Wayne 6, Upper Darby 5

Small-ball act gives Wayne a series jump

By Jack McCaffery

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EASTTOWN TWP. » An umpire’s subtle signal, a rapidly setting sun, a tiring pitching staff and the general impatience that comes with an evening waiting for an opportunity were enough Monday night for Dan Williams to understand his job. Take a bat. Accept a pinch-hitting opportunity.

Then figure out a way to push Wayne to a victory over Upper Darby in Game 1 of the best-of-five Delco League championship series in the bottom of the seventh before an 8:07 sunset would prevent an eighth inning.

“Dan has been in this league forever,” Wayne manager Brian Fili said. “He would get it done.”

So it was with one out that Williams rapped a hard infield hit off pitcher Mason Miller and hustled to second on a passed ball. Then, running on contact with two outs, the 36-yearold sprinted home when Tommy Bradley dropped a grounder to third and survived on an error. Williams’ savvy and hustle pushed Wayne to a 6-5 victory and quick control of a series that moments earlier seemed destined for an overnight delay and, with that, untold pitching complications. Instead, Game 2 will unfold on schedule at 5:45 Tuesday, back at Devon Prep.

“We knew they weren’t going to start another inning,” Williams said. “And in the bottom of the seventh, you kind of want to get it done then anyway. I was just trying to have a good at-bat. The guy was pitching well. He made two really good pitches to get ahead of me, so I was just looking for something I could handle. I was fortunate to put it in play and still have enough wheels to get there.”

By that point, Wayne was looking for a spark after Upper Darby had rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to force a tie and heighten tensions.

Seeking to add to its record 16 Delco League championships, Wayne struck early when leadoff hitter Luke Mutz had the first of his two hits and Jayce Tharnish walked. With one out, former independent-league play-for-pay pro Steven Wells, a left-handed hitter, went the other way for a lengthy home run and a 3-0 lead. In the second, Wayne made it 5-0 when Reece Malek doubled and eventually scored on a Nate Sides sacrifice fly to center. Later, a wild pitch scored Mutz, who had walked.

“I got a fastball up, kind of in the middle to the outer part of the plate,” Wells said. “Based on my recent games, I haven’t been on that ball that well. But I was able to barrel it up and drive the baseball the other way.”

Though staggered, the Blue Sox responded with a four-run third inning when Tyler Summerall and Adam Fine walked, Max Anastasio singled and Steve Theisen clubbed a groundrule double to right. Joey Suppa would plate Anastasio with a single.

Upper Darby forced the tie in the fifth when Matt Querey was hit by a pitch and stole second, then scored on a base hit to left from Fine.

From there, the pitching settled, with Upper Darby enjoying three-plus scoreless innings from Jackson Snyder and Bill Ford not allowing a run in two innings for Wayne.

Wayne loaded the bases with two out in the fifth but failed to score when Malek’s bunt died in front of the plate. Despite howls cascading from the Wayne dugout that the ball should have been ruled dead, the umpires met for a discussion but did not overturn the call.

Aware of the spreading darkness, Fili took a chance in the top of the sixth by sending Cam Mathes to the mound, aware that no matter what would happen, his key pitcher would only work one inning and be ready for any Game 2 responsibilities. Mathes pitched a perfect — and, just as significantly quick — inning, allowing Williams to make the late difference, emphasis on late.

“I was off on contact,” Williams said. “I was watching the play and was going to make a hard turn even if he made a throw. It took a tough bounce on him and I just kept going.”

The series will keep going too, with Upper Darby ready with sitting Delco League Finals MVP Johnny Gonzalez available to start Game 2.

Williams, who recently took a paternity leave to welcome the birth of his first child, Pierce Johnson Williams, would be happy to report for whatever duty Fili has in mind.

“I haven’t been in that role for quite some time,” he said. “But I just want to be here to support my team. I love winning baseball, so I was fortunate to contribute and get a win for us.”