It has been consistently overheard that "The Pub" is a joke. People in and around the sport, especially the Old Heads, question why a player with talent would bother playing for a program in the Public League. They claim it simply isn't what it used to be, and if a player wants to develop they need to go anywhere but a public school.
Although he's not old, Tim Gunn (Head Coach of Germantown Friends) could be considered an Old Head by this point. The S. Philly native had an illustrious career as a Top Ten power hitter for St. Joe's, a legitimate crack at the Pros and coached a Championship team in the American Legion World Series, a 5,400 team national tourney. Suffice (it) to say, Gunner knows this game. And now he also knows that "The Pub" has some teams worth paying attention to.
The day after last season ended with SLA reaching the City Final Four, Tim invited SLA to a friendly vs GFS. He also helped out as a hitting coach for The Rockets over the winter, so he was definitely not a stranger to the potential this group had. He'd heard a lot of buzz about SLA so far this season, but the friendly was the first time he had seen them play a game. He threw his ace at the Rockets, and immediately knew he had a real game on his hands when Tony Brown smoked a triple to the opposite field to lead off the game. It would be the first of two "oppo tacos" for Brown who went a perfect 5-5 on the day with 2 Triples, a Double, 2 RBIs and 3 Runs scored.
Ijustice Avery scored Tony on a sacrifice to give SLA an early 1-0 lead, but then disaster struck. Leon Finney doesn't like the cold much less the rain, but both dominated the day. GFS was patient and Finney couldn't find his normal groove, which normally hold his opponents scoreless and only yields a few scattered hits. But by the end of the 1st GFS had scored 5 runs on just one hit, and it seemed that the Old Heads knew what they were talking about.
And yet, there was a flash of something great about to unfold. Finney worked through it and struck out the last two batters, both top of the order hitters. SLA then quickly communicated they would not go down quietly. This wasn't the first time this team had been down early on in a game against a dangerous opponent. Last year they were down by the exact same score to #1 Frankford, but came back to steal that one 6-5 in a thriller of an elimination playoff game.
A walk, a hit batter and a near-perfect sacrifice bunt by Jason Greene put two runners in scoring position just in time for Tony Brown's 2nd opposite field blast to make it 5-3. He'd score moments later on a hard single by Kevin Courtney to quickly erase the hole and make it a 1-run game. Finney was sharp in the next two frames, and a beautiful strike out-throw out combo at 3rd by Finney, Avi Cantor and Ben Simon ended a scoreless 3rd.
SLA tied it up at 5 in the 4th when Kevin Courtney turned on the first pitch he saw. But a walk, stolen base and a throwing error allowed GFS to take the lead back in the bottom half. For just a millisecond the energy swayed toward GFS. Meanwhile, The Rocket was ready to open it up. As was the case in that now infamous upset of Frankford, it was Lukas Supovitz-Aznar who got this come back started by blasting a lead off Double to center. Aznar would score to tie it at 6 after a productive out and a fielder's choice. Ben Simon who reached on that FC, would also score on a Sacrifice by Aaron Watson-Sharer to give SLA a 7-6 lead.
Lukas had come in to relieve Finney in the 4th, and held GFS at bay for 3 innings while SLA's bats did some more talking. Two insurance runs came across in the 6th after Tony Brown roped his 2nd Triple of the game down the left field line. Ijustice Avery plated him with a monster 350ft shot to dead center that would have been a Home Run in any park with a wall and Lukas would score another with a shot past Short to make it 9-6. They threatened to score two more in the 7th, but a shot by Leon Finney was caught in deep Right field. "Stop hitting the ball" was whispered by a GFS player as Tony Brown came off the bases. Meanwhile, the same could be said to Freshman Kristian Ramos, who is showing signs of the future Rocket by smacking a would-be Double almost exactly where Brown launched his 2nd Triple.
In another Frankford deja vu moment, Ben Simon came in and closed the door on a dead silent GFS bench. After their Catcher couldn't keep up with Simon's fastball and struck out to end the game, Tim and his Asst Coach immediately acknowledged how impressed they were. Both had worked with SLA over the winter, but seeing them come together and work past that first inning was something special. No bad blood between these two teams, just some solidified respect and tangible evidence that the Old Heads don't always know what they're talking about.
Next Up: SLA hosts Fels (Mon, 5/2). 1st Pitch 315pm