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Pennridge prevails in ‘slugfest’ with Marple Newtown

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Had Marple Newtown and Pennridge called it quits after three innings Friday afternoon, they would’ve left plenty to discuss.

Extrapolating that drama over seven innings left Pennridge pitcher/shortstop Danny Long nearly at a loss for words.

“Talk about a slugfest,” he said.

That’s only one dimension of an undulating, 13-9 win by the No. 17 seed Rams over the No. 9 Tigers in a District One Class AAAA quarterfinal matinee packed with three hours of intrigue.

Here’s the short version: Pennridge takes a 6-0 lead, sees starting pitcher Andrew Mayhew leave with an injury, surrenders seven runs in the third inning for a 7-6 deficit, then uses its incessant offense to pummel Marple pitching for 13 hits and 13 runs.

But the extended cut is even more engrossing. Each team used four pitchers. Long, who got the win, was nearly credited with the save as well when he was swapped back to shortstop for the bottom of the sixth, then rescued errant reliever Austin Rodenberger after just 12 pitches.

Add in a ton of hard-hit balls and two homers, including Scott Hahn’s go-ahead grand slam, and you’ve got an affair that lacked the pitching and defense to qualify as a classic, but provided compelling theater nonetheless.

“It’s got to be up there, in my whole career. It’s got to be one of the best games,” said Long, a senior Monmouth commit. “It’s a fun one.”

The win sends Pennridge (17-6) to states for the first time since 2013. Marple (16-7), the first Delco team to so much as play for a AAAA states berth since Strath Haven in 2013, is consigned to playbacks, where it must win twice to clinch the district’s fifth and final states bid.

Long’s fun was in the eye of the beholder; most of the hurlers pressed into service probably didn’t glean much joy. With both teams in their third game this week, pitching would be at a premium.

Both managers took opposite tacks, and neither really worked. Marple Newtown’s Steve Smith delved into the rotation for third starter Vince Greco, who posted a 5-0 record. The lefty only recorded two outs, allowing two runs and leaving a bases-loaded jam that Ricky Collings escaped in the first.

The fault wasn’t Smith’s, since none of the Marple arms consistently retired Pennridge hitters. Collings, who was brilliant in Monday’s opening-round 2-1 win over defending state champ North Penn, surrendered a two-run homer to Riley Hager and walked five, including four straight in the third inning before extinguishing another bases-loaded fire.

All those pitching stumbles staked Pennridge to a 6-0 lead after 2.5 innings, which had them sitting pretty, right?

“We’re sitting there up 6-0, feeling good about ourselves, and they didn’t die,” Long said. “They put up a seven spot the next inning. And it showed what we’re made of that we can compete with anybody.”

The bottom of the third inning proved the undoing of the best laid plans of coach Tom Nuneviller. The skipper started Mayhew, who muzzled Garnet Valley for five innings Monday, on three days’ rest. The junior righty enjoyed two succinct innings, but the wheels fell off in the third thanks to three hits from the bottom of the order, including nine-man Corey Woodcock’s two-run single, and a calf cramp that ended Mayhew’s day.

In came Nate Coyle, the proverbial oily rag to the fire. He walked two, among 16 free passes issues by both staffs, then saw a 3-2 delivery to Hahn powdered into the trees beyond the left-field fence.

“We thought, we’ve got this game,” Hahn said. “It gave me chills honestly.”

The Tigers and Hahn, who spelled Collings on the mound, didn’t have it. The game was tied within three batters when Luke Nuneviller singled home a run. Andrew Fantaskey provided a two-run single, then Hahn walked Kyle Yoder with the bases loaded to end his day after two outs.

“It was just tough for all of us,” Hahn said. “We couldn’t start off with a strike. We were always starting off with balls. It just wasn’t our day on the mound.”

The third and fourth were particularly disastrous for Marple. Pennridge sent 19 batters to the plate, scoring eight times, only four of the runs earned. Yet it could’ve been worse: Pennridge stranded 12 runners, leaving the bases loaded twice, and the seventh was the only inning the Rams failed to score.

“It was never giving up on the game,” said five-hitter Andrew Horne, who doubled twice and drove in two. “We knew we were hitting. We scored six runs through three innings. We knew we could keep scoring.”

Things eventually calmed down, relatively speaking. Steven Morrison scattered four hits over the final 3.1 innings for Marple, surrendering a fifth-inning double to Horne that became a run on a fielders’ choice and an RBI two-bagger to Horne in the sixth.

Long, meanwhile, stepped into the wreckage of the third with seven runs in, and promptly plucked outs form the next three batters. An error allowed Woodcock to score in the fourth, and Collings doubled and scored a consolation tally on Cameron Mathes’ single in the seventh. All told, Long worked 4.2 innings, allowing just three hits and two runs in providing some rare stability.

The win wraps up a Delco-demolishing week for Pennridge, which upset No. 17 Garnet Valley, top-seeded Interboro and Marple in succession.

It’s enough to make a ride down the Blue Route palatable.

“We feel the playoff energy, third game in the playoffs,” Horne said. “And we had it today. … (The bus ride) is kind of relaxing, but the bus rides back are way better.”

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