NEWTOWN SQUARE — Senior catcher Eric Genther and junior pitcher Colby McNeely figured Tuesday would be a great day to end the slide.
With 17 wins, there’s no doubt The Haverford School is having an excellent season. But every team hits a rough patch, even the great ones, and the Fords were in the midst of a three-game losing streak. A fourth straight defeat, especially on the road against arch-rival Episcopal Academy, wasn’t an option.
The Fords, the best team in Delaware County and one of the top programs in the stacked Inter-Ac League, returned to their winning ways with a 6-1 victory over the Churchmen. Genther went 2-for-3 with an RBI single, a run scored and a hit by pitch.
The Rhode Island commit was excellent behind the dish, blocking every pitch in the dirt while gunning down a would-be basestealer at second base.
“We had a rough stretch. The biggest focus for us was to get back to what we do well, which is grinding out at-bats, getting on base and just being smart baserunners,” Genther said. “That’s what we did today and we made some good things happen to force the defense to make plays and we were able to do that successfully. It’s great to get a win.”
McNeely pitched six solid innings of one-run ball. Leaning on a mix of high-80s fastball and biting slider, the 6-3 righthander scattered five hits and four walks while striking out eight.
“I feel like once I get my first strikes down, and get ahead in the count, that’s where I strive the best,” McNeely said. “My slider was good today and I was able to keep EA off-balance with that and the fastball, which was really good.”
Genther drove in the game’s first run after Jonny Flieder led off the first inning with a double. Genther shot one through the hole at second base for an RBI hit. The score remained 1-0 until the fifth when the Fords knocked Episcopal starter Mike Wennemer out of the game and plated three runs. Mike Tallarida delivered a run-scoring single, driving in Will Ferris, who singled. Later in the inning, Genther raced home from third on a passed ball, sliding headfirst, to make it a 3-0 game.
Affectionately nicknamed “Goose,” Genther is having a monster year for the Fords. Entering the day the left-handed power hitter was slashing a ridiculous .574/.687/.869 with five home runs, 36 RBIs and 14 walks. Oh, and he had just three strikeouts in 84 plate appearances.
Not bad for the Drexel Hill resident, who won a Cal Ripken state title with Llanerch Hills back in the day.
“I worked a ton with our assistant coach Joey Martin over the offseason, and mainly our biggest focus was mental approach,” Genther said. “I feel like I was kind of a guy who would step in the box and just hope for the best. But this year, I’ve really been thinking through every at-bat, where I’m trying to hit the ball and trying to work the other way. I’ve been able to hit the ball hard and I’ve been lucky enough to have some success at the plate.”
McNeely started to hit his stride in the middle innings. He put together a streak of four strikeouts and punched out the side in order in the fourth. EA managed to tag him for a run in the top of the sixth after Dan Kane led off with a single. Two batters later Jake Jaszcz knocked home Kane with a single.
But McNeely bounced back, striking out Brad Johnston and Dylan DiBeneditto to escape the jam. Grayson Walker pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the win.
“(McNeely) wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in other starts, but I thought he battled,” Haverford coach Bob Castell said. “He had a couple of tough innings and always came back. He walked a few guys, but he kept his pitch count down so he could get us through six innings. Grayson came in for us to pitch the seventh and he’s embracing that role, which has been really nice for him.”
McNeely is the stopper the Fords have needed. With Penn Charter (12-4) on the schedule Friday, McNeely delivered a much-needed quality start.
“I haven’t thrown a lot recently. Last week, my shoulder was a little sore, but I came out today and just felt really good,” he said. “I was excited to help us get out of here with a win.”
McNeely was aided by excellent infield defense. With the bases loaded in the third, shortstop Flieder made a diving catch up the middle and flipped to second baseman Jake Stacey for an inning-ending double play.
Matt Tallarida added an RBI single and reached base three times. Chris Griggs singled, stole third base and scored a run in the Fords’ three-run sixth inning.
“I think we’ve played the best that we can in most of our games, aside from that little stretch,” Genther said. “We’re super thrilled with how we’ve been playing, but we’re definitely not surprised. I think we all knew that this was in us.”
In the Bicentennial League:
Delco Christian 13, Christian Academy 4 >> TCA couldn’t figure out a way to retire Josh Dell’Arciprete, who reached base five times. Dell’Arciprete powered the Knights offense with two homers, two doubles and three walks. He had five RBIs and three runs scored.
DC stormed back from a 4-0, first-inning deficit against the Crusaders. Dell’Arciprete pitched in relief and allowed only one run the rest of the way.
Jeremiah Chow and Josh Freiling added three hits apiece for the Knights. Freiling, Rob Lucas and Cole Levis all scored three runs.
In the Del Val League:
Chichester 24, Chester 0 >> Josh Hankins belted his fourth home run of the year as the Eagles routed the Clippers in three innings.
Zach Taylor went 3-for-3 with two doubles and five RBIs. Anthony Caramanico and Logan Ray both doubled and knocked in three runs. AJ DiPaolo, Justice Pittman and Andrew Scott chipped in two hits apiece.
Interboro 12, Academy Park 2 >> The Bucs’ Frank Suga held the Knights to two hits over five innings to earn the win. Eddie Boyer, Nate Smith and Jake Finley each had RBI hits for the Bucs.