Aston Valley 7, Narberth 4


Hyatt’s versatility delivers title to Aston Valley

ASTON >> With all the novelty that his first season with Aston Valley has entailed, the change from reliever to starting pitcher was but another nuance to which Dan Hyatt has adjusted.

So Thursday evening, less than 24 hours removed from closing out the Knights’ win in Game 3 of the Delco League finals with a three-up, three-down save, Hyatt figured he’d learn on the go in getting the start in Game 4.

“Before these first two starts, I hadn’t had many innings like this in a while,” Hyatt said. “I just tried to make the most out of my pitches.”

Even when he didn’t maximize the return, the Aston Valley bats did the job for him in their turns at the plate.

Backed by a pair of third-inning home runs by Max Carney and Kendall Small, Aston Valley sailed toward a 7-4 win over Narberth to clinch the club’s sixth Delco League crown and first since 2013.

The backbone was provided by the Wilmington University contingent that has fueled the resurgence of a franchise that missed the championship series altogether two out of the last three years.

But that’s been rectified this season, thanks in part to the Wilmington Wildcats populating the clubhouse. Carney drove in four runs, his two-run dinger to right getting the Knights off the mark. He added a two-run single in the fifth that proved consequential. 

Small also cleared the right-field wall with a no-doubter in the third, one of six consecutive Aston Valley hits to chase Narberth starter Evan Raiburn, who’d cleanly navigated the first turn of the lineup. Raiburn took the hill last year for the Mudcats in a similar situation and hurled a three-hit shutout against Wayne to keep Narberth alive before they clinched their first title in the decisive Game 5; Thursday provided no repeat. 

“He was working quick, so we were trying to figure him out a little bit,” center fielder Julian Kurych said. “Once we got through the order once, we started seeing his fastball well. He was throwing some changeups, we sat back on them and Kendall and Max hit two bombs, which really sparked (us) the whole game.”

Also in the Wilmington contingent is Kurych, who went 5-for-11 at the plate and reached base at a .600 clip to earn the Top Lumber MVP award. 

And then there’s Hyatt, who escaped trouble early and settled in. He kept the Mudcats bats in a deep freeze just long enough, stranding four runners on base in the first two innings. Narberth pushed across a run when Richie Tecco’s single up the middle scored Steve DeBarberie in the second inning, but Hyatt adeptly minimized the harm.

“I just tried to keep the ball low in the zone,” Hyatt said. “I wasn’t too pleased with my pitch count early, I had a couple of pitches that I kept leaving up.”

Hyatt’s flexibility on the mound was vital given the squeezing of the Aston staff in the postseason. A heavier workload on coach Steve Maloney limited him to mop-up duty on the hill in the finals. Mike Antonini agreed to a contract with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League before the postseason, while Frank Nigro’s ejection in Tuesday’s Game 2 after retiring just two batters and subsequent suspension for Game 3 limited his impact.

Thursday, Hyatt delivered shutdown innings after the Knights broke through on the scoreboard. His day ended when Mike White led off the top of the sixth with a solo home run to left. DeBarberie then drove a two-run dinger off Nigro, briefly igniting hope that the slumbering Narberth bats would reawaken to their regular-season vigor. But recapturing that magic eluded them in the postseason.

“We knew they had the firepower in them,” DeBarberie said. “Their one, two, three, four hitters can go deep at any point in the game, and it was too much to overcome. We’ve got that firepower but we’ve struggled all series — all playoffs actually. We didn’t hit the way we did all season and we just got cold in the end.”

Narberth’s climb back was so steep thanks to Aston continuing to pile on. Adam Wheatley escaped further damage in the third, but Ryan Haley ran into trouble in the fifth, allowing a single to Sam Farnell, a double to Nigro and hitting Matt Domian. Marty McKeone entered and walked Jarad Carney with the bases loaded before Max Carney looped a single into center that plated two more runs.

All that was left was for Nigro to finish it off. While he walked batters in each the sixth and seventh innings, the potential tying run never got closer than the Narberth on-deck circle, which offered a prime view of Spencer Stokes’ feeble pop out finding the glove of Max Carney at short to set off the celebrations.

Thursday’s pouring of champagne into the Charlie Kress Trophy didn’t just fete the Wilmington influence, but with mainstays from previous championship sides like Maloney, Rob Caruso and Farnell joining the newcomers, it marked a changing of eras from a successful past to a bright future.

“You have to change,” Maloney said. “We like to preach in here, don’t dwell, because they’re younger college kids and they’ll dwell on things longer. We just tried to push them through.”