A matchup like Radnor and Marple Newtown Tuesday is, to go to the drawer for the right cliché, an example of why you play the games. On paper, you look at the veteran lineup of Marple and the scrappy, underclassmen-laden roster of Radnor, and you think that one team has a decisive edge. That wasn’t the case Tuesday in Radnor’s 8-5 win. A few extra points:
– Radnor starter Sean Corelli didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled. And he was allowed to battle because Marple let him off the hook big time. They scored twice in the first inning and had two on with one out, but they let him wriggle out of danger. In terms of pitch count, they had him up to 33 after that first frame (thanks largely to a perplexing Ricky Collings at-bat where he fouled off six pitches to work the count full, then looked at strike three). Then Corelli worked a three-pitch second inning against 8-9-1 and settled in. That’s no coincidence.
– Corelli isn’t a power pitcher. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy, so a jumpy lineup works to his distinct advantage. In his first three turns through the order, he induced 11 Tigers to swing at the first pitch. Those batters were 3-for-11. Pat Shevlin, whose seventh-inning home run came on a 3-2 pitch, admitted a bit of anxiousness in his team at the plate. You could hardly blame them, playing their first game of the season 10 days after the schedule opened. Patience is something that had better be incorporated into their approach soon.
– Looking at Marple’s returnees, you wouldn’t think lineup depth to be an issue, and it might not prove to be in the long run. But consider the numbers in the opener: Spots one through four in the order (Mike White, Collings, Seth Bower and Shevlin) went 9-for-16 and scored all five of the runs; the other five lineup spots went 3-for-17.
– Connor Wilson summed up Radnor’s approach better than I could. “It’s not really all about hitting bombs and hitting extra-base hits, but it’s most important to get on base and score runs,” the lead-off man said. “It’s never just about hitting home runs. It’s always about scoring runs and winning games.” Well, Tuesday, they scored eight runs off 12 singles and won a game. I’m sure coach Mark Jordan is plenty happy with that. There isn’t a “power” guy on this team. Even middle-of-the-order guys like Tom Austen and Josh Katz are more gap-to-gap doubles guys. When you’ve got speedy players like Wilson setting the table, you can be content playing station-to-station.
– With that approach, they are able to spread around the offensive load pretty evenly. Eight players scored runs Tuesday. Seven lineup spots (save, most notably, Corelli’s 0-for-4 in the two-hole) picked up hits. Eight- and nine-hole hitters Terrance Quinn and Andrew Austen went a combined 4-for-5. When they do that and turn the lineup over to Wilson (3-for-4) and company, they are dangerous.
– The Marple rotation is obviously not set yet, since they haven’t had the games to do so. But in talking with coach Steve Smith, it sounds like they are going to use Ciaran Cahalane primarily as a reliever this year. The belief is that the likes of Matt Young (who pitched well and wasn’t helped by his fielders against Radnor), Ed Wallace and Collings can hold down the fort early. Cahalane, meanwhile, is the team’s most live arm and probably best pitcher. But he’s always been more comfortable as a reliever, like when he closed effectively as a sophomore. As a starter, he would tend to run out of gas around the fifth or sixth inning. If Marple can just find guys to get through the first turn of the order relatively unscathed before turning over to Cahalane, that can be a crucial flipping of the script on opposing hitters, preventing them from settling in and getting third looks at either pitcher.
– I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize Marple right fielder Pat Tackney for a stellar diving catch in the sixth inning to deny Katz a sure base hit. Defensive play of the day, for sure.
– Is it too late to throw in another shout out to the Ben Cohen takeout slide that opened the flood gates in the fourth inning? You have to love a good, clean double-play eliminating slide like that.