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BASEBALL: Even in a Nail-biting Carpenter Cup Defeat, Inter-Ac/Independents Stood Tall at Citizens Bank Park

By Marc Narducci Photos: Mike Nance & Zack Beavers, 06/20/22, 12:45AM EDT


Tri-Cape defeated Inter-Ac/Independents 6-5 in 11 innings, advancing to the 2022 Carpenter Cup semifinals - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Photos/Videos: Mike Nance, Marc Narducci & Zack Beavers

By: Marc Narducci

PHILADELPHIA – There were no tears, no long faces, but plenty of hugs of admiration among Inter-Ac/Independent teammates.

Not even a gut-wrenching 6-5 defeat in 11 innings against defending champion Tri-Cape in a classic Carpenter Cup semifinal could wipe the collective smiles off the faces of the Inter-Ac/Ind team.

And for good reason.

A ninth inning rally to extend the game and provide some free baseball was just one example of the fight showed by the resilient Inter-Ac/Ind squad.

Nobody on the team likes losing, but there were too many positives the players and coaches took from a supreme effort against a Tri-Cape team that has reloaded accordingly from last year’s Carpenter Cup champion.

“It was just a tremendous amount of fun,” said Inter-Ac/Ind head coach Jon Rubin, who is also the head coach of Friends Central. “It does stink to lose, but we battled, obviously Jadan coming up huge with that big hit."

Jadan is Jadan Smith, a senior center fielder from Malvern Prep.

Trailing 5-3 with one out in the ninth inning, Smith came to the plate and roped a two-run triple to right-center.

“I got a curveball the pitch before and had been late on fastballs the previous at-bats, so I just sat fastball and tried to get out in front of it and barreled it,” Smith said.

The Tri-Cape hasn’t reached such heights without having a bit of fight itself and it showed in the 11th inning when Kingsway senior second baseman John Rorick led things off with a walk.

Despite the loss, Malvern Prep's Tague Davis & Jadan Smith and Springside Chestnut Hill's Jakob Runkel will always remember the memory of getting the chance to play at Citizens Bank Park - VIdeo by Marc Narducci:

He stole second, went to third on a groundout and scored the game-winner on a double to center by St. Augustine shortstop Ryan Taylor, who was 3 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI.

And while Tri-Cape celebrated after winning its seventh straight Carpenter Cup game, the other side, at first naturally dejected, understood that they were part of something special, starting with playing at the venue that staged the game.

The Carpenter Cup’s biggest attraction is having the semifinal teams play at Citizens Bank Park, a credit to the Phillies for reaching out to the high school baseball community in an All-Star tournament now in its 36th season. (Normally the Carpenter Cup championship is also played at Citizens Bank Park, but due to a commitment, the final will be 1 p.m. Monday at FDR Park, a few blocks away). 

Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, served as the playing fields for the 2022 Carpenter Cup semifinals - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

The fact that Citizens Bank Park is among the most attractive big league stadiums, just adds to the atmosphere. .

This had a big league feel, that was added by having Phillies legendary PA announcer Dan Baker performing similar duties for the Carpenter Cup. Baker’s appearances over the years at the Carpenter Cup, simply adds to the big-event feel.

So yes, the loss stung, but there was much to savor.

This was simply 3 hours and 23 minutes of joy not only for the players and coaches but the fans as well.

“It was super fun, super awesome to play on this field and play with some of my good friends and teammates,” Smith said.

One of those teammates is Malvern Prep sophomore first baseman Tague Davis, who has committed to Louisville.

Davis helped get Inter-Ac/Ind out to a 3-0 first inning lead by driving in the first run of the game with an RBI double to center field.

“Nothing about the loss, (but) I am just happy to be here honestly, it is really cool to be here,” said Davis, who was 2 for 3 with a run scored and RBI. “You play where all the big guys play and it was, what an experience, just rounding the bases, it was a pleasure.”

Inter-Ac/Ind would also score in the first on an RBI double by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior left fielder Chuck Norton and an RBI groundout by Haverford School sophomore third baseman Connor Scanlan.

The early momentum belonged to Inter-Ac/Ind thanks to the work of senior lefthander Jakob Runkel of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Runkel pitched three scoreless inning to start the game, allowing just one hit and striking out three. (Carpenter Cup pitchers are able to throw a maximum of three innings).

“I was trying to get them with my fastball, I didn’t have a good feel for my off-speed pitches,” said Runkel, who will attend Division III Grinnell College in Iowa. “I was just trying to challenge them.”

And make no mistake, the Tri-Cape players were sufficiently challenged by Runkel.

Even more than his shutout performance was the fact that Runkel took the time to soak in the atmosphere.

“It was probably one of the coolest experiences in my life,” he said. “I didn’t imagine I would be pitching on this mound. It was really cool.”

The Tri-Cape’s offense came out of hibernation  by scoring three runs in the seventh inning to take a 4-3 lead.

The big blow came courtesy of Highland junior third baseman Vinny Davis, who crushed a two-run home run to left field to tie the score 3-3.

“It felt amazing,” said Vinny Davis, who hit two home runs during his junior season at Highland. “Off the bat, immediately I knew it was going out and it was awesome.”

St. Augustine’s Taylor, author of the game-winning hit, gave Tri-Cape a 4-3 lead in the seventh on an RBI single to center.

Oakcrest senior first baseman Gavin Healy added an RBI single in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 5-3.

Then Malvern Prep’s Smith decided nine innings wouldn’t be sufficient with his two-run triple to tie the game.

Besides the fact that Inter-Ac/Ind fought so hard, they also wanted to rid the aftertaste of last year’s 14-3 semifinal loss to Tri-Cape.

Sure, the players in that game likely enjoyed the experience of playing in Citizens Bank Park, but this time, they got the additional satisfaction of competing a nail-biter instead of a rout.

That is bound to make the experience more memorable.

2022 Carpenter Cup Highlights - Tri-Cape vs. Inter-Ac/Ind - Video by Marc Narducci & Zack Beavers

So there was a much different feeling exiting the ballpark than a year ago.

“To have that kind of game in an All-Star game, it’s a lot of fun and to be able to play this way on this field and it was just a real treat,” said Rubin, who also guided last year’s Carpenter Cup team. “Last year we lost to Tri-Cape and kind of got smoked, but we were right there with them the whole time this game and I feel we could have won the game.”

Of course they could have, but Tri-Cape is a relentless group of competitors, not willing to give up its championship without a fight.

And Tri-Cape received quite a bout from the Inter-Ac-Ind, who may have departed Citizens Bank Park without a win, but certainly left with their heads held appropriately high.