POTTSTOWN- Baseball games on the first day of the season often turn out to be quite an adventure, filled with poor pitching and bad fielding ... especially when neither team has had much of a chance to practice outdoors.
But Friday afternoon's contest between Pottstown and Great Valley at Shantz Field was an exception to the rule. Both teams displayed strong pitching and good defense on an infield that still had its rough spots as Great Valley edged the Trojans, 2-1.
"I'm pleased with the way our pitchers handled themselves,' said Pottstown coach Jeff Evans, who got a combined three-hitter from three hurlers with three walks and seven strikeouts while the defense committed no errors. "I'm pleased with the way we played defense. We made some decent plays in the field.'
Great Valley threatened in the first on a hit batter and a passed ball with nobody out. But the Trojans got out of that trouble when the next batter was thrown out at first after a dropped third strike and first baseman Tyler Gebhart fired across the diamond to Ty Wolfel, who put the tag on the runner who was trying to advance to third on the play.
The Trojans scored in their half on an error on a dribbler back to the mound, a groundout, and a grounder that went through the second baseman.
Then Wolfel singled to right to lead off the second and advanced on a sacrifice by Gebhart and Mason Pennypacker walked with two away. But Patriot starter Colin Duclos fanned the next batter and that hit by Wolfel turned out to be the only one of the day for the hosts.
Great Valley tied the score in the third on a double steal with two out as Nicklas took off toward second and drew a throw, allowing Carter Rubin to race across the plate from third. Then the visitors notched the game-winner in the fourth on a single by Allen Barry, a walk, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly to right by Joe Leonetti.
Nicklas shut down the Trojans on just a walk in the third, fourth, and fifth frames and Barry came on to record a 1-2-3 sixth. Still, Pottstown had a chance to tie when Aiden Owens was hit by a pitch leading off the seventh.
But the Patriots brought second baseman Tom Allen in close to guard against a bunt and he fielded one that was put down by Tim Renninger with two strikes. Allen's long throw to second was off the mark, but Nicklas — now back at his starting shortstop position — managed to stretch and hold the bag for the out. A pop to short and the Trojans' ninth strikeout ended the game.
"We struggled at the plate,' said Evans. "We struck out too much. Their shortstop made a heck of a play on that bunt. Our guy did a nice job of getting the bunt down.'
Great Valley coach Matt Schultz, whose team went 13-8 last season, was happy his team had a chance to play outside ... and also pleased to pick up a win in a well-played contest.
"It's nice to be outside,' he said. "To get outside and get a win ... that's great. The pitching was great on both sides. The fielding was pretty good. It's always exciting to see what they're going to do.'
Despite the loss, it was also a good day for the Trojans, who return just one player from last year's 13-9 team that won a first-round district game.
"We had nobody on the field with varsity experience,' added Evans. "We've been working out hard. This was the first day we've been out on dirt. We just have to get the bats going.'
Jordan Mullen started and pitched into the fourth and took the loss for the Trojans, Gebhart came on and retired all seven batters he faced, and Renninger allowed only a walk in the seventh. ... Third baseman Wolfel made two good plays on bunts in the third before Nicklaus was hit by a pitch with two away and the Patriots tied the score on the double steal. ... The two Great Valley errors in the first were the only miscues by either side. ... Mason Pennypacker drew the only two walks issued by the visiting staff. ... The Trojans will open their Pioneer Athletic Conference schedule on Monday with a home game against Owen J. Roberts.