SPRINGFIELD >> As Ricky Collings strode off the mound after the first inning Monday, the Marple Newtown righty pounded his glove with his fist.
With that small gesture, the gaffe that gifted Springfield’s first run was in the past. Six innings later, it seemed like a distant footnote.
Collings assembled seven dominant frames, needing just 72 pitches to mow down Springfield in a 3-2 Central League victory.
Collings struck out seven and walked just one, scattering five hits. One of the runs was earned, though the fault for the other fell squarely at the senior’s feet.
With two on and two out in the first inning and the Tigers (10-5, 9-3) having drawn first blood in the top half, Collings forced Springfield five-hitter Jared Morris to pop a pitch straight up in front of the mound. Collings appeared to settle under it, but then backpedaled two steps when one would’ve been enough, the ball glancing off his glove and falling to the turf.
Mike Smith alertly jetted around from second base to score. But one pitch later, when Collings induced an Andrew Todaro fly ball center ending the threat, the pitcher had taken the first step toward putting the error out of his mind.
“I’ve just got to put it behind me and try to hit the ball and let our players do what they do,” Collings said. “I just tried to keep battling.”
Collings kept plugging away, but he didn’t face much resistance from the resurgent Cougars’ offense. Collings needed just 73 pitches to polish off Springfield (9-4, 7-4), never requiring more than 14 pitches in an inning. He breezed through the top of the order in third with just six pitches, then needed eight to escape the fifth despite surrendering a run.
Part of his speediness owed to his penchant for peppering the strike zone with his fastball, then sprinkling in his hard-breaking slider late to induce swings-and-misses. But Springfield’s lineup was jumpier than usual, trending away from aggressive and toward impatient.
Corey Woodcock knocks in a run with a safety squeeze fielder’s choice. 2-1 Marple. Bases loaded still pic.twitter.com/NXtmfZ4zpf
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 2, 2016
“We looked to be aggressive, but we also looked to make him work,” said Springfield leadoff man Mike Smith. “It’s tough when he’s going out there pumping strikes. You can’t watch too many go by, but at the same time, you’ve got to be ready to hit. It’s hard to find the medium between them.”
Smith was one of the few who got to Collings, singling to lead off the game before scoring, then knocking home Brett Sheeran in the fifth.
Smith was forced to do more battling than his opposite number. The lefty exited after 5 1/3 innings and 98 pitches, striking out eight, walking three and allowing six hits.
He watched from the dugout as his baserunner — Cameron Mathes, who led off the sixth with a grounder that third baseman Nick Gorman fired across the diamond on a short hop that Andrew Paulus couldn’t dig out — scored on Nick Molinaro’s single off reliever Dave Strawley. Smith got a glove on the ball in left, but it squirted out of his glove as he dove headlong toward the infield.
Molinaro, who started the game on the bench, entered in the fifth inning in the nine-hole. The outfielder adjusted quickly to Strawley, serving up the game winner.
“I’ve started almost every game, so coming in, it’s new but you kind of have to get used to it,” Molinaro said. “Smitty (Coach Steve Smith) told me before the game that I’ve got to stay loose and ready. When I got in, I was ready and prepared to hit. I guess with the new pitcher, too, that was kind of different because I was watching the same guy for five innings. I guess I just got a good hit on the ball.”
Cameron Mathes cuts down Nick Gorman at the plate. Nice tag by Brian Reynolds. Still 2-1 Marple after 4. pic.twitter.com/ZhRnyC8nJR
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 2, 2016
Collings was staked to an early lead. Bobby Steven singled in the first and scored on a hit-and-run when Scott Hahn clubbed a double in the left-center gap. The Tigers scraped across a run in the fourth on a Corey Woodcock fielders’ choice where Smith couldn’t underhand the ball to the plate in time with the bases loaded. Smith limited the damage, though, with Gorman forcing out a Tiger at the plate and a pair of Ks to close out the inning.
Collings’ glove may have let him down in the first inning, but the mitts behind him didn’t. With Gorman on third after a double and a balk in the fourth, Todaro bounced a two-hopper to short that Mathes bobbled. When Gorman broke for home, Mathes fired, and Brian Reynolds corralled the high throw to apply the tag.
The seventh inning started with Woodcock diving to his left to smother a Sheeran hot shot headed down the right-field line for extra bases, then scampering to the base for the out.
“Defense is everything in every game,” Collings said. “As long as you make your plays, you’re going to win the game. The team with the least amount of errors usually wins, and our team does a good job with that.”
Even if Collings didn’t always deliver on the defensive front, his teammates did.
Also in the Central League:
Garnet Valley 3, Haverford 2 >> Matt Lupoli scattered six hits over six innings, allowing two unearned runs, and Will Wesolowski cleaned up the seventh for the save for the Jaguars.
Dom Bertone tripled among his two hits and drove in two runs, while Liam Bendo added two hits and a run for Garnet Valley (9-4, 8-4).
Dylan Resnick and Ethan Samel drove in runs for Haverford (8-6, 6-6), which got 5.1 solid innings from Cole Humes.
Harriton 7, Penncrest 4 >> Sam Freedman drove in two runs, and Colin Birzes collected two hits, but the Lions couldn’t overcome a four-run third inning by the Rams.
In the Ches-Mont League:
Octorara 6, Sun Valley 1 >> Christian Bateman scored, and Sean Steppke went 1-for-2, but the Vanguards were stymied by Octorara starter Alex Rogers.