Narberth 3, Wayne 2

Chism, Narberth takes duel between Delco POYs

By Matt Smith, Delaware County Daily Times


PLYMOUTH >> Game 1 of the Delco League finals featured some interesting storylines. 

First, there was the matchup itself, No. 1 Wayne vs. No. 2 Narberth. It’s believed to be the first year in the 111-year history of the oldest semi-professional baseball league in the nation that both finalists play their home games outside of county territory. In 2017, Wayne moved a move miles up the Blue Route, from Radnor High School to the cozy confines of Villanova Ballpark in Plymouth. 

Oh, then were was the connection between the two starting pitchers. Wayne’s Luke Zimmerman and Narberth’s T.J. Chism are Daily Times Player of the Year winners from different generations. Chism earned the award in his senior year at Sun Valley in 2006 after leading the Vanguards to the PIAA Class 3A championship game. Zimmerman was honored after leading Marple Newtown to a PIAA Class 5A championship this year. 

“Both players of the year, 12 years apart,” Chism said getting the win in Narberth’s 3-2 victory Monday night. “That’s pretty cool.” 

Chism, the former La Salle standout and New York Mets farmhand, came back to the Delco League following a brief retirement. He last pitched for Aston Valley in 2016, one year after playing for the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League. Chism, who turns 30 this week, was a 32nd round draft pick of the Mets in 2009 and spent six seasons in the minor leagues. 

“Just to compete and to have fun, it’s still a good feeling,” Chism said. “I didn’t play last year and I didn’t really miss it. I think coaching at Widener helps fill that void a little bit. But pitching is always fun. I still get nervous, I still get the butterflies when I’m pitching, whether it’s a softball game or a baseball game.” 

Chism battled with command and a tight strike zone, but struck out four over 5 1/3 innings. He was relieved by fellow La Salle University alum Joe Ravert in the bottom of the sixth when Wayne trimmed its deficit to 3-2 and had two runners in scoring position. Ravert forced Sean Mohollen to hit a pop up and struck out James Kantner to escape the jam. 

“I knew in the bullpen that I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Chism, a lefthander who throws from a three-quarters arm slot. “I knew if I battled, my teammates were going to battle for me. After giving up a run in the first, it could’ve gotten ugly, but we came right back and scored to tie it up. From there we kind of settled in a little bit.” 

Ravert worked around a one-out single by Kevin Mohollen in the seventh inning to record a five-out save. Matt Briner hit a line drive into the glove of second baseman Joe Lake, who threw to first to nab Mohollen for the game-ending double play. 

“There’s definitely a part of you that is pumped up to come into a situation like that, but usually I’m very calm,” said Ravert, who was 1-for-4 with a single out of the three-hole. “T.J. battled and threw a great game. I knew I had to pick a fellow Explorer up when I came in, so it feels good to get Game 1 especially.” 

Another compelling storyline involved former high school batterymates. Narberth’s Luke Cantwell had caught every inning of Zimmerman’s awesome 2018 high school season (he was 10-0 with an ERA under 1.00). And, of course, Cantwell was behind the plate when Zimmerman started the state final against Lower Dauphin in June. 

Naturally, then, it was weird to see Cantwell stroll to the plate for the first time in the second inning to face his good buddy. Cantwell was able to hang back on an offspeed pitch and clobber it to the gap in left-center for a leadoff double. He said it was the first time he has faced Zimmerman in a competitive setting. 

“In that at bat I was just thinking about how he pitches,” Cantwell said. “I’ve caught him all year, so I knew which pitches will bite and how they come out of his hand.I kind of had a good feel, I guess. He dropped a curveball in and I was able to go get it. That was pretty fun. 

“He’s a great a pitcher and he really gets people off-balance,. I can’t say enough good things about Zimmerman.” 

Cantwell relished the moment. He scored in the inning on a hit by Richie Tecco to tie the game at 1-1, then walked and scored the go-ahead run in the fourth on a single by Sean Spratt. Cantwell added a single off Wayne reliever Reilly Degen in the fifth. 

Cantwell, who will play at West Chester next spring, has been a key cog for Narberth during its run to the Delco League finals. After catching full-time for the first time his senior year at Marple, Cantwell plays left field for the Mudcats and is likely to play the outfield for the Golden Rams. 

“This is a learning experience for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to sit back and watch how these guys carry themselves. The pitching and the defense, it’s on a different level than high school. It really gets me ready for the type of competitive baseball I’ll see in college. I’d rather do this instead of paying $3,000 for a summer team any day of the week. It’s good baseball and you see good pitching every single day. It’s fun to be here and I’m glad I got this opportunity.” 

Tecco was a pest in the No. 2 spot in the order, collecting three singles, two RBIs and a walk. The top of the order for Narberth — Spratt, Tecco and Ravert — went 5-for-10 with three RBIs and a pair of walks. 

“To get the first game out of the way is big,” said Tecco, a Bonner & Prendergast product and senior at Rider. “You got to expect a close game. Every pitch, every at bat usually matters when you play a team as good as Wayne. You’ve got to compete every at bat. Zimmerman is a great young pitcher but when he starts to lose control, you’ve just got to lock in, see your pitch and put a good swing on it and hope for the best. That’s what we were able to do today.” 

Zimmerman allowed three earned runs on six hits and four walks in four innings of work. Degen and Matt Eiel combined for three scoreless innings in relief. 

Wayne fired the opening salvo in the bottom of the first. Kevin Mohollen laced a leadoff double and scored on a Briner single. Chism, who threw 110 pitches, exited after Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Dan Williams who singled and raced to third on a ground-rule double by Ed Paparella. Anthony Viggiano walked to load the bags. 

“I just knew I had to keep battling,” Chism said. “That’s part of the fun.” 


NOTES >> Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at Villanova Ballpark at 5:45. Dave Lerro gets the ball for Narberth and will oppose Wayne’s James Dougherty … Narberth is in the Delco League finals for a fourth consecutive season. The Mudcats won their only title in 2016 .. Wayne is seeking its league-record 16th championship and its first since the 2015 campaign.