Perkiomen's Levi Stoudt gets tangled up with the Chestnut Hill base runner as he tries to throw the ball to first base on a double play attempt in last Thursday's game at home against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
What started off a rather uneventful game of baseball slowly snowballed into a real nail-biter Thursday at the Perkiomen School.
And that’s what made the Panthers’ 13-12 loss all the more heartbreaking.
Perkiomen was already down 6-5 to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) in the top of the fifth inning when SCH first baseman Niamke Nelson hit his second home run of the game, netting the Blue Devils two more runs.
Until then, eighth-grader Josh Cruz, Perkiomen's youngest player, had managed to keep SCH from scoring any runs from the time he took the mound in the second inning. But he was getting tired and morale was low.
That’s when Coach Ken Baker headed out to the mound to have a talk with his team.
“When I went out in the fifth, it was to settle them down, take a deep breath and focus on the next play,” Baker said. “We had been able to score runs all game and I just reminded them of that.”
It certainly seemed to work. After Baker’s talk with the team, they quickly closed out the top of the fifth and moved into the bottom of the inning with renewed energy.
“It was like a big shift in the dugout. A lot of energy, everybody screaming, and the fans, we had a lot of support,” senior center fielder Joseph DeLosSantos said after the game.
A big fifth inning saw Esteban Martinez and Joseph Pena nail the ball deep into the outfield for doubles, each sending runners home to tie the game up. Juanki Sierra would get another big hit for the inning, bringing two more runners home.
“We slowed down our swings, focused, took more looks at pitches and basically picked our pitch and hit it if you liked it,” Sierra said.
But SCH came back with a fury in the sixth, answering with five runs of their own.
Things cooled down again until the bottom of the seventh. Perkiomen loaded the bases with a series of base hits and then scored on a base on balls.
With the pressure on and Perkiomen now only two runs behind, SCH Head Coach Chris Lubanski got in the umpire’s face over the call on the last ball. That’s when the SCH coaching staff decided to put senior right-hander Mike Hayes on the mound.
Hayes struck out his first batter before freshman Levi Stoudt nailed a clutch base hit to bring Perkiomen within a run of tying the game.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Hayes threw two more strikeouts to end the game.
“It’s one of those things where, you know, if this hurts a little bit, it’ll motivate,” Baker said after the game. He pointed to errors that held the team back early in the game as one of their major downfalls.
“We made too many mistakes, especially early in the game,” Baker said. “In the first two innings we gave outs, we gave freebies, I think we walked four guys and they jumped out with six runs in the first two. It makes it tough.”
Baker added that SCH is the number-three team in the Philadelphia area and, “well, you don’t give teams that are good that many chances.”
But he commended his players for never giving up, putting pressure on and mounting comebacks every time they fell behind, and for showing some strong hitting throughout the game.
For their part, the players were already looking ahead immediately after the game.
“After today, this is over. We just have to flush it, keep going,” DeLosSantos said, shrugging his shoulders as if to brush off the loss and move forward. “There’s a lot of baseball left.”
And he may be on to some-thing. The team improved to 4-2 after a 12-1 win at George School Saturday.
“This is just our beginning,” DeLosSantos said. “The whole city’s going to hear more about Perkiomen baseball because we’re going to make a big impact this year.”