Baseball: Malvern Prep-Episcopal Academy odds and ends

Sadly, there wasn’t a whole lot to write about Tuesday (of course, I pick the wrong game when all three Del Val games are one-run affairs and Haverford School goes 11 unresolved innings with Sprigside Chestnut Hill). Malvern Prep weathered an early storm and ended up with a 9-1 over Episcopal Academy. Here’s the gamer; now some extra talking points.

Episcopal Academy's Russell Rhoads got saddled with a loss Tuesday against Malvern Prep. But neither his offense nor his defense was of much support. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

Episcopal Academy’s Russell Rhoads got saddled with a loss Tuesday against Malvern Prep. But neither his offense nor his defense was of much support. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

– You have to say that EA starter Russell Rhoads deserved a better fate. He gave up seven runs, only two earned, on just three hits. He certainly got himself into trouble with six walks, but he didn’t allow many hard-hit balls, certainly not enough to warrant that line. If Ben Burman and A.J. Lotsis field groundballs to start the third, that three-run rally never happens. It’s my first time seeing Rhoads pitch. His reputation precedes him, but it’s odd seeing the stats match the pitch arsenal. He doesn’t strike me as a power pitcher, choosing to work down in the zone in a way that would seem to be a pitch-to-contact guy. He has good breaking stuff, which could account for his high strikeout numbers. But on days like Tuesday where he tries to nibble at the lower edge of the zone and can’t, the result isn’t good.

– The Episcopal Academy bats couldn’t get much going against Malvern starter Gardner Nutter. The Malvern starter obviously pitched well, going into the sixth and scattering five hits and one earned run. But he needed only 80 pitches to get 17 outs. He mixed in his breaking pitches and located his fastball well, but I wouldn’t call his stuff dominant. And he produced dominating results Monday. But why?

– There was something oddly tentative about EA. Nutter threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 23 batters he faced. Half of those were either swinging, fouled off or put in play. More crucially, three of those came in the first inning. The two momentum-shifting at-bats in the game – strikeouts to John Minicozzi and Adam Seibert in the first with a runner on third in a 1-0 game – started with swings-and-misses. Those Ks undeniably had an effect: It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Churchmen swung at a first pitch again. That may be overly cautious, especially against a pitcher peppering the zone and with a good enough curveball to motivate hitters to jump on early fastballs. “Yeah,” said shortstop Doug Trimble when asked if he thought his team was too tentative. “He moved his pitches well. I give him credit. I’d say his curveballs were keeping us off balance. We didn’t really swing at the right pitches.”

– It’s not like the EA lineup doesn’t have some hitters. Lotsis stung a ball for a double in the first, followed by Trimble’s thunderous triple. Seibert delivered a sharp double in the sixth, and Minicozzi stung a lineout to left in the fourth. The fact that they have that potential makes the sheepish approach at the plate all the more quizzical.

– It didn’t help the Churchmen that they weren’t sound in the field – three of the Friars’ four run-scoring innings featured an EA error.

– And EA didn’t do much for itself on the basepaths. Consider the third inning: EA has the top of the order up, down 3-1, riding a bit of momentum after Rhoads strikes out Joe Podlusenko and Matt Maul, Malvern’s one and two hitters. Anthony Perretti singles … then gets picked off first. Lotsis walks … then gets caught stealing second. By the time they get up again – after an error-riddled bottom of the third – it’s 6-1 and the game is essentially over.

– I’m certainly capable of throwing in a positive here: I was really impressed by Austin Morgan behind the plate. He is a really good defensive catcher who took most of the latter innings as practice blocking balls in the dirt. It’s not often that you see a high school catcher who is adept at getting his body in front of low pitches instead of just stabbing at them. He may be one of the better defensive catchers around.

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