HARLEYSVILLE >> Timely.
That was the operative word for Souderton Wednesday afternoon, when it hosted Spring-Ford in a District 1 Class 6A second-round playoff game. Timely pitching, timely hits and timely defense meshed to get the Indians a 2-1 victory over the Rams at Vic Alderfer Memorial Ball Park.
Jordan Morales, and later Luke Taylor, proved to be a 1-2 pitching punch that limited Spring-Ford to four hits and a single run in the third inning. Taylor and Moses Clemens doubled in all the runs the Morales/Taylor mound tandem would need. And catcher Billy Norbeck made a key seventh-inning pickoff to end a late scoring attempt by the Rams.
It meant the Big Red, seeded third in the district, will host a quarterfinal-round game Friday against Plymouth Whitemarsh, a 4-1 winner over Avon Grove. And for 11th-seeded Spring-Ford, it was the end to an otherwise solid season even as it got a strong pitching effort from Zach Male.
“Both pitchers were very good today,” Souderton manager Mike Childs said. “Morales got strikeouts and kept their fast guys off the bases. Male came on at the beginning.”
“Both pitchers threw their hearts out,” SF manager Jamie Scheck added. “After that one run in the first, the kids battled and made their pitcher throw a lot.”
With both starters closing in on the 100-pitch mark, Morales racked up 10 strikeouts. Starting the seventh as the pitcher of record, the Indian southpaw walked SF’s Jason Smiley before giving way to Taylor.
“I don’t think I was at my best,” Morales said. “My nerves got to me. I tried to compete and look for clutch hits.”
Taylor came on and provided lights-out relief, fanning the two batters he faced. He also got help from Norbeck, tracking down a passed ball, relaying to shortstop Conlan Wall to get a stealing Smiley for the second out.
“Norbeck, as a catcher, has been doing that all year,” Childs said.
“It goes back to everyone wanting to do something,” Morales added. “Norbeck has to be the best catcher we’ve had here in a long time. He called a good game for Luke and me.”
Male, for his part, also pitched well enough to earn a different fate. The Rams’ junior righty hit the 100-pitch mark, but not before turning in a complete game during which he scattered four hits and four walks.
“My fast ball was good today,” he said. “My curve was not where I wanted it to be.”
The Big Red got to Male in its first at-bat, Watt singling to left-center on a 2-0 pitch and coming around off Taylor’s double to right-center. The first of two times Simmons’ arm was tested, the Spring-Ford senior threw Taylor out trying to stretch a triple.
Male helped his mound cause in the third, leading off by singling off Morales on a full count. Courtesy runner Danny Zoller went to second off Collons’ single, then to third off Ben Wichalky’s sacrifice bunt before scoring off Simmons’ hard shot to shortstop.
The deadlock continued even with Souderton threatening in the fourth, when Frank Pollock and Andrew Curran led off with successive walks. Pollock was erased at third off Clemens’ hit back to the mound, and Curran forced at home off Dylan Kummery’s hit to short.
The difference-maker ended up being a Curran fielder’s choice that erased Pollock (single) at second. Clemens’ two-bagger to the gap in right-center proved long enough to plate Curran.
“There were a lot of things that could have been different,” Scheck said after seeing Spring-Ford’s notable season — a 13-6 overall record and 11-5 finish in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, runner-up to Phoenixville in the Final Four playoffs — end. “But I love coaching these kids. The seniors were awesome, and we had a great dugout.
“The kids showed up in the off-season to work out. They were a great group to coach.”
NOTES >> Childs on his pitching tandem of Morales and Taylor: “I’ll take them any day. On the mound, Morales is our leader.” … The game time was moved up two hours from the original 4 p.m. start, in consideration of the Harleysville Jaycees’ Country Fair Days setup in the Harleysville Community Center parking lot. Childs pointed to a desire to not have foul balls bouncing into the adjoining lot while the fair was running. … The districts’ matchup harkened back to the summer of 2018, when the Spring City and Souderton American Legion baseball teams finished 1-2 in the Pa. State Tournament at Boyertown’s Bear Stadium. Both Legion teams went on to play in the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament at Purcellville, Va.