Upper Darby 3, Aston Valley 3 - suspended - weather


Not so fast ... Upper Darby and Gonzalez aren’t done yet

By Matt Smith mattsmith@21st-centurymedia. com @DTMattSmith on Twitter


ASTON TWP. >> They don’t make them like Johnny Gonzalez anymore. 

The veteran pitcher of too many years to count and too many men’s baseball leagues to remember is a total throwback. He’s the type of guy who would have fit in on the 1993 Phillies.

Gonzalez doesn’t throw anywhere near as fast as some of the Delco League’s best and youngest hurlers, but the Upper Darby pitcher still has plenty of grit. He’ll show you slow, slower and slowest, but everything he throws has the right amount of spin to fool opposing hitters.

That was the case Wednesday evening in Game 4 of the Delco League championship series, which was suspended in the bottom of the sixth inning due to inclement weather. The game will resume at Jim Buggy Field Thursday at 6 p.m. with Aston Valley and Upper Darby tied 3-3.

Aston Valley leads the best-of-five series, 2-1. If necessary, Game 5 will be played Friday evening at Cardinal O’Hara High School. If it wasn’t for Gonzalez’s bag of tricks, Upper Darby may have left the field before the thunderstorms on the losing end, still in search of the franchise’s first title.

So, what keeps the 48-year-old Gonzalez coming back year after year? The love of the game, of course.

“At this age, it’s the competition,” said Gonzalez, who gave up three runs on five hits with three strikeouts in five innings. “I don’t get the chance to hit anymore, but I can still pitch. You’ve got a lot of younger kids, faster guys. I love that competition.”

Gonzalez’s second outing in the championship series was better than his first, even though he ran into trouble in the fifth inning, when Aston Valley rallied to tie the game. In Saturday’s Game 1, Gonzalez came running to the field in the middle innings to give Upper Darby manager Dave Jerdon some much needed relief. He warmed up quickly and was ready to go. That particular appearance wasn’t great — he allowed five hits and two runs in 2.1 innings — but Gonzalez appeared much sharper in Wednesday’s start. He had thrown 31 strikes and nine balls through the first four innings. 

“I actually pitched seven innings on Sunday — this was a league in New Jersey — and I ended up losing 2-0. But I felt I was in a groove where I was hitting my spots low, hitting the corners in and out. (I) just was looking to stay in a groove tonight. I’ll throw a fastball and mix in the slider and try to get quick outs.”

Aston Valley’s bats finally solved Gonzalez in the bottom of the fifth. Roman Tozzi and Matt Domian led off with back-to-back singles, setting the stage for series MVP candidate Jarad Carney, Aston Valley’s player/ coach, to deliver his second double of the game. This one was a shot to the gap in left-center, which allowed both Tozzi and Domian to score easily.

By the time the game was called, the Knights had momentum in their favor.

“It’s two good teams, battling it out, and no one wants to go home until the game’s decided. But, hey, it is what it is and they made the call to come back here (Thursday),” Carney said. “At this point in the series, there’s not many secrets between both teams. I think both teams were a little frustrated leaving, but what can you do? They’re a good team, we’re a good team. At the end of the day, it was the right call.”

The Knights received a solid outing from starter Kyle Maxwell, who struck out 10 in his five innings of work. He made two mistakes ... and they both left the yard. Alex Burman smashed a two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch to dead center field to give Upper Darby a 2-1 lead in the fourth. In the fifth, Steve Theisen hit an opposite field bomb, punctuated with a bat flip, to make it 3-1.

The Blue Sox looked much more comfortable at the plate after suffering a two-hit shutout at the hands of Knights ace Chris Murphy in Game 3 Tuesday.

“We knew we were going to get their best shot,” Carney said. “Kyle made two mistakes, but at the end of the day I’m sitting here going, if he gets us into the sixth inning giving up only three runs, our offense has to be a little bit better. I think he did his job, but now we’ve got to pick him up starting back here (Thursday).”

Carney’s first double chased home Domian in the third inning to give Aston Valley a 1-0 lead. Vince Gasbarro is 2-for-3 and Sammy Burman had a single in four at bats for Upper Darby when the game was halted.

Jack Liberio replaced Maxwell in the sixth inning. The Ridley High grad struck out one and walked one. He could be in line to pitch the conclusion of Game 4. Brendan Ricciardi also has a base knock for the visitors.

The Blue Sox are in all-hands-on-deck mode. That much was clear when Delco League lifer Izzy Menna threw two scoreless innings relief in Game 3.

If Gonzalez gets the call again, you can bet he’ll be ready.

“Yes, yes,” he said. “I plan on it.”