Upper Darby 3, Wayne 1

Anastasio redeems himself to draw Upper Darby even

By Matt Smith

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EASTTOWN TWP. » Max Anastasio knew he put good wood on the ball, but wasn’t sure if it had the distance to leave the park Wednesday at Devon Preparatory School.

“I was rounding first base, trying to leg out a triple,” said the Upper Darby slugger. “But it felt really good off the bat.”

The ball went over the fence… but the umpiring crew was left confused. The initial call was ground-rule double.

Uh, what? After a quick conference the boys in blue signaled home run. It was the right decision.

Anastasio, whose error at third base Monday enabled Wayne to score a walk-off win in Game 1 of the Delco League championship series, started Game 2 with a two-run bomb. He had redeemed himself.

With Johnny Gonzalez twirling a gem on the mound, the Blue Sox were able to ride Anastasio’s dinger to a 3-1 triumph and even the best-of-5 series at 1-1.

The series shifts to Upper Darby’s home turf at Cardinal O’Hara for Game 3 Thursday. First pitch is 5:45.

Anastasio made a joke about Gonzalez, 49, showing good enough stuff to impress college coaches.

“He still has four years of eligibility,” he said. What more can be said about Gonzalez? He dazzled, holding top-seeded Wayne to three lousy singles in a complete game performance. He allowed one unearned run and one walk, which was an intentional free pass. Gonzalez’s fourth strikeout of the night, getting Reece Malek to whiff, ended the night and left Jake Siani stranded at second base.

“I thought I threw the ball better today than I did against Springfield Saturday,” said Gonzalez, referring to his complete game in Game 5 of the semifinals. “I was hitting spots more than I was that day. Just getting ahead, using my fastball and slider.”

Wayne had no clue how to attack the fast-working Gonzalez. If Wayne hitters decided to swing first pitch, they’d chop it on the ground or foul it back. If they took a pitch or two, most of the time they found themselves down in the count 0-2. It was classic Johnny Gonzalez.

“It’s his experience,” Upper Darby catcher Christian Strickland said. “He’s a pace of play guy, which I love about him. He’ll get you outs fast, roll ground balls and get pop ups. It’s awesome catching him.”

The biggest defensive plays of the game were made by Gonzalez. Siani tried to get on via bunt in the fifth inning, but Gonzalez showed his cat-like quickness off the mound, grabbed the ball and fired a strike to first.

With one out in the seventh, pinch hitter Kevin Mohollen hit a tapper down the third-base line that had infield hit written all over it. Again Gonzalez sprinted to the ball and threw to first for the out. Unfortunately for Mohollen, he pulled up lame as he hustled down the line.

The second 1-3 putout left Gonzalez a little winded. He called a timeout and collected himself before going after Malek, who struck out to end the game.

“That last one, oh man,” Gonzalez said. “I needed to catch my breath and take my time. I wanted to make sure… that I didn’t rush. I had to slow down and make sure I took a deep breath.”

Gonzalez had retired 13 in a row before Malek led off the sixth inning with a single. An error put runners at the corners with no outs. Jayce Tharnish grounded into a fielder’s choice, allowing Malek to come home, then Gonzalez got cleanup hitter Steven Wells to ground out to first base. After intentionally walking Nate Side, Tommy Bradley grounded out to third base to end the frame.

Upper Darby scored all of its runs off Wayne starter Anthony Ehly, who gave up three hits, struck out two and walked four in 4.2 innings of work. Steve Theisen rapped an RBI single the opposite way to right field in the fifth to make it a 3-0 game.