Narberth 8, Wayne 3

Steve Furman’s homer doesn’t dent, but does help Narberth beat Wayne

By Bob Grotz, Delaware County Daily Times

POSTED: 06/27/17, 11:45 PM EDT 

Until Tuesday, the needlework adorning the back of the Narberth caps told the story of their last game on this field with Wayne.

Does “2016 Delco League Champions” ring a bell?

Just say player-manager Steve DeBarberie was in no danger of winning popularity contests with that well-deserved salute to Narberth’s first league title.

The way Narberth has played lately, including its impressive 8-3 win over Wayne Tuesday night, it’s time to start wondering about the encore.

The Mudcats (13-6-0) secured their fourth straight victory. They’ve won nine of their last 10 games and lead the Delco League with 39 points.

The sweetest stat is 5-0, which is Narberth’s record against the closest competition, defeating Wayne twice and Aston Valley three times. Those teams are tied for second on the circuit at 12-5-1 and 37 points.

“We’ve had a couple of tough losses,” DeBarberie said. “But we’ve been playing the top teams very well, and that’s a good sign.”

The Mudcats wasted no time making perennial Delco League powerhouse Wayne uncomfortable. Mike White made it 1-0 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the first inning off Tom Cockill. After DeBarberie reached on an error and Ryan Tecco walked, up came catcher Steve Furman, who sent a first-pitch fastball over the left field fence and between two SUVs parked on the street at least 315 feet away.

“I was excited it didn’t hit one of them because we had some trouble with a foul ball earlier on,” said Furman, who went 2-for-3. “As long as it got over the fence, I’m happy with that. He walked another guy to make it first and second so I knew he was going to come after me. So I tried to make him pay a little bit.”

Winning pitcher Ryan Haley, who has helped fill the void left by injured ace Greg Krug, found his groove right after Kevin McGowan’s RBI triple in the second inning made it 5-0 for the Mudcats.

“Our other pitchers have been stepping up and our offense has been slinging it,” DeBarberie said. “We’ve gotten good cushions early on in the game and our pitchers have pitched well with the lead, thrown strikes and gotten outs. This is Ryan Haley’s first year back in two years. He’s a good sinkerball pitcher and he got a lot of ground balls today which is great for this ballpark. I mean, if you get a fly ball pitcher here you can get in trouble. They can put a crooked number up very easily.”

Speaking of groundballs, Richie Tecco was a vacuum cleaner at shortstop.

Wayne didn’t go quietly. Jeffrey Manto’s RBI-double got them on the board in the fourth inning. Haley had retired nine straight batters before giving up a walk earlier in the inning.

Matt Shilling’s double on a perfectly executed hit-and-run pulled Wayne within 5-2 entering the bottom of the fifth inning.

DeBarberie’s RBI-triple keyed a three-run burst that broke the contest open.

Wayne’s last best opportunity to rebound was in the sixth inning.

“They have a good team,” manager Jim Vankoski said. “They got a good start, we didn’t. Baseball is such a funny game. They scored a couple of runs in the first inning on an error. We would have been out of the inning. Then we have bases loaded, a chance to score some runs and their pitcher throws a full-count breaking ball that fooled our hitter somewhat. But Narberth’s tough. A lot of teams in the league are tough. We just have to regroup and try to get to the finals against them again like last year when it went to the fifth game.”

The way the Mudcats are playing now, that’s easier said than done. Furman, fresh off his freshman year at Iona, was part of the Narberth team that made history. This edition has found its groove.

“This year we have a lot of college guys but we wouldn’t be able to do without the older presence of the veteran guys who have been there,” Furman said. “We have Steve DeBarberie, Randy Mallia and Brian Meagher to name a few. We have plenty of guys who have been there, done that and they’re kind of showing the younger guys how it works. And it’s been working out well. We’ve got most of our guys back. We’ve got a really strong squad and we’re hoping to be there again. We’ve been playing good ball. Everyone is hitting, the pitching’s been doing well. We’re on fire right now and hoping to keep it up for the home stretch.”

With half of a season to go, a lot can happen. Then again, the Mudcats know something about the journey to get there, having won the Delco League title on their home field last year against Wayne.

 

“Our college kids have really been stepping up,” DeBarberie said. “It’s a good mix this year. The last few years we’ve been getting kind of old. Our core was in the late 20s. Now, having some guys 19, 20, 21 years old to throw in the mix with our core, it feels like a team that can go all the way.”