while not walking a batter.

“Coach preaches to work fast and keep the pace up,’ Eiel said. “That’s what I try to do. I try to attack every hitter, throw as many strikes as possible and get the job done.’

He got plenty of help from his defense. Kantner made a sliding catch in right field in the second inning, while a phenomenal snare of a hotshot by Atsaves at second base started an inning-ending double play in the fourth, punctuated by a scoop out of the dirt by one of the newer faces, Will Carey at first.

“I feel like that’s been happening to us all year, hitting balls hard right at people,’ Ridley shortstop Jake Hoffman said. “Hopefully they’ll find the holes soon.’

Ridley, meanwhile, got precious little going. Even after two solid innings from reliever Brian Shaffer steadied the deficit, they couldn’t get to Eiel, the last 10 Green Raiders meekly set down in order.

That allowed the Haven offense to provide a reassuring victory.

“It’s obviously tough because we know we’re as good as anybody in this league and we’re losing by one or two runs,’ Atsaves said. “We know we can definitely get in there and wins those games. All we have to do is play good ‘˜D,’ string some timely hitting together and it’ll work out.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply