Where to begin, where to begin? I can unequivocally say that in my year and a half on the beat (short time period, I know) that Wednesday’s 4-3 win by Strath Haven over Marple Newtown was the best high school baseball game I’ve seen. A meeting of two of the top three teams in my Super 7 did not disappoint in any respect. Let’s tie up some loose ends.
– You can’t say enough about the bottom of the Haven lineup. Rob Straff and Nate Engleka, the eight and nine hitters, go a combined 4-for-7 with an RBI and a run scored. That’s over half the team’s seven hits. In the battle for top honors in Delco, this is the team that has the most lineup depth.
– Since I procrastinated until after the win over Radnor, I can safely say that it’s OK to bandy about the “U” word: Undefeated. The Panthers have Harriton, Springfield, Interboro and Lower Merion remaining. I find it almost inconceivable that they’d lose to Springfield or Lower Merion. Harriton could be a challenge if it’s their good day, and ace Jake Rosenberg should be ready to go for that game. Interboro becomes a question of how much they want to give in a nonleague contest. If they want it and see the ability to keep this roll going as a priority, I think they can accomplish it.
– To do what Haven has done this season, you need a little luck. Take the Marple Newtown half of the seventh inning. Ryan Tecco led off with a single, then Eric Tannenbaum’s sacrifice attempt was thrown away by Haven catcher Kevin Mohollen. That created a sacrifice situation for shortstop Seth Bower, which he popped up to lead to the double play that killed the inning. Even when things go wrong, they go right for Strath Haven.
– When Donovan Davis was notified of his pitch count after the game, his response was simple: “132? That’s my favorite number.” Davis is simply a gamer. He got a strikeout and a groundout with runners on first and second in the third. He induced Tecco to groundout meekly to end the fourth with bases loaded. He stranded two in the fifth with a strikeout of Nick Giordano. In seven innings, he allowed 17 base runners … and just three runs, stranding 10 Tigers. That’s a lot of high-pressure outs.
– No matter how good Davis was, Ciaran Cahalane deserved a better fate. You can’t fault the decision to send him back out there for the seventh; he was at just 88 pitches through six. In the first two and a half turns of the lineup, he allowed just two hits. The fact that such dominance came after what could’ve been a rattling home run by Mohollen to lead off the game is even more impressive.
– Speaking of which, Mohollen didn’t have much to say about that homer after the game, choosing the team success rather than his individual plaudits. “It was definitely a good feeling starting off a game like that, but it changed very quickly when we went straight back 1-1,” he said. “So as far as we were concerned, it was a 0-0 game from that point.”
– Even better was the response by Mike White, who drilled the first pitch he saw from Davis for an instant response to Mohollen’s dinger. “I was just trying to put something in play and he gave me a fastball middle-in and I was able to turn on it,” he said.
– Marple’s base running was, well, not great. When Austin DiFabio was inserted as a pinch-runner for Tannenbaum, I don’t think the plan was for him to get picked off from second base by Mohollen. White also got caught stealing after leading off the sixth with a single that short-circuited a rally before it started. Which brings me to my next point …
– People should stop running on Mohollen. Kid’s got a laser arm. He’s also a great leader, rallying the troops before each half-inning, no matter how quickly Cahalane had dispatched them the previous frame. And he’s just a junior.
– The single biggest aspect of Strath Haven’s postseason push may not be Davis or fellow starter Kevin Bosco. It may be closer Ashton Raines. He came in with a poise of a veteran in the eighth, needing just 16 pitches to retire the side. He’s got that swagger, that “give me the damn ball” closer’s mentality that you just can’t teach.