Upper Darby 8, Aston Valley 3

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Blue Sox rally for picture-perfect first league title

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

MARPLETWP. >> The line of players waiting to take a photo with Upper Darby manager Dave Jerdon after the Blue Sox rallied to beat Aston Valley, 8-3, Friday night was steady. 

Some wanted solo shots with Jerdon holding the Charlie Kress Trophy, the first title the Delco League franchise has won. A few came in pairs, others in groups. To a man, though, they all posed for a photo with their skipper.

The funny thing is, Jerdon hates to have his picture taken. But he made an exception on this night at Cardinal O’Hara, dutifully honoring every request after the Game 5 victory. This was a special moment and he wanted to make sure it was properly recorded.

“This means everything,” Jerdon said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

It took 28 years for the Blue Sox to finally reach the Delco League summit. Jerdon has been there every step of the way. His mom, Harriett, and sister, Donna, started the franchise in 1994. Jerdon has been the manager since midway through that inaugural season when he took over for Carlos Law.

That makes Jerdon the longest tenured manager in the 114-year history of the oldest semi-professional baseball league in the country. It’s why no one would leave without a picture with the manager and the championship trophy afterward.

“We wanted to get Dave a win and I was happy to get that win for him,” winning pitcher Tom Derer said. “It was cool.”

What made this title so special for Jerdon, other than it being the first, was how the Blue Sox became the first team other than Wayne, Aston Valley or Narberth to win the title since the defunct Collingdale Colts in 2006.

It was Upper Darby’s second come-from-behind victory in the best-of-five series. The Blue Sox erased an 8-6 deficit to take Game 2, 9-8, then needed nine innings and a heroic complete-game effort over two days from series MVP Johnny Gonzalez to take Game 4, 5-3, and force a fifth and deciding game. 

Like Game 4, Upper Darby capitalized on three Aston Valley errors and a solid effort out of the bullpen from Derer to overcome a 3-1, third inning deficit. The Blue Sox scored three unearned runs in the fourth inning and broke the game open with a four-spot in the sixth.

“This was a team effort,” Jerdon said. “We went through so much this year, players missing games, vacations, injuries, but everybody stuck together and fought to the end.”

That fight was evident at the plate, in the field and on the mound. Aston Valley used a solo homer by player-manager Jarad Carney and a two-run bomb by shortstop Brett Lesher to take a 3-1 lead in the third.

There was an eerie silence in the Upper Darby dugout after those blasts, but it didn’t stay quiet for long. Matt Querey ripped a two-out, RBI single in the fourth inning to get the Blue Sox within 3-2. Sammy Burman followed with a two-run single to right to put Upper Darby up for good.

“The biggest thing with this team is we never gave up, ever” Burman said. “It was still early in the game. We still had Tommy to go for five  innings and even though they capitalized early we stayed in it, took it one run at a time and capitalized big.”

Derer took over for starter Luke D’Ambrosio in the third inning and settled down after he gave up the homers to Carney and Lesher. Derer allowed just one hit and five baserunners over his last four innings, aided by two double plays. The Blue Sox turned three twin killings in all.

“It was definitely a battle,” said Derer, who threw the final five innings to get the win. “But once I got locked in it was just a matter of keeping the ball down, getting ground balls and give my team a chance to win. And our defense was awesome. All I had to do was put it in the zone and let them take care of it.”

Derer did not allow a hit after Upper Darby took the lead. The Blue Sox scored four more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to give him breathing room. Joe Suppa broke it open with a three-run double, and Christian Strickland laced a two-out, RBI single to close out the scoring.

“We’ve been battling all year,” Suppa said. “We’ve been battling all year. We had that same mentality that we had in Game 2 when we won on an infield hit, have good at-bats. Everyone on this team knows we can hit the ball. We were going to go scoreless for six innings.”

A hit batter and an error gave Aston Valley life in the seventh, but Derer quickly ended those hopes. He got Carney to fly out to left and Aidan Duda to hit into a line drive, championship clinching double play to Suppa that touched off a wild celebration.

Once the champagne was poured, the first person the players sought out was Jerdon.

“If there was scale (for wanting to win for Jerdon) we were passed whatever the highest point was,” Suppa said. “Every person on this team wanted to win this for him.”