SLA Baseball Improves to 2-0 with 16-5 Win Over Gratz

Weirdness marked the beginning of today's game between SLA and Simon Gratz. There wasn't a field at the address listed for Gratz. Once the closest one was found, eyes fell upon an infield as hard as rock and completely devoid of anything remotely resembling grass. Gratz showed up shortly after SLA arrived and their coach Zip informed that someone stole the rubber from the mound. Moments later an umpire who thought Gratz was Strawberry Mansion realized that he was at the wrong slab of concrete a.k.a. baseball field, but couldn't leave because he unfortunately was stranded with a flat tire, didn't have a spare or a jack, and it's questionable as to whether Strawberry played today as a result.

Given the bizarre start to the day, SLA squared off against Gratz in what turned into a classic tit-for-tat grudge match. SLA scratched out three runs in the first off of timely hitting and heads-up base running, but Gratz responded with two of their own against Jeff Schwartz, who got the start after an impressive relief appearance against Comm Tech. When Gratz's pitcher, Lopez, ripped a double and stole third it seemed as if they would tie it up and potentially take the lead, but Schwartz induced their six-hitter to pop up and strand the runner.

Schwartz and Lopez squared off and held their respective opponents scoreless in the second, and each gave up solitary runs in the third to keep it tight. SLA put Brandon Williams, who started against Comm Tech, back out to face the top of the order in the fourth after they had extended the lead to 6-3 on back-to-back run-scoring singles by Schwartz and John Desalis. The second half of the inning proved to be the most tense of the match as Williams maintained SLA's lead when Ian McClendon turned an unassisted double play, and Desalis threw out Gratz's lead off hitter trying to steal third.

Heading into the fifth it seemed that this contest would go the distance, and the only thing that seemed certain was the game would turn on the last team to score a single run. However, Gratz's coach decided to stay with Lopez for a fifth inning and SLA made him pay for the gamble. Jhonas Dunakin, who came in to play second after Williams took the mound, ripped a shot into the gap for a strong single, which was followed by Ethan Reese's single, and both came home minutes later when Anthony Seeley's lengthy at bat ended with a shot up the middle. Marshall Johnston crushed the next pitch into left center and Seeley ended up on third. Ian McClendon, who had been a standout star against Comm Tech, erased his early struggles at the plate by crushing a ball over the left fielder's head. By the time the relay had reached the infield, McClendon had already crossed home for SLA's first home run and McClendon's 5th,6th and 7th RBIs of the young season.

Suddenly a nail-biter had transformed into a blow out. Gratz couldn't stop the bleeding as SLA extended their 11-5 lead on consecutive singles by Schwartz, Desalis, Williams, Dunakin, Reese and Seeley, which bumped it up to 14-5. For Gratz, the unthinkable was unfolding as McClendon, who cracked the 3-run homer in the very same inning, came up with the bases loaded. After falling behind in the count Lopez floated one high in the zone and McClendon sent it up the middle and added two more to his 5RBI total for the inning. Schwartz popped up to end the inning and place SLA just three outs away from a win by account of the 10-run rule.

Williams took the mound to lock it down by keeping Gratz from scoring more than one run to earn the most unlikeliest of saves. Gratz's hottest hitter ripped a grounder to the left side just past Seeley, but McClendon backed him up and made a perfect throw to catch him by a step. Williams struck out the next batter and was one out away from a 1-2-3 inning and SLA's second win in two tries. After a feisty at bat, Williams induced a weak grounder to second that Ethan Reese easily tossed to TJ Nicolella for the final out.

Sandwiched somewhere in between the initial weirdness of concrete infields, missing pitching rubbers, absent-minded umpires with flat tires and a final inning that resembled a a football game, was a tremendously exciting and competitive game of baseball between two teams that most definitely wish they would face off again before the season ends. With an impressive win SLA goes to 2-0 on the season, while Gratz falls in their first contest of 2011. SLA's next game is away on Thursday vs. host Delaware Valley Charter.

TEAMS:  1  2 3 4  5    R    H  E
SLA         3  0 1 2 10    16 14  2
Gratz       2  0 1 2  0      5   5  1

SLA                                 IP   K BB H R ER
Schwartz, Jeff  WP (2-0)    3   4    3  2 3  2
Williams, Brandon SV (1)   2   2    2  2 2  1

GRATZ                            IP   K BB H  R  ER
Peialla, P  LP (0-1)           4.1  9   7  12 16 13      
Brown, B                        0.2  1   3    2   0  0                          

McClendon, Ian   2-5, 3HR(1), 5RBI, 3R
Seeley, Anthony  2-3, 3RBI, 2R, 2BB, 3SB
Desalis, John      2-2, 2RBI, 1R, 2BB, 5SB
Schwartz, Jeff     4-5, 2RBI, 4R, 6SB