Delco Christian can’t solve Dock’s pitching puzzle

WORCESTER TWP. — It was hard to find fault in Delaware County Christian School’s strategy Wednesday.

Both prior and after a 90-minute rain delay, the Knights displayed a sound approach at the plate against Christopher Dock, the No. 1 seed in the District One Class A baseball tournament. It was as clear as the ominous skies above Methacton High School were dark that the Knights wanted to be patient and make Dock’s cavalcade of hard-tossing hurlers pitch strikes.

The Knights forced Dock starter Daniel Sabath to throw 29 pitches in two of his three innings of work. They scored the game’s first run on an RBI single by catcher Dylan Campbell in the bottom of the second. The early lead gave the Knights hope that they could defeat a heavily favorite Dock team for the District One Class A championship.

But moments before thunder and lightning halted action, the Pioneers plated three runs against sophomore right-hander Danny Browne and tacked on two more when play resumed en route to a 5-2 victory.

Christopher Dock, which has captured three PIAA Class A titles in the last decade, but none since 2010, is heading back to the state tournament. The third-seeded Knights ended their season with a 9-7 record.

“We knew it was going to be a rough game, we knew we were the underdogs and we knew this was going to be a tough team to beat,’ said Browne, who allowed five hits and four runs in six solid frames. “We kept fighting and we knew we could keep it a close game. We just couldn’t get that (big hit).’

It was a solid showing by coach Jeff Wisnewski’s bunch. Despite their keen eye at the dish, however, the Knights were hitless against relief pitchers Evan Trauger and Andrew Walters following the rain delay. Trauger and Walters totaled five walks in four innings, but the Knights couldn’t get their bats going.

“I’m proud of the guys,’ Wisnewski said. “Hey, it’s baseball. They’re the better team today, they beat us fair and square, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort or confidence on our part.’

The Knights didn’t overlook the velocity with which Dock’s pitchers threw. In practice, they had the pitching machines set to 80-85 mph, the highest it could possibly go, proving the Knights were making a big deal out of velo. The Knights struck out eight times against Dock pitching.

“We had the machines cranked up,’ Wisnewski said. “We’ve played them before, we know how good they are, we knew we had to prepare for their guys. I was up close throwing (batting practice). We prepared the best we can…

“Listen, they’re a legit state title contender because they pitch, play defense and hit.’

Once the inclement weather subsided, Dock coach Ed Melendez chose wisely not to bring back Sabath, who hurled a shutout of No. 5 Faith Christian last Thursday. He leaned on his bullpen, but it was far from smooth sailing.

Browne ran into trouble in the third inning when the Pioneers plated three runs on three singles. Isaac Brunk and Jack Glancey led off with back-to-back hits. With one out, speedy shortstop Jimmy Kustra ripped a line drive to the outfield to tie the score. Browne walked Tim DiLoreto to knock in the go-ahead run and plunked the next batter he faced, Andrew Walters, to put Dock ahead, 3-1.

“I was trying to hit my spots, trying to jam their hitters,’ Browne said. “They were crowding the plate, so I guess I got a little off track. You can’t always get the pitch exactly where you want it.’

The Knights rallied in the sixth inning off Trauger, but squeaked out only one run. Cody Moorhatch, Campbell and Kyle Winters coaxed walks to load the bases with one out. Jack Grim hit a chopper in the hole to the shortstop Kustra, who backhanded the ball, set his feet and fired a strike to first base for the second out. Browne bounced out to first to end the threat, and Walters closed the door on Dock’s district championship win by retiring the side in order in the seventh.

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