Space got a little tight today for the gamer between Penncrest and Garnet Valley. So I’ve got a few extra points I want to get out there.
– A game like Saturday’s shows you just how talented Dalton Mayberry is. He didn’t pitch well early – struggled, you might even say, at junctures – and still struck out 10 while giving up two runs over six innings against a very strong lineup. For example, take this sequence to start the third inning against the Nos. 2 and 3 hitters, both lefties:
Ronnie DiMatteo: fastball swinging strike, breaking ball called strike, ball, swinging K
Bryan Kirk: fastball swinging strike, breaking ball called strike, ball, looking K
That’s what happens when he gets his breaking stuff going as he did today after the first couple of innings. He was getting squeezed a little bit early, but he was locating his fastball low, which is a big key. And his off-speed stuff: “His curveball is unbelievable,” Kirk said. “It just starts at your head and comes down to your knees. It’s hard to judge some times. He was on today. He got ahead in the count. We helped him out a little bit, swinging at the high balls.”
– That said, there are things to improve. While he wasn’t getting all the calls, especially early, he still needs to improve his efficiency. It took 50 pitches to get though the first two innings, but then he followed with innings of 14, 10 and 11. He came out after six innings and 106 pitches after what Mayberry termed some nonverbal communication with manager Rudy Shiller to allow him to finish the sixth. A big part of that efficiency is being smart with two strikes. DiMatteo’s triple in the second inning came on a 2-2 count. Billie Buckwalter singled to lead off the fourth on an 0-2 pitch. And his two hit-by-pitches – Cole Gamber in the second and DiMatteo in the sixth – came on 0-2 counts. DiMatteo scored; Gamber was caught stealing on the failed squeeze bunt.
– Final Mayberry note: He knows his role is as an innings eater, if nothing else but to buy time while the rest of the rotation shapes up. Last year, the presence of All-Delco Ryan Dorosh took the pressure off, allowing them to have a 1A-1B arrangement. This year, despite Nick Bulisky pitching well and picking up two wins, the rest of the rotation is a hodgepodge for now. Andrew Bechtold did a nice job getting the final three outs, and the Jags have other guys who can pitch to contact, but they need Mayberry to be an ace each time out. He was Saturday, and the result showed.
– Nick Boleto’s line didn’t flatter him, and the Penncrest starter deserved a kinder fate. He allowed six runs on four hits, which should tell you about his day. Seven walks certainly hurt – three of the runners he allowed to score had been issued free passes, including Mayberry and Jeff Shanfeldt in the top of the fifth that led to him getting the hook. But he also didn’t surrender many hard-hit balls. Had John Convery been able to make a catch to end the fourth inning, he escapes down just 2-0 and with 12 fewer pitches.
– Bunting and Penncrest don’t seem to agree. An instance in last year’s District One opener in which the Lions had two consecutive batters called out for stepping outside of the batter’s box on bunt attempts is vividly imprinted on my mind. Saturday’s game is a different proposition altogether if Convery can get his squeeze bunt down in the second inning to tie the game. Three batters earlier, Mike Wilson came up empty on two bunt attempts with a runner on first. He later struck out. Head coach Steve Silva says it’s a play that they work on a lot; the execution just isn’t there yet.
– A couple of nice defensive plays to highlight: Boleto made a nice diving catch on a bunt attempt by Steve Palis in the third inning, launching himself headlong toward the plate. And Bechtold made a great play to scoop a tough feed from first baseman Brian Gross and turn a 3-6-3 double play in the fourth inning.