BY JEREMY GOODE
WYNNEWOOD-- After 18 outs, Friends' Central Phoenix baseball team buckled down in efforts to not have the 21st out against them occur down runs to the Westtown Moose. It would have been easy for this to have happened. In fact, going into the last half inning, the Phoenix were down 3-0. They would never cause the last out.
Friends' Central came back in dramatic fashion against Westtown 4-3 in eight innings on Tuesday, April 18th, at the Phoenix home field in Wynnewood, Pa.
“It is certainly great news that we do not have any quit in us,” Friends' Central head coach Jon Rubin said. “We’ve had a couple of wins like that this year… but I know this group and they are not satisfied with that. They know we can do better early and not have to come back.”
Both teams had their ace on the hill for the Friends League matchup. For Westtown, senior right-handed pitcher and Lehigh University commit Jack Ingino, dealed for six innings, giving up zero runs, three hits, and striking out 13.
Friends Central ran out to the mound Lucca Frattone, the senior right-handed starter that committed to Wesleyan University. Frattone went six and two-thirds inning, keeping the game manageable for the Phoenix to eventually rally offensively to a win.
With both aces on the mound, it was clear early that it would be a low scoring contest. Friends' Central flirted with a scoring opportunity in the first inning, but had a runner thrown out at home plate on a close play on a double steal.
Between the second and the third inning, the Phoenix only tallied one base runner. A quick one-time-three bottom of the second where every Friends' Central batter struck out swinging, and another quick bottom half of the third, where they earned a walk and that would be the end of the “rally,” Rubin noted that this was where he was disappointment the most about their approach at the plate.
“I thought Jack Ingino threw incredibly well, I thought we did not compete as well as we should have against him,” Rubin said. “Hats off to him; he did a great job… but I felt like we did not have the energy we needed to have and we did not compete as effectively as we could of.”
Going into the top of the fourth, the game was still scoreless, although Westtown would break the tie on a force out at home with the bases loaded but then an arrent play to first base in which the ball got away from Matt Hamilton allowed the initial runner on second to round third base and score. Westtown would only score one that top half of the inning.
The Phoenix were able to form their own offense in the bottom of the fourth, as they loaded the bases; but were ultimately unable to execute and went to the top of the fifth down 1-0. Even with the lack of run support, Frattone understood how important it was to keep his team in the game regardless if the team was clicking with the bats.
“I think it’s important to just go out and do the best that you can; if they score, trust our offense that we are going to score back,” Frattone said.
Frattone continued to do his job on the mound, while giving up a few runs in the top of the fifth inning, he quickly buckled down and was able to force a flyout to shortstop, stranding runners on first and second. He forced a one-two-three inning in the top of the sixth inning and retired the first two matters he faced in the top of the seventh before being pulled to nearly throwing 100 pitches.
“Lucca competes all the time and he is incredibly effective,” Rubin said. “He is just a pitcher; he mixes his pitches… he works quickly, he attacks hitters… I thought that we did not support him as well as we could of.”
As a competitor, Frattone was critical of his play, but also appreciated the opportunity his fielders gave him to keep the team in the game.
“I let a few pitches get away from me, hit a few guys, but trusted my fielders to. Make plays at the end of the game and got the outs I needed to get out to get out of those big innings,” Frattone said.
Michael Mamaluy was able to record the third out of the seventh for Friends' Central without giving up a run as Friends' Central were down 3-0 down to their final three outs.
In the bottom of the seventh, after Ingino exited the game throwing 102 pitches, Friends' Central were able to get bat to ball and drive some pitches but faced a runner on first base with two outs. A clutch pinch hit single down the third base line by James Pendrak had runners on first and third. Leadoff hitter Darius Adkins would be hit by a pitch to load the bases. Michael McGarry followed by walking in a run to finally get Friends' Central on the scoreboard down 3-1. For the heroics, Pablo Spielman-Rodriguez singled through the left side to tie the game at three, a score that would transfer to extra innings in the top of the eighth inning.
“It definitely shows grit,” Caleb Bachman said. “I enjoy playing with this team; it’s fun. We always battle whenever we are down.”
With two outs and runners on first and third in the top of the eighth, Mamaluy was able to get out of the jam by forcing a flyout to shortstop. He finished with an inning and a third with zero runs scored.
Friends' Central would not waste anytime with their bottom half of the eighth. In fact, they would only need two batters. A leadoff walk for Brendan Aiken eventually saw him steal second base. Bachman then followed his at bat with a line drive to right field, scoring Aiken, and giving the Phoenix a 4-3 win.
“I knew an off-speed was coming, so I was sitting on that off-speed” Bachman said. “Had a few rough at bats earlier in the game and was just up there looking for a hit.”
While Friends' Central were unable to score any runs until the bottom of the seventh, their vocal leadership in the dugout lasted all game, only tweaking a few things here and there as the game went on.
Friends' Central Catcher Caleb Bachman hits walk-off line drive single to right field sends in winning run. (Photo/ Lennie Malmgren for PSD)
“We just changed our mentality in the last inning,” Frattone said. “Pass the torch to the next guy; one person is not going to do it all, so we just relied on the team to do it.”
With the win, the Phoenix improve to 10-3 on the season with a 4-0 record in Friends School