Aston Valley 7, Wayne 2

Wilmington kids keep Aston on winning path in Delco League


from the daily times POSTED: 

Sam Farnell is only 27, yet when he looks around the Aston Valley dugout he suddenly feels old.

There’s second baseman Max Carney, who just completed his redshirt sophomore season at Wilmington University. Outfielder Julian Kurych, first baseman Kendall Small, catcher-pitcher Frank Nigro and shortstop Dan Hyatt just finished their sophomore years with the Wildcats. Catcher-outfielder Nick Macey will be a senior at Wilmington.

Carney has been with the Knights for several years. The rest are all Delco League rookies.

“It’s a little weird,” Farnell said. “I’m not the young guy anymore.”

Farnell was the young guy when he joined the Knights nine years ago. Now he’s one of the veterans on a team that became decidedly younger with an influx of college-age talent during the offseason.

Kurych, Small, Nigro, Macey and Hyatt are among the eight players from Wilmington University who have given the Knights an infusion of youth.

Yet, while many of the faces have changed, the results have not. The Knights are still one of the premier franchises in the Delco League, as they proved during the regular season and are showing again in the playoffs.

The Knights finished second to defending champion Narberth during the regular season and are one win away from a berth in the league championship series following Tuesday night’s 7-2 win over Wayne at Villanova Stadium.

The victory gave Aston Valley a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series, which continues Wednesday evening with Game 4 back in Plymouth Township.

“It’s new blood and they all play together (in college) so it adds to the chemistry,” Aston Valley manager Marc Spero said. “They came in with the right attitude, the right spirit, the right heart and play the right way, so that’s good.”

The kids were all right Tuesday night as Aston Valley jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back.

Nigro went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and got the final three outs to lock down the victory. Hyatt had five assists, two putouts and scored a run. Small also scored once. Kurych had a hit. Max Carney isn’t a newcomer. He’s been around for a few years, but he was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI.

And then there was starting pitcher Pat Graham, who is in his second season with the Knights. He threw six solid innings before running out of gas in the seventh inning. He allowed three hits, two earned runs and kept Wayne off balance with a nasty changeup.

“We didn’t adjust to him in the first three innings,” Wayne skipper Brian Fili said. “We finally let him pitch a little bit and he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to throw the ball by you, but he had his changeup and the soft stuff away and guys were rolling over it. We just adjusted too late. We had way better at-bats later in the game because we made him pitch a little bit.”

Wayne was down 6-0 by the time it made those adjustments. While the newcomers were key to the victory, it was the veterans like Farnell and Rob Caruso that helped the Knights jump out to that early lead.

Farnell ripped an RBI double down the left-field line to ignite a three-run uprising in the top of the first inning. He added a sacrifice fly in the second inning to give the Knights a 4-0 lead. Caruso singled and scored on a wild pitch in the first inning and laid down a sacrifice bunt in the second inning to set up Farnell’s sacrifice fly.

“It was a 3-1 pitch and I was just trying to get something up,” Farnell said.

Spoken like a true veteran. “We know them and they know us so getting out early was huge,” Farnell said. “You know they’re going to score. They know how to play.”

Sure enough, Wayne finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Graham threw a double-play ball and got Jim Vankoski to ground out to short to end the threat.

“We had our chances,” Fili said. “We just couldn’t get a couple of hits there. The double play took us out of it. We had a chance to put two more on the board, maybe even more.”

As has been the case all season, Aston Valley’s mix of youthful enthusiasm and veteran experience made sure that did not happen.

“The addition of the new guys has been good,” Farnell said. “They keep us awake, keep us on our toes.”