LOWER GWYNEDD >> The second week of the baseball season just came to an end and defending Suburban One League American Conference co-champion Wissahickon has not gotten off to a great start.
The Trojans are 2-3 so far and 2-1 in conference play.
Surprisingly, the offense has been holding Wissahickon back. Despite having arguably two of the best hitters in the league — Virginia-bound Alex Tappen and Lehigh commit Blake Rapoport — the team has only averaged a little more than two runs per game.
The offense has, however, improved over the last two games. After scoring one run in each of the first three contests, the Trojans put up five and three runs in their last two — both wins (5-3 over Springfield-Montco, 3-0 over Upper Moreland).
The turnaround could be credited to assistant coach Ryan O’Day.
“After the first couple games we switched up our approach,” head coach John Bernhardt said. “My assistant, Ryan O’Day, he’s the one who kind of spear-headed the whole thing of getting guys to buy in. ‘Ok we need to start bunting. We need to start moving guys over. We need to start squeezing runs in.’ He played a huge role in that.
“We’re implementing small-ball right now. I keep telling the guys the goal is not to get hits at this point, it’s to get runs. The big magic number is four (runs). I’d say four is going to win us a ballgame.”
Bernhardt sees four as the desirable number because of how well his pitching has been this season. Logan Willans pitched three times already, has an ERA below 1.50 and is 1-2.
“He’s such a good sport,” Bernhardt said. “He’s never panicked once. He knows the offense is going to get going. Even when I took him out to have Alex (Tappen) close it the other day (against Upper Moreland), he was fine. He said, ‘Ok let’s go and get a win.’ Which is huge. I think all the guys are really buying into their role.”
Matt Shilling, a Delaware commit, and Tappen have also done good jobs on the mound this year.
Despite the rocky start to the season, Wissahickon is still in third place in the league and just one game behind Upper Dublin, the other 2015 co-champ, for the lead.
“If you told me earlier in the year that we would be 2-3 right now I’d tell you that you’re crazy, just with the pitching and the guys we have in the lineup,” Bernhardt said. “It is what it is, though. That’s baseball. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I keep telling the guys I would rather have this slow start now then at the end of the year. The goal every year is to get better as the year goes on and not plateau early. As you can see, we’re getting better. Every time out, we’re getting better.”
First place Upper Dublin has a perfect 3-0 record against SOL American competition, including a 2-1 win at Wissahickon in late March.
The Cardinals’ other two victories were a 3-2 walk-off win against Norristown and a 7-3 handling of Cheltenham. They were supposed to face Upper Moreland, who finished third in the league last year and promises to contend for the league title this season, Thursday but the game was rained out and rescheduled for May 6.
Upper Merion sits in second place in the SOL American Conference with a spotless 2-0 record after beating Cheltenham, 3-0, and Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 3-1.
The Vikings know they can compete with anybody when pitcher Jarrett Quinn is on the mound. Arguably the best pitcher in the league, Quinn has already thrown a no-hitter this season in the win over Cheltenham.
This week will be a big test for Upper Merion, which hosts Wissahickon Tuesday and travels to Upper Dublin Thursday.
North Penn, the defending state champions, are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in SOL Continental play — good enough for third place. The Knights are a half-game behind leaders Central Bucks South and Pennridge, which are both 2-0, and host Pennridge at 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
North Penn also has a league game against Central Bucks West (0-3 in league) at home Tuesday.
This past week, the Knights went 2-0 with a 14-7 win over Central Bucks East and a 4-2 win over Quakertown.