Baseball: Extra points from Penncrest-Garnet Valley

You’ve got to love a good, old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. In under two hours, with zeroes posted in 12 of the 14 half-innings, both Nick Bulisky and Rob Brown had their way with pretty strong lineups. In the end, Garnet Valley pushed across two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a 2-1 win over Penncrest in a battle of two of the better teams in Delco. A few extra points:

Penncrest's Nate Sides scores on Tyler Kight's sixth-inning sacrifice fly ahead of Garnet Valley catcher Jeff Shanfeldt Wednesday. (Times Staff / JULIA WILKINSON )

Penncrest’s Nate Sides scores on Tyler Kight’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly ahead of Garnet Valley catcher Jeff Shanfeldt Wednesday. (Times Staff / JULIA WILKINSON )

– I suppose Brown counts as the headliner. Let’s call the seven walks he issued effectively wild. He held GV hitless through six innings and was really in control. The big lefty is a tempo pitcher. He’s a “give me the ball and get ready” guy, and I can appreciate that. It’s certainly uncomfortable for opposing hitters, who need to make a concerted effort to slow him down, step out of the box and frustrate his attempts to control the pace of the game.

– Bulisky was just about as good. He worked around two hits in the first and one in the second, then retired nine straight from the third until Matt Briner’s single to lead off the sixth. You can talk about a pitcher’s mentality in abstract terms, but Bulisky brought it to life with his answer about the pressure of trying to match goose eggs with Brown. “It actually makes it easier, because that guy’s throwing well, and it just gets my energy level up so much,” he said. “I wish I could have every game I pitch like that.”

– The numbers tell plenty about what Brown and Bulisky did. But to me, here’s the key point: You’re playing on a Wednesday. Both teams won Tuesday in games pushed back a day due to rain. Then they have to turn around and play Thursday. Win or lose, their ability to manage their pitch counts and work deep into the game turned Wednesday’s relievers into Thursday’s starters, a crucial feat in a year when pitching depth will be severely tested.

– One of the big keys for Bulisky was muting the contributions of Ron DiMatteo. The center fielder and cleanup hitter for Penncrest was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and some awkward looking swings. His other at-bat was a potential double-play ball in the sixth that, luckily for Penncrest, hit the foot of Briner between second and third.

– I’ve seen this twice in two games (Ricky Collings did it for Marple in the first inning Tuesday) and it makes me shake my head. With runners on second and third and two out in the sixth against Bulisky in what was likely his last batter, Steve Moppert fouled off 8 pitches to work the count full. On pitch 12 of the marathon at-bat, he looked at strike 3. Kind of an anticlimactic ending.

– I have to recognize Penncrest right fielder Pete Muavero. He was getting a fair share of ribbing from the GV Lawn Chair Nation (which is very much a thing) down the line. But he tuned it out and answered with a tremendous diving catch on a sinking liner to deny Andrew Bechtold to start the third inning. On back-to-back at bats in the fourth, he ambled his way up the tough-to-navigate rise in right to catch flies my Chance Malek and Ben Faso at the wall. I’ve seen lesser outfielders tripped up, literally and figuratively, trying to scale that berm in right.

– Another defensive plaudit to hand out for Penncrest was Ryan Eisenacher’s diving stab of a Steve Palis liner at second base to quell a bases-loaded threat.

– A lineup quirk that requires more conversation with Penncrest coach Dan Sardella: His leadoff hitter Wednesday was his catcher, Billy McCarthy. That’s unusual, but a fast catcher in high school isn’t completely unheard of. What is odder, though, is it has nothing to do with his base-running ability, since Sardella opted for a courtesy runner both times McCarthy reached. If the thought is that batting him first gets him one extra at-bat every nine games (on average), then it’s a progressive break from the traditional strictures put on that position in the order.

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