Baseball Notebook: Vol. 4

By Scott Huff 

Success and failure in scholastic sports is too often defined by wins and losses.
SOL National Conference
Bensalem (0-4 overall, 0-3 conference) has not been competitive on the scoreboard all season. The Owls have been outscored 52-6 over the course of the season, but head coach Rick Lee is optimistic about the remainder of the season.
“I coach a great bunch of kids, and we’re going to turn it around,” said Lee. “They show up for practice every day and give me everything they have on the field.
“One of our biggest problems is that we can’t get on our field because it doesn’t drain very well,” continued Lee. “Everyone – including the kids – works hard on the field to get it ready. But it seems like we can’t get back-to-back practices in.
“I want these kids the play the game the right way,” added Lee. “That was one of the reasons that I came back this year as head coach.”
Lee was an assistant coach from 1977-1982 for the Owls and became head coach from 1983-1987. After some time off, Lee returned as assistant coach from 1993-2005. And he is back as the head coach this season.
“I took some time off to watch my son play soccer,” said Lee who teaches physical education at Bensalem. “It was a great experience for both of us.”
Experience is something that Lee doesn’t have a whole lot of this season. Bensalem returns just four players that had any varsity experience.
“We are very young in terms of varsity playing experience,” said Lee. “We have only four kids that saw any varsity time last year.”
That quartet includes senior Mike Cahill – a three year starter at second base. Also back are sophomore shortstop Brett Cohn, senior outfielder Vince Doran, and senior catcher Sean Lerman.
“We lost Dallas Krum to a foot injury for the season,” said Lee. “And that hasn’t helped.
“I’m 58 years old and still play in a Sunday league,” added Lee. “You can always play this game and have some fun.”
Win or lose.
          SOL National Conference Standings
1.      Council Rock North Indians (3-0)
2.      Council Rock South Golden Hawks (3-0)
3.      Pennsbury Falcons (2-1)
4.      Abington Ghosts (1-2)
5.      Neshaminy Redskins (1-2)
6.      Truman Tigers (1-2)
7.      William Tennent Panthers (1-2)
8.      Bensalem Owls (0-3)
SOL American Conference
Upper Merion (4-1, 2-1) has started the season in fine fashion, and the Vikings are contenders for the conference title.
“Right now we have very high expectations,” said Upper Merion head coach Jason Darnell. “We have shown we are able to put the bat on the ball, and we are very deep in pitching.
“We might not have a pure cleanup hitter, we really don’t have a lot of power hitters,” added Darnell. “But we hit a lot of line drives, and we can drive the ball into the gap.”
Upper Merion is batting over .300 as a team so far this season. And among the Vikings victories was a 15-13 win over Central Bucks South.
“We have a great leadoff hitter in James O’Toole,” said Darnell of his senior catcher who has a .444 batting average. “He is a left handed batter with good wheels”
Some of the other strong Viking hitters are junior Greg McCuch, senior Chris Baker, junior Matt Shannon, and senior Pat McCaughey.
McCaughey delivered the game-winning hit in the Vikings huge 7-5 win over Plymouth Whitemarsh. McCaughey’s blow came in a pinch-hitting role.
The mainstay of the Upper Merion pitching staff is Baker. So far this season, Baker is 3-0 with wins over Cheltenham, PW, and Pottstown. 
“Chris has good velocity and can be very deceptive,” said Darnell as Baker has posted a 2.19 earned run average. “And he throws a great little curve and slider.”
McCuch is the # 2 and has a “wicked curve” to go along with a fastball, while junior Ben Dworecki rounds out the top of the staff.
“We have a big game this week with Upper Moreland,” said Darnell. “They are the only other 3A school in the conference, and that comes into play around districts.
“We were supposed to play them last week, but the game was ‘muddied’ out,” added Darnell. “We got to the field and there was standing water and the field was unplayable.
“So we will have a Business Person’s Special on Monday (4/13) at 1 o’clock since both schools are off,” continued Darnell. “Upper Moreland will most likely pitch (Steve) Sawa and he can be a handful.”
SOL American Standings
1.      Norristown Eagles (3-1)
2.      Wissahickon Trojans (3-1)
3.      Upper Merion Vikings (2-1)
4.      Upper Moreland Golden Bears (2-1)
5.      Cheltenham Panthers (2-2)
6.      Upper Dublin Flying Cardinals (1-1)
7.      Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials (0-2)
8.      Springfield Spartans (0-4)
SOL Continental Conference
Hatboro-Horsham (5-1, 2-1) came up with a pair of huge conference wins last week when the Hatters edged both North Penn in nine innings, 2-1, and Central Bucks East, 9-7.
“One game we had the pitching pick up the offense, and in the other game the offense picked up the pitching,” said Hatboro-Horsham head coach Pete Moore. “Like I have said before, there is a lot of quality talent in this league. There are no days off.”
The most impressive win of the season had to be the one run win over highly regarded North Penn. The Hatters used strong pitching and clutch hitting to claim the win.
Hatboro-Horsham starter Matt Hollenbeck threw five excellent innings and allowed a single run, while winner Matt Schoettle shut out the Knights over the final four innings.
“Both did a great job of keeping a great hitting team off the scoreboard,” said Moore. “We are fortunate that we have pitching depth, and we have worked hard to get them ready at the beginning of the season.
“One thing I have found out about coaching high school baseball is that a win at the beginning of the season is just as important as one at the end of the season,” added Moore.   “All of our pitchers have been ready to pitch before we played our first game.”
The Hatter bats also came up with a pair of clutch hits in the win over North Penn.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the Hatters down 1-0, senior Vince Paone delivered a critical one-out RBI single to send the game into extra innings.
And in the bottom of the ninth, it was Mike Spahits who wore the hero’s crown with an RBI single that put the game in the win column for the Hatters.
The big hit in the win over East came off the bat Nick Vitelli. Vitelli crushed a grand slam homerun in the sixth inning to turn a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 lead.
“Nick has been a tremendous clutch hitter all season,” said Moore. “Those kids that hit in the clutch make the difference between a win and a loss.”
SOL Continental Standings
1.      Pennridge Rams (3-0)
2.      North Penn Knights (3-1)
3.      Hatboro-Horsham Hatters (2-1)
4.      Souderton Indians (2-2)
5.      Central Bucks South Titans (1-1)
6.      Central Bucks East Patriots (1-2)
7.      Quakertown Panthers (0-2)
8.      Central Bucks West Bucks (0-3)
      Suburban One Sports Baker’s Dozen
1.      Council Rock South Golden Hawks
2.      Hatboro-Horsham Hatters
3.      North Penn Knights
4.      Council Rock North Indians
5.      Pennridge Rams
6.      Wissahickon Trojans
7.      Pennsbury Falcons
8.      Souderton Indians
9.      Norristown Eagles
10.                     Upper Merion Vikings
11.                     Central Bucks South Titans
12.                     Central Bucks East Patriots
    + 1 Neshaminy Redskins