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BASEBALL: Malvern Prep’s Jack Stead Ends His Career in Championship Style

By Marc Narducci Photos: James Quinn, 05/31/23, 4:00PM EDT


Malvern Prep defeated Perkiomen School 6-4 to win the 2023 PAISAA baseball championship - PSD Photo by James Quinn

Photos/Videos: James Quinn & Marc Narducci

By: Marc Narducci

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA -- There are usually few easy paths to championships, but Jack Stead’s was surely one that only the strong could navigate.

A senior shortstop, Stead, batting in the No. 8 hole, went 2-for-3 with three RBI to lead Malvern Prep to a pulsating 6-4 win over the Perkiomen School in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) state championship at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Saturday.

“This is really something special, a lot of adversity this year and I just continued to work my butt off,” said Stead, who will continue his education and baseball career at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). “And I just love my teammates and really want to do it for them.”

The adversity he spoke about this year, really began last season, one that Stead missed with a wrist injury.

“It was tough missing last year,” he said.

And it wasn’t so easy when coach Fred Hilliard made some lineup changes earlier this season and Stead spent time on the bench.

“He was the starter when the season started, lost his job, kept working his butt off, never pouted about it, waited for his number to be called, put him back in the lineup, moved our shortstop out to left field and he hasn’t missed a beat,” Hilliard said in doing a good job describing the cliff notes version of the story.

Malvern Prep senior Jack Stead #1 - PSD Photo by James Quinn

Malvern Prep head coach Fred Hilliard - PSD Photo by James Quinn

Stead also didn’t miss many pitches, especially as his career was coming to a close. In Malvern Prep’s 13-5 semifinal win over Penn Charter, Stead went 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI.

“This speaks volumes to Jack Stead,” Hilliard said. “Just the character the kid has, I don’t think there’s a kid in this program that has more respect than he does.”

Hilliard then expanded on that thought.

“Last year he was unable to play, he was charting, doing everything he could to be an impactful guy and for him to end it the way he did and come up huge, not just today but the last couple of games, just tells you what kind of kid you’ve got with Jack Stead.”

Malvern Prep (28-6) has now won 10 PAISAA state titles, all since 2006. This is a program that has included an assembly line of great baseball players. On this year’s team, 14 players have made college baseball commitments, many to Division I schools.  

Sometimes, getting on the field is the biggest challenge.

On this day, Perkiomen School (15-3-1) played a lot like Stead, showing tremendous heart and making Malvern Prep sweat until senior Elon commit Trey Tiffan closed the door. Entering the game leading 6-4 with the bases loaded and two outs, Tiffan induced a game-ending flyout to right fielder Brady Abate and the celebration began.

Still, one had to admire the fact that entering the final inning, trailing 6-3, Perkiomen School scared the living daylights out of the champions.

“What has impressed me about our players all year long is that we continued to work games, not give up, we have been behind several times and have come back and won games,” veteran Perkiomen School coach Ken Baker said. “I think this group has felt very comfortable that they could come back, I wasn’t shocked at the last inning, a couple of changes and we could have been in business.”

Malvern senior SS Jack Stead and senior P Charlie Oschell talk about winning the PAISAA championship in their final high school game - PSD Video by Marc Narducci:

2023 PAISAA Highlights Malvern Prep vs. Perkiomen - PSD video by James Quinn

We’ll get to potential couple of changes in a moment, but Malvern Prep scored single runs in the first two innings on an RBI single by Abate, a freshman, playing beyond his years, and Stead’s RBI double. 

Perkiomen School took advantage of three Malvern Prep errors to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth, with the big hit an RBI single by Ryan Stubblefield. The Friars tied it 3-3 in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Andrew Pellicciotta.

Stead’s two-out, two-run single in the fifth gave the Friars a 5-3 lead. That would turn out to be his final high school at bat. Imagine finishing a career by lashing a game-winning hit in your final plate appearance.

“I was praying I would get a chance to bat, the guy before me (Jackson Simko) got hit by a pitch,” said Stead, who finished the season batting .293 with 16 RBI. “I just knew I was going to get a hit there, I got a pitch to hit, stayed lose, waited on it and just put it in play, doing my job.”

The lead increased to 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth when junior Jonathan Holt, a Notre Dame commit, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Malvern Prep senior righthander Charlie Oschell, who threw 95 pitches in 6 2/3 innings and earned the win in Tuesday’s 6-2 quarterfinal win over Episcopal Academy, was looking to pitch a complete game this time out.

Headed for the University of Virginia, Oschell departed in the seventh inning without getting an out. He allowed four runs, but just one was earned, while surrendering five hits and striking out three.

When C.C. Catania opened the seventh with a single and Erick Diaz walked, that ended Oschell’s day.

“That kid has lots and lots of heart,” Hilliard said of Oschell, who finished the season 5-1 with a 1.92 ERA. “We never asked him to come back on three days rest and go as deep as he went, but I think he’s the kind of kid that probably looked himself in the mirror and said ‘I’m going to put everybody on my back,’”

That is certainly the mindset that Oschell had.

Malvern Prep senior pitcher Charlie Oschell #15 - PSD Photo by James Quinn

“I was not tired,” said Oschell, who threw 82 pitches. “I was coming out here to win a state championship and that is all I had on my mind.”

Of course, Perkiomen had other thoughts.

Malvern reliever Cam Marcum came in and recorded a strikeout before allowing a base hit to Cesar Lopez. That is when all heck broke loose.

The single drove in the fourth run, with Catania scoring. The ball was bobbled by Pellicciotta in left field and Diaz, who was on first, looked to go to third. Pellicciotta after bobbling the ball, threw Diaz out at third for the second out.

Diaz and his manager Baker thought he was safe, suggesting that Holt, the third baseman, dropped the ball.

“I am pretty sure I got around the tag and then he dropped the ball,” Diaz said.

Not so, said Holt.

“I got him on the original tag,” Holt said.

Added Hilliard, “Johnny kept the tag on him, and the umpires were on top of it. He might have dropped it getting the ball off to throw back to the pitcher, but he was out to me.”

Either way, both teams would agree that it was a huge play. After a walk and hit batter loaded the bases, Tiffan ended matters by serving up a game-ending flyout.

And that ended another championship for Malvern Prep, fueled by Stead.

“He’s been through a lot of adversity this season,” Oschell said of Stead. “It is super cool to see him have such an awesome last couple of games and such an awesome last game here. The MVP goes to Jack Stead.”