Marple Newtown 18, 7 Upper Darby 2,3

Harper a game changer in Marple’s Delco League series win over Upper Darby

By Terry Toohey, Delaware County Daily Times


NEWTOWN TWP. >> As fate would have it, Bobby Harper had to work Friday night, which meant the Marple Newtown outfielder was not on hand as the Black Sox tried to stay alive in the Delco League playoffs.

Yet Harper’s summer job at Mr. Bottle Beverage in Berwyn — he’s a teacher at Devon Prep the rest of the year — did not keep him from keeping track of how his team was doing without him.

“I followed the game on GameChanger, hoping something would happen,” said Harper, an Interboro High School grad.

The Black Sox were down a game in the best-of-3 quarterfinal series with the Upper Darby Blue Sox and Harper did not want his season to come to an end without him having a say in the matter. And when he saw that the game was suspended by rain in the third inning with the Black Sox holding a five-run lead, and would resume Saturday, Harper breathed a sigh of relief.

“I got a second chance at getting some swings and it panned out,” Harper said.

Harper made the most of those at-bats as the Black Sox took Game 2, 18-3, and then scored a 7-3 triumph in Game 3 to advance to the semifinals for the first time in franchise history.

Harper had one hit, one walk and scored twice in the completion of the suspended game and smashed the first pitch from John Gonzalez over the left field fence for a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the third inning.

That homer made it 4-0, which turned out to be the deciding run, as the Blue Sox tacked on a single run in the top sixth inning and two more in the seventh to make things interesting.

“All year I’ve been looking at that first pitch,” Harper said. “A lot of times what I get is an inside curveball. (Gonzalez) threw something off-speed. It looked like he slipped off a little. He even shouted before I took a swing at it. He let out a groan. He knew he made a mistake.”

“I was just trying to throw a strike, get ahead and he put a good swing on it,” Gonzalez said.

Harper’s home run got out in a hurry.

“I think I was about a third of the way down the line by the time it got out,” Harper said. “I just hit it hard and I worked a lot in the offseason about putting more backspin on my balls and my balls have been carrying because of it.”

Marple Newtown laced 18 hits in Game 2 to even the series and then lashed nine safeties to take Game 3 and advance to the semis against regular-season champ Wayne. The first game of that best-of-5 series starts Monday at the Ballpark at Plymouth.

Every player in the lineup contributed. In Game 3, Don DiLoretta had two hits and a run scored. Tom Carey ripped an RBI double to get the Black Sox on the board. Winning pitcher Corey Woodcock had a hit. Luke Turner was on base twice and scored once. Brian Reynolds had a hit and an RBI. Gio Morales singled and scored.

“We have a very young team,” Harper said. “When things get going well, it gets contagious. Guys start focusing more and their confidence goes up. We put up a lot of runs in the last two games after not being able to put it together in the first game.

In its defense, Upper Darby was shorthanded. The Blue Sox only had 10 players for most of the day until Noah White showed up with two innings to go in Game 3 to give them an extra body.

“We had a lot of people working,” Upper Darby manager Dave Jerdon said. “We didn’t hit and we made too many errors.”

The Blue Sox committed seven errors in the rubber match, making only two of the seven runs earned. As far as Upper Darby’s offensive woes, chalk that up to pitchers Don DiLoretta, Steve DiStefano and Corey Woodcock.

DiLoretta started Game 2 Friday night and after throwing approximately 40 pitches in two innings, he came back and went four more innings Saturday before giving way to DiStefano in the seventh inning. He allowed three hits, two earned runs and struck out six.

“I was really impressed with the way he came back after pitching Friday night,” Marple Newtown manager Nick DuComb said of DiLoretta. “He said he was fine, but you never know. That was huge. With all the baseball we had to play today and only having to use, essentially one relief pitcher was enormous.”

Woodcock followed DiLoretta with an equally solid effort. He went 5⅔ innings before running out of gas. The right hander took a two-hit shutout into the fifth inning and left after giving up four hits. Woodcock only had one strikeout so he wasn’t overpowering, just effective.

“I think I got stronger as I went on,” said Woodcock, who will be a second semester freshman at Millersville University in the fall. “It takes me a while to get in the groove.”

Harper had no trouble finding his groove. He walked in his first at-bat and ripped a single the second time he came to the plate.

“When I saw that (Friday night) was a rainout I started celebrating because I get to play more baseball,” Harper said. “I love it out here. This is my place of peace.”