Thanks in part to a two-hit shutout by junior Jeff Taylor, the Comets were able to defeat Lampeter-Strasburg, 5-0 in a section crossover game on Monday, April 25, 2016. Video by John Buffone.
MILLERSVILLE — Watch Jeff Taylor pitch and it’s easy to see how hitters dug in at the plate can be fooled when the Penn Manor lefty slips into his comfortable windup delivery after delivery after delivery.
And hitters aren’t just surprised when something packing plenty of velocity hustles up to the plate — and they can’t catch up to it.
Actually, a lot of times they’re simply overwhelmed.
Yet the same thing happens even if the 6-1, 185-pounder uncorks an off-speed pitch when a hitter is looking for something hard.
No wonder heads shake repeatedly.
Well, Taylor had everything working yet again Monday afternoon in a Lancaster-Lebanon League crossover at sunny Comet Field, as the Penn Manor junior fired a two-hit shutout in an impressive 5-0 conquest of Lampeter-Strasburg.
“It’s the first time we’ve beaten them in probably five or six years,” Zander said. “They’ve had our number here of late, so we preach to them how important this game was. And we’ll just use that as a building block to move forward.”
Taylor walked one and fanned nine for Jim Zander’s streaking Comets (12-1, 9-1) — Taylor retired 12 straight batters during one stretch — who toppled their seventh consecutive victim while maintaining a share of the L-L 1 lead.
“It was really nice to get ahead, that was the big thing. I settled in for the whole game,” Taylor said. “Getting ahead [of hitters]. Trying to pitch to contact and if I get them to miss, it’s nice to be deep in the count and finish them off.”
Penn Manor also picked up two hits apiece from Collin Whiteside and Jacob Herr.
Starter Kris Pirozzi suffered the loss for Keith Martin’s struggling Pioneers (5-9, 3-7), who dropped their fourth game in a row.
Facing the remarkably consistent Taylor is one thing, but having to play uphill throughout after falling behind adds miles to the degree of difficulty.
Might just add as many miles to Taylor’s formidable heater.
“He just does it over and over,” Zander said. “You just get used to it. He’s so in control. I’ve coached quite a few good ballplayers and he’s so in control, I’ve never seen anybody like that. No worries. You don’t know if he’s winning or he’s losing. His demeanor never changes. And he just goes about his business.
“And he wants the ball when it’s his turn.”
Able to load the bases quickly in the home half of the first when Nate Brown and Whiteside sandwiched infield singles around a Taylor walk, the Comets staked their ace to a 1-0 lead when Brown raced home on a double-play grounder.
Although Taylor encountered some resistance in the top of the second when Colin Eckman singled to right and Luke Weigel walked, consecutive punchouts had the Penn State verbal back in control. And when catcher Eric Snyder nailed Eckman trying to swipe third, the Comets were out of trouble altogether.
“I have full trust in our whole field,” said Taylor, who admitted he’s modeled his game after former Phillies lefty Cole Hamels — even down to the hair sticking out from under the back of his lid. “We played a clean game for the most part.
“If I get in a jam, I know I have good defense behind me and I want to pitch to contact to keep my pitch count down and get batters out.”
A few minutes later, Penn Manor’s lead grew to 3-0 when Herr and Dan Wolf smacked run-scoring singles to right center. Perfectly timed production from the last two hitters in the Comets’ balanced batting order.
“The bottom of the order picking up some timely hits like that is a real key to our success,” Zander admitted.
Promptly slipping into cruise control, Taylor didn’t need any more.
“It was really nice today that I was getting my changeup over, which really mixed up the speeds.” Taylor said. “If I can get my changeup, slider and fastball over for a strike, it can really throw batters off and they don’t know what to expect.”
Nonetheless, Zander’s Comets tacked on two more markers in the fifth when Grant Gale raced home on an error and reliever Alec Gordley balked in run No. 2.
“It’s still a breather and it lets you relax a little bit more, but it’s still the same approach to every batter,” Taylor said. “Get out in front and try to finish them off.”
L-S threatened again in the top of the sixth inning when Andrew Hay reached on a one-out error and Pirozzi followed with a single. Hay, however, was gunned down at third for the second out when a charging Gale unleashed a strong throw from right.
Taylor took care of the threat by fanning Connor Brown.
“He’s fun to coach,” Zander said. “Those are the kind of kids you just enjoy being around.”
One inning later, the Comets were celebrating yet another success when Taylor retired Weigel on a bouncer to second to wrap up his 93-pitch gem.
Not to mention Penn Manor’s seventh consecutive victory.
“That’s what you need to go on streaks,” Zander said. “You need to top to bottom, guys contributing and timely hitting. … The kids have done a pretty good job of that. We have put the ball in play pretty well all year long.
“If you put the ball in play, teams might make a mistake. There’s a lot of things that can happen if you just get the ball in play.”
Especially when you’ve got a dominant lefty dealing from the slab.
“We’re holding our own destiny and we know what we have to finish off,” Taylor said. “And we have full trust in everybody on this team, so we’ll be all right.”
Penn Manor 5, Lampeter-Strasburg 0
L-S 000 000 0 — 0-2-1
Penn Manor 120 020 x — 5-8-1
Kris Pirozzi, Alec Gordley (5), Ioanni Kovack (6) and Luke Weigel. Jeff Taylor and Eric Snyder. W-Taylor. L-Pirozzi.