The Braves' Erik Stalford slides into home plate safely as the Uwchlan Eagles' catcher waits for the ball during play in game two of a doubleheader Saturday at Upper Perk.
The Upper Perk Braves strengthened their position in the Twin County standings with a doubleheader sweep of the Uwchlan Eagles on Saturday, stomping the visitors 9-2 and 11-1.
The games were almost mirror images of each other as the Braves (8-3) broke out of some hitting doldrums with six-run first innings in each game, then rode stingy pitching and defense to victories.
In the opener, the first five Brave hitters got basehits to help stake starter Kacey Myers to a 6-0 lead. Myers, Matt Schneider and Grant Templeton took it from there, combining on a one-hitter. Myers did not allow a hit in his four innings of work, but after giving up two unearned runs he was relieved by Schneider who gave up a single to Matt Boorman leading off the fifth.
In the nightcap, Jake Breyer, backed by an errorless defense, cruised through a four-hitter on just 51 pitches when the game was ended by the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth. He retired the first nine hitters he faced until Boorman rolled a single up the middle leading off the fourth.
“I threw strikes, and my defense helped me out a lot," said Breyer, who had good command of a curveball he recently resurrected.
“I just started throwing that a couple of games ago again, because I hurt my arm a few years ago. It was working pretty good.”
Coach Perry Breyer got exactly what he was hoping for from his pitching and defense. “They came out and threw strikes and we made the plays and that’s all I ask them to do. We’re not looking to strike out a bunch of people,” he said after the games.
The Braves best offensive attributes were also displayed in the nightcap. After Levi Stoudt led off the bottom of the first with a walk, Upper Perk small-balled the Eagles into oblivion.
Josh Fell laid down a bunt and was safe when no one covered first. Jake Breyer put down another bunt and pitcher Eric Kelly threw the ball into right field scoring Stoudt and sending Fell to third. Erik Stalford plated Fell with a single to center and moved Breyer to second.
After Breyer advanced to third on a fly to right off the bat of Tommie Aaron, he and Stalford executed a double steal to make it 3-0. Stalford stole third while Templeton was drawing a walk, and then stole home when Templeton got in a deliberate rundown between first and second.
Later in the inning the lead ballooned to 6-0 on a two-run single by Stoudt.
All in all, the Braves sent 11 men to the plate, drew four walks, got three hits and stole four bases in five attempts.
“Trying to beat teams on the bases is our biggest goal, because we got nine people who can run the bases, and they’re very smart about it,” said Coach Breyer, who had put his team through a corrective hitting practice the night before the doubleheader. “We just got to get guys on in order to make that happen.”
RBI’s by Stalford and Aaron ended the game in the fifth.
Stalford, who is also playing Senior Legion for Post 184 this summer, had five hits in the doubleheader despite having to make adjustments for the pitching.
“The pitching is a lot faster and more complex at Post, so it is hard to go back and forth,” he said. “I need to stay back and wait for the pitch (in Junior Legion) and drive it.”
Coach Breyer appreciates his clean-up hitter. “Stalford’s a team leader. He’s the heartbeat of the team, at the plate, in the field, on the mound.”
With the league playoffs coming soon, expectations are running high for the Braves. “This group of boys, when they were 13 years old, won the state title (for Prep Junior Legion teams),” Coach Breyer noted.
“Hopefully, we’ll be playing late into July and maybe August.”