Marple Newtown 6, Aston Valley 5

Marple Newtown hangs on, stretches streak to 3 games

By TerryToohey This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @TerryToohey on Twitter

MARPLE » After consecutive onerun losses to Upper Darby and Springfield last weekend, followed by a shutout setback to league-leading Wayne, things did not look good for the Marple Newtown Black Sox.

The setbacks stretched MN’s losing streak to four games. A lot of Marple Newtown’s struggles had to do with its inability to hit with runners on base. The Black Sox stranded 31 runners in that four-game stretch.

Still, with a week to play and four games scheduled before the playoffs are set to start on Tuesday, there was time for the Black Sox to right the ship and they have taken advantage of that opportunity.

Shortstop Dante Nikko and right fielder Tom Carey stroked three hits each as the Black Sox held off a late rally by Aston Valley to extend their winning streak to three games with a 6-5 victory over the Knights at Marple Newtown High School Saturday afternoon.

“We’re scoring more runs,” said Marple Newtown manager Nick Ducomb, who also serves as the league commissioner. “We’re not leaving as many men on base. I’m just happy that we’re capitalizing on some of that and hopefully we can keep it up and ride the momentum into the playoffs.”

The playoffs are a little different this year, thanks to the pandemic, which cut the regular-season in half. Usually, the top six teams make the playoffs, with the first- and second-place teams receiving a bye until the semifinals. This year, though, all eight teams qualify for the postseason.

The quarterfinal playoff round, scheduled to start Tuesday (Hurricane Isaias permitting) will be best-of-3. The semifinals also will be a best-of-3, rather than the normal best-of-5 set.

The championship series will still be a best-of-5.

The Black Sox are locked in a battle with the Knights for fourth place. Both teams are 6-7-1 (19 points), with one game left. The Black Sox host league-leading Wayne (12-1-2) Sunday while the Knights take on Chester (2-10-1) at Dermond Field in Upper Darby.

If the teams remain tied, Marple Newtown gets the No. 4 seed based on head-to-head competition. Aston Valley will be fifth. The Black Sox are 1-0-1 against the Knights in the coronavirus shortened season.

“This is our fourth year in a row making the playoffs and it’s very important to be clicking on all cylinders going into the playoffs,” said Carey, who was 3-for-4 with two runs scored. “I’ve seen it when we’re not and I’ve seen when we are. It can make a big difference.”

Scoring early was the difference for Marple Newtown Saturday. The Black Sox tallied all of their runs in the first three innings. Nikko set the tone at the top of the lineup. He went 3-for-4 with a sacrifice fly, two RBIs and a run scored. He also stole a pair of bases.

“I’m starting to findmy rhythm somewhat again and hopefully I can continue that,” Nikko said. “I’m feeling more comfortable at the plate and the more at-bats you get, the more comfortable you get.”

Nikko singled, stole second and third and scored on a two-out single by David Judge in the first inning. He lofted a sacrifice fly to cap a three-run outburst in the second inning and drove in Carey with what proved to be the winning run in the third.

The way Danny Kelleher and Owen Margolis pitched over the first five innings, that 6-0 advantage appeared to be safe. Kelleher allowed one hit and struck out three before giving way to Margolis, who fanned one and walked one in two innings.

The Knights, though, showed why they came into the contest 5-1-1 in their last seven games after a 1-5 start. Isaiah Payton lofted a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to Shane Kelleher for Aston Valley’s first run. Three batters later Sean Haut singled in Quintin Ivy to cut Marple Newtown’s lead to 6-2.

Ivy, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, struck again in the bottom of the seventh inning when he blasted a two-run triple to right-center field with two outs and scored when Payton reached base on an error to make it a one-run game and put the tying and winning runs at the corners. The rally ended there, though, when Don DiLoreto got Sean Vasquez to ground to Nikko at short, who flipped to Andrew Turner for a game-ending force at second base.

“We’re just trying to play quality baseball and take that into the playoffs where anything can happen,” Carey said.