Narberth 3, Aston Valley 1

Huyette, Narberth defense get series against Aston Valley started the right way

By Matt Smith

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UPPER DARBY » Chris Huyette gave Narberth five solid innings on the mound in Wednesday’s Delco League playoff opener at Bonner-Prendergast High School. But he’d be the first to tell you that he had plenty of help from his defense.

There was one play in particular that had the Mudcats still talking after their 3-1 victory over Aston Valley in Game 1 of a best-of-three quarterfinal.

In the fourth inning, third baseman Pat Toal fielded a grounder to his right side where, in foul territory, he made an incredible off-balance throw to nab Jakob Cantor at first base. It was the sort of play a gold glover would make. Toal’s teammates called him Nolan Arenando, the All-Star third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

They were kidding around … sort of.

Around here it’s a play you can only find made in the Delco League.

“Honestly, that’s probably the best play I’ve ever made,” said Toal, a Haverford School grad and junior at Cabrini. “He hit it hard enough where I had time to throw him out.”

It was a play that had the Mudcats fired up going back to the home dugout. Huyette had retired 10 of the previous 12 batters he faced after beginning the night on shaky ground. Adam Tommer took him deep for a solo home run in the first inning. He walked and hit a batter in the opening frame, too.

But once the Bonner-Prendie and Immaculata product settled in, he was dominant. Huyette allowed only two hits and struck out six in five innings of work.

“I just made a couple of quick adjustments and the defense behind me … these guys make it really easy just to go out and throw strikes, fill up the strike zone and let them make plays,” Huyette said “I mean, you saw a few of the plays these guys made and it makes life a lot easier, especially pitching with the lead after the second innings.”

Narberth tied the game with a run in its half of the first inning. Tyler “Bugs” Kehoe, fresh off a stint in the Coastal Plain League, led off with a line drive single and advanced to third on a pair of Roman Tozzi wild pitches. Kehoe crossed the plate on an RBI single by recent Marple Newtown grad Dillon Can, one All-Delco driving in another.

“I just try to compete as best as I can and do as much as I can for my team,” said Can, who will play college ball at New Jersey Tech. “I was trying to stay inside the ball today. They had Roman Tozzi on the mound and he’s pretty good at coming down inside, but against a tough lefty you got to remember to stay inside the ball as long as you can.”

Can has been raking all summer for the Mudcats. The slickfielding second baseman was 3-for-3 with a run scored.

“He’s been hot all year for us,” manager Steve DeBarberie said. “All he does is hit.”

Narberth sent eight hitters to the dish in the bottom of third, scoring twice. Can and Michael Anderson (Bonner-Prendergast/ Rhode Island) each singled with one out for Wilfredo Mendez, who delivered an RBI knock to put the Mudcats in front. Toal then hit a deep fly ball to right field to bring home Anderson.

Anderson pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts. Toal allowed a lead off single to Quentin Perilli (Penncrest) and walked Cantor with one out in the seventh, but bounced back to strike out Dylan Everly and got Sam Benvignati to ground out to end the game.

After a slow start to the season, Narberth played well down the stretch and earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Mudcats are poised to make a deep run.

“It was surprising this year because we’ve had so many guys come out the whole year and it’s not usually like that,” DeBarberie said. “Normally you’re getting 12 or 13 guys a game, but we’ve had a consistent 17 or 18 guys show up every game. I try to split up the playing time as best as I can and get everybody equal amount of time. We have so much good talent. You’ve got to find that common ground, keeping them happy and engaged. We’ve got a lot of young guys who need to play and now that it’s the playoffs, we’re ready to go.”

Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday at Sun Valley’s Buggy Field.

The other first-round series featuring No. 3 Springfield and No. 6 Marple Newtown begins Thursday at Church Road Park in Springfield. Top-seeded Wayne and No. 2 Upper Darby earned first-round byes.