WEST NORRITON — For the first six innings on Monday, Plymouth Whitemarsh struggled at the plate and on the mound. In fact, it was thanks largely to their defense that the Colonials clung to a 4-2 lead over Norristown heading into the last inning.
Then, the floodgates opened.
In the top of the seventh, PW's offense exploded, scoring eight runs on eight hits while sending 12 men to the plate and after retiring host Norristown in order in the bottom half of the frame, the visitors hopped back on their bus to Whitemarsh with a 12-2 league win that was much more hard-earned than the score reflected.
"We labored big time,' said Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Chris Manero. "I thought we had a few chances to come up with big hits and we couldn't quite get that done.
"The pitchers walked too many guys and we didn't have enough big hits early.'
Despite plating a pair of runs in the first inning, the Colonials offensive struggles were evident. The first four batters of the game reached base before PW starting pitcher Zach Metz grounded into a bizarre 6-4-3-1-6 double play that saw the runner at second be called safe initially before wandering off the base thinking he, not Metz, had been called out on the play.
Again in the second and third innings, the Colonials plated some runs but still missed opportunities to blow the game wide open by leaving runners in scoring position.
And the Eagles did all they could to make PW rue those stranded runners, scoring runs in the first and third inning and getting the go-ahead run on base in the fourth before Colonials catcher Brett Highland picked Norristown's lead runner off at third to escape the jam and keep the score at 4-2.
"When (reliever) Connor (Kissane) came in, we planned it out,' said Highland, who also reached base twice, stole a base and scored a run in the game. "(Third baseman) Dutch (Reardon) blocked the base and put on a good tag and we got him.'
"It was big, momentum-wise, for us. It's good that our guys are aware, that they're not just thinking about the pitch but are thinking about the pitching and what's going to happen after,' said Manero.
Highlander's play was not the only time that PW's defense kept runs off the board, either. In the bottom of the first, center fielder Connor Purdy threw out a runner at the plate to end a Norristown threat and in the fifth, right fielder Will Kane made a catch deep in the right-center alley before throwing a strike back to first to double off the runner, again helping the Colonials escape a jam.
"Defensively, we bailed ourselves out a few times,' said Manero. "There were some times that we really helped ourselves defensively.'
While the Colonials may look at those web gems as plays that helped them keep the lead and the momentum, first-year Norristown coach Rich Campbell said Monday's loss was another example of missed opportunities and mental mistakes that have been a recurring theme for his team this season.
"We didn't take advantage of our opportunities,' said Campbell. "When we had opportunities with leadoff runners on, we didn't move them. We took key strikeouts. We had a bases-loaded situation with two outs and a runner gets picked off.
"It's mental mistakes. It's nothing that we haven't gone over but we're in a situation where we're not correcting it.'
Although the final score ended up incredibly lopsided, Norristown starter Andy Fauce did his best keeping his team in the game by pounding the strike zone and inducing weak contact.
"We got a great start from our pitcher Andy Faunce. He was putting balls in places where our fielders were able to field them,' said Campbell. "He was pitching to contact and he kept his pitch count low enough that we were able to get him into the seventh when our starters have been struggling to get through five and into the sixth.'
Both teams will play again on Wednesday afternoon with the Colonials looking to continue their winning ways against visiting Upper Dublin while the Eagles will try to bounce back against Wissahickon.