MIDDLETOWN — The last time Garnet Valley and Penncrest met, the Lions’ Rob Brown took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

In the rematch Friday, with the inside line at the Central League title at stake, Brown’s day was much briefer.

The visiting Jaguars roughed up Brown and the Penncrest staff, with the first five batters sent to the plate getting hits and the Jags tapping out 17 base knocks overall en route to a 14-3 thrashing.

The win by Garnet Valley (9-3, 8-3) introduces a fair amount of chaos into the hunt for a Central League title. Penncrest (11-4, 9-3), which had beaten Harriton earlier in the week to saddle the Rams with a third league loss, could’ve gained a stranglehold on the league with four games to play. But their loss opens the door to a litany of contenders. At the end of play Friday, five teams, including Strath Haven and Conestoga, all have three losses in the Central League.

Garnet Valley made sure it stayed in the conversation courtesy of its bats. Before Penncrest stepped to the plate, the score was 3-0. Garnet Valley scored runs against three of Penncrest’s four pitchers, chasing Brown from the hill in the fifth.

 Leading the hit parade was Jeff Shanfeldt. The catcher went 4-for-4 with a walk, scoring four times and driving in three. His two-run single in the sixth-run seventh was an apropos punctuation on a dominant performance.

The bulk of the damage was done by Garnet Valley’s first four hitters in what coach Rudy Shiller called his team’s most complete performance of the game. Combined, the top four of Andrew Bechtold, Steve Palis, Shanfeldt and Chance Malek went 8-for-13 with 10 runs scored and seven driven in. Fifth-place hitter Ben Faso added three runs and three RBIs.

“I think we’re on the road today, so we really wanted to get out to a hot start,” Faso said.
Garnet Valley’s Andrew Bechtold, left, reaches but can’t get the throw to catch Nate Sides stealing second base.
Garnet Valley's Andrew Bechtold, left, reaches but can't get the throw to catch Nate Sides stealing second base. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)
“If we could’ve gotten out to a big lead to start off, we’d have had control of the game the whole day. … It all kind of water falls into each other. One guy gets a hit, the next guy gets a hit. The key is getting it started.”

The key for the Jaguars was not letting the quick-working lefty Brown get into a rhythm on the bump. Usually a power pitcher, he was pulled after Faso’s RBI single with one out in the fifth with just two strikeouts.

“I saw everybody in school, and whoever I saw, I just told them to make sure they slow him down today,” Shanfeldt said. “He likes to work really fast and we needed to make this game ours. Last game, we had a lot of guys up there hacking when they were not ready, so the biggest thing against him today was to take our time and hit the straight pitch.”

The early run support was enough for Malek, who battled through four innings on the hill. He allowed just two hits and two runs (one earned) in four frames. After 88 pitches, he gave way to Nick Bulisky, who worked three relatively drama-free innings to see out the win.

“It’s just more a matter of finally locating the curveball,” Malek said. “I couldn’t really get it low in the zone. I threw like 90 percent fastballs because they weren’t really hitting the fastballs, so I was just locating that and trying to throw as hard as I could to overpower them.”

The Garnet Valley offense was the story from the first pitch, one that Bechtold lined to the left-center field gap for a double. Palis plated Bechtold with a single, Shanfeldt followed with a single, and Malek’s single brought Palis around. After a Faso single, Shanfeldt scampered home on Joey Sweeney’s double play.

Not only was the offense a marked improvement over their track record against Brown, who had won his last four starts, but none of the hits in the first inning were cheap. Even the outs, including a diving catch by Ron DiMatteo on a sinking Troy Everly liner to end the first, were loud.

That helped furnish the confidence that the Jaguars had enough to earn a win.
Penncrest center fielder Ron DiMatteo makes a diving lunge to catch the ball for an out during game with Garnet Valley.
Penncrest center fielder Ron DiMatteo makes a diving lunge to catch the ball for an out during game with Garnet Valley. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)
 

“They came ready to play,” DiMatteo said. “They were hitting the ball right off the bat, right from the start. We didn’t come ready to play.”

Garnet Valley tacked on two in the third when Sweeney dunked in a liner down the right-field line. A bases-loaded walk by Shanfeldt in the sixth followed by a Malek sac fly made it 8-2 before the Jags unloaded in the seventh, plating six, fueled by Shanfeldt’s two-run single and Faso’s two-run double to the wall in center.

The Penncrest bats, meanwhile, never quite got in gear. DiMatteo capped a two-out rally in the first with an RBI single that scored Nate Sides, who scored in the fifth after he reached on an error and was brought home by Pete Muavero’s single.

Muavero singled home DiMatteo in the sixth, cutting the deficit at the time to 8-3 and threatening some late drama. But Bulisky struck out the side in the seventh to alleviate all hint of a comeback.

Also in the Central League:

Strath Haven 11, Marple Newtown 4: Ashton Raines threw six quality innings, and Nate Engleka and James Kanter each had three hits for the Panthers, who move to 9-3 in the Central League.

Mike White, Seth Bower and Eric Tannenbaum each doubled and collected two hits for Marple Newtown.

Radnor 18, Lower Merion 11: Mike Lanzone reached base six times, scored four runs and drove in three as Radnor (9-6, 8-4) survived a pitchers’ duel with a seven-run outburst in the seventh inning.

Josh Katz went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, Pat McDermott drove in four runs including a three-run double in the seventh inning and Garrett McGurl survived to get the win for the Raiders.

Ridley 13, Haverford 3: Jim Pisani went 4-for-4, Dave DiMeglio tripled twice and drove in two runs and Pat O’Neill got the win for Ridley.

Tom Leonard tripled and drove in three for Haverford.

In the Del Val League:

Chichester 12, Chester 2: Ryan Janvier hurled a complete game, giving up six hits and striking out 10. Brian Baldwin went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Christian Sims had two hits and two RBIs for Chi (9-3, 9-1).

Ty Johnson doubled for Chester, which led 1-0 after three innings.

 In nonleague action:

Perkiomen School 4, Episcopal Academy 3: Kyle Virbitsky and AJ Lotsis drove in runs for the Churchmen (7-12), but it wasn’t enough as Perkiomen School scored in the seventh to earn the win.