By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – One game does not a season make, but as Episcopal Academy’s baseball squad strolled away from Penn Charter’s brand new field Tuesday afternoon, the Churchmen were in a celebratory mood.
For good reason.
Led by a four-run fourth-inning and outstanding pitching by senior Jack O’Reilly, Episcopal defeated the Quakers, 8-2, in an Inter-Academic League season opener that doubled as the first-ever league contest on Penn Charter’s brand new Palaia turf field across the street from school grounds.
“Attacking hitters and pitching to contact worked pretty well,” said O’Reilly, who surrendered five hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings. “Just letting my defense work and trusting Brian (Virbitsky) back there to block some balls.”
The Churchmen seized a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when senior catcher Brian Virbitsky laced a double that scored O’Reilly, who had led off with a walk and stole second base. But Penn Charter rebounded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second.
In the fourth, Episcopal sent nine batters to the plate and tallied five runs. Freshman Dan Kane’s double scored sophomore Will Kelley with the tying run. Freshman Jake Jaszcz forced a two-out walk to give the Churchmen a 3-2 lead. A passed ball and two-run error increased the lead to 6-2. Kelley smoked a two-run single in the sixth to close the scoring.
O’Reilly finished 1-3 with two runs scored, two walks, and a stolen base. Jasczy also scored twice. Virbitsky’s line score included two doubles, three runs batted in, and a run scored. Kelly was 2-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“We felt a good sense of urgency,” said Virbitsky, explaining Episcopal’s eight-hit, 38-batter attack. “We stayed aggressive the whole time and attacked pitches and didn’t get down in the counts.”
Kane, who played varsity as an eighth grader last spring, was one of six underclassman starters – three of them freshmen.
“All of the upperclassmen are super nice,” said Kane. “They’re always helpful.”
In other Inter-Academic League action . . . Haverford School stunned defending champion Malvern Prep, 2-1, in nine innings for their second 2-1 win of the young season, including its victory over Springfield Chestnut Hill Academy last week.
With the score tied 1-1 in the visiting ninth, senior Luke Kania doubled, advanced to third on a single by senior Calvin Costner, and scored on senior Logan Keller’s sacrifice fly.
Senior Zak Summy then mowed down the Friars in their half to pick up the pitching victory, not allowing any hits while striking out six over the final four innings. Junior Chris Clark had whiffed seven and surrendered only three singles over the initial five frames.
“This was huge,” said Kania, whose Fords lost to Malvern by scores of 15-4 and 9-5 last year. “Coming into the season, we weren’t seen as a team that could do some damage this year. But if our play early on in the season wasn’t enough, the win against a highly ranked team in Malvern Prep proves that we can’t be underestimated.”
Springside Chestnut Hill broke open a tight game with a seven-run sixth and defeated visiting Germantown Academy, 10-0. Sophomore Jon Bautista engineered the pitching victory with four strong innings. Senior Pat Elliott smashed a home run and knocked in three runs; senior Jahli Hendricks added a pair of doubles.
“I was able to place my pitches where I needed to most of time when my coach called them,” said Bautista. “I kept my composure and won back counts when they were in the hitters’ favor.
“Coming into the game I felt pretty confident in my stuff, but as the game went on and I was on the mound, it just kept building my confidence pitch after pitch.”
Elliott was relieved.
“This was a huge win against GA, especially coming off a (2-1 loss to Haverford School),” said Elliott. “It was a great swing of momentum to get us ready for our next game against Penn Charter on Friday.”
Upcoming Inter-Academic League Schedule (All games being at 4:00)
April 12 – Springside Chestnut Hill at Penn Charter
April 12 – Episcopal at Haverford School
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)