By: John Knebels
Photos by Mike Nance & Zamani Feelings
PHILADELPHIA – If you study the remaining Inter-Academic League baseball schedule, every team could ultimately finish with identical records.
It certainly wouldn’t be considered a risk to portend that that scenario won’t occur this year – or any other future year for that matter.
However, that the million-to-one possibility even exists with about 70 percent of the season completed testifies to league parity.
The only team in the so-called driver’s seat is Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The Blue Devils have won four straight and are in sole possession of first place with a 5-2 record. With victories over Malvern Prep and Episcopal this week, SCH would clinch a share of the title.
After beating Germantown Academy, 6-3, behind five strong innings by senior Carter Davis, the Blue Devils captured a dramatic 5-4 win at Penn Charter.
SCH trailed 4-0 in the seventh, but an offensive explosion in the form of five runs turned their fortunes completely around.
SCHA senior pitcher, Carter Davis - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
The Devils’ final game will be at home versus Penn Charter for what could be an opportunity to seize the league title outright for the first time since 1989. During the 30-year interim, SCH has shared titles in 2007 and 2016.
But the ubiquitous “first things first” applies.
“It feels very good, as well as overwhelming,” said sophomore Jon Bautista, referring to the Blue Devils being in charge of their own destiny. “As a team, we have to kick things into second gear – letting out the beast we all have inside.
“I know we will let out our beast these last three games ‘cause we know that they’re going to be dogfights, just like we know that when we’re on and our beasts are out that we can be unstoppable.”
His teammates agree.
“All the hard work we put into the off-season was for this,” said senior Sam Aslansan. “The feeling is great. We know our future is in our hands, and right now, we are just taking it one game at a time.”
Haverford School rebounded from a three-game slide to capture its second victory over Malvern Prep and by an identical 2-1 final score. Then the Fords defeated Episcopal Academy, 6-1.
In the win over Malvern, senior Zac Summy and senior Cal Costner’s pitching, sophomore catcher Eric Genther’s defense, and senior Sean Clark and senior Luke Kania’s offense sent the Haverford School crowd home happy. Against Episcopal, junior Pat Toal fired a complete game and struck out six. Senior Logan Keller’s two-run double ignited the Fords early.
Haverford school sophomore catcher Eric Genther tags about Malvern Prep junior Connor Offshack - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
“Sweeping Malvern was an amazing accomplishment,” said Kania. “They are a very tough team to beat, and for us to do it twice is truly special. Zak and Calvin shut Malvern down on the mound, and one of the things we’ve been emphasizing is having our pitchers’ backs. With timely hitting and a few clutch defensive plays, we were able to get the job done.
“The EA game was all about keeping that momentum going. Pat had a spectacular outing on the mound and the offense had his back.”
Toal was asked if the Fords would be disappointed to not win the Inter-Ac title outright. The school’s last outright crown was in 2010; their most recent share – with Episcopal – occurred in 2000.
“A share of the title is acceptable for this team and our coaching staff,” said Toal. “No one in the league expected us to be where we are right now. We know the next two games (against Penn Charter and Germantown Academy) will be the toughest yet, and the team leaders are making sure we as a team have a one game at a time mentality.”
Malvern Prep vs. Haverford School - Photos by Mike Nance
Defending champion Malvern Prep is in danger of being denied any part of the Inter-Ac title for only the fourth time since 2005.
The Friars have been like a see-saw, losing its first two, winning the next two, then a loss, and then a win.
The Friars visit first-place Springside Chestnut Hill and host Penn Charter this week. They end the season with a pair of contests against Episcopal Academy on May 14 and May 17.
“At Malvern, our goal is always to win the Inter-Ac outright,” said senior Grant Burgess. “We strive for perfection, so our slow start in the league is a little disappointing. But we will look to run the league in the rest of our games and hope for the best. We will control what we can control and play our game.”
The rest of the Inter-Ac is in serious peril regarding a share of the Inter-Ac title. Each of the three teams have four losses, so although it’s quite possible that any of the trio could win its final games, it’s almost inconceivable that the top three will simultaneously stumble to the necessary extent.
Germantown Academy is 3-4 after losses to SCH (6-3 final score) and Malvern (3-1). The Patriots host both Episcopal and Haverford this week.
“The last two games were difficult,” said Germantown Academy senior Colten Smith. “Both games were close and we ended up on the losing side. We have three games left, and to have any chance at sharing we need to win out.
“Winning out would set the tone for the future of GA baseball. We’re just hoping to get back out on the field against EA and Haverford and get two more wins.”
Episcopal Academy and Penn Charter are both 2-4. The two teams battled each other in a terrifically pitched affair last week, with Penn Charter emerging victorious, 2-1.
“We are just trying to stay focused on our team,” said Episcopal senior Jack O’Reilly. “The way the rest of the league shakes itself out is out of our control, so all we can do is take it game by game and put ourselves in the best position to be in contention at the end.”
Episcopal Academy & Penn Charter are tied 2-4 in Inter-Ac play - PSD photo by John Knebels
Penn Charter will travel to play the Haverford School today at 4:00PM - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings