Upper Darby 11, Wayne 4

Long ball helps Upper Darby force Game 5

By Matt Smith

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MARPLE » Trailing by three runs to Wayne and in a must-win spot, Upper Darby showed its championship mettle Friday night in Game 5 of the Delco League finals.

Needing a spark against mighty Wayne, the Blue Sox practiced patience at the plate and unloaded when needed. Max Anastasio and Vince Gasbarro each hammered a home run and UD’s batters worked 10 walks on the way to an 11-4 shellacking of Wayne to even the best-of-5 series.

The winner-takes-all Game 5 is set for Sunday at Devon Preparatory School. First pitch is 2 p.m.

After falling behind 4-1 after 2 ½ frames, the Blue Sox rallied for 10 unanswered runs and dominated. They bounced Wayne starter Joe Peluso with two outs in the third. Relievers Mike Valente, Nate Sides and Matt Briner didn’t fare better.

“We fell behind early… but once we got on the board with Max’s (home run) we kind of got rolling,” said Gasbarro, who finished 2-for-2 with two runs, two RBIs and a pair of walks. His dinger in the fourth inning gave the Blue Sox a 10-4 cushion.

“It felt good to get in a groove today and we scored in almost every inning, so we kept the pressure up the whole game. That’s what’s we needed to do after losing (Thursday).”

Steven Wells homered off Upper Darby ace Johnny Gonzalez, who pitched on one day’s rest, in the top of the first inning to give Wayne a 2-0 lead. Anastasio’s solo jack in the bottom of the second was answered by Wayne in the third when Briner stroked a two-run single to make it a 4-1 game.

From there the Upper Darby bats took over. Steve Theisen and Andrew Yates worked one-out walks and Joey Suppa hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 4-2. Following a Gasbarro single the Blue Sox coaxed five consecutive walks to take a 6-4 lead. Theisen smacked a two-RBI single to cap a seven-run outburst. All runs were unearned and scored with two outs.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Joe. He just fell behind hitters and he’s not usually like that, he’s a strike thrower. We also didn’t help him out defensively in that (third) inning,” Wayne manager Brian Fili said. “Besides all the walks, compounding that with an error mixed in didn’t help. It’s uncharacteristic of us as a pitching staff to fall behind hitters, it’s something we don’t usually do. … When we were up 4-1 we knew they were going to be selective at the plate and they were going to make us throw strikes.”

Upper Darby has had a penchant for rallying. The Blue Sox erased a 5-0 deficit in Game 1, which they eventually lost thanks to an error in the bottom of the seventh. They showed fight trailing 8-0 in the seventh inning of Game 3, managing to score three runs with two outs.

“In general we want to work through their starters and not make them get easy outs. When we focus and have some discipline and work counts, we usually have positive results,” Gasbarro said.

Gonzalez allowed only two hits after the third inning. He didn’t have his best stuff, but said he was throwing harder as the game went along.

“I thought I battled,” he said. “I was tired. Kept throwing strikes and didn’t walk anybody.”

It’s very possible that the 49-year-old will get the ball again Sunday. No one would be surprised if he starts or gets the ball in relief. Gonzalez said he will see how he feels getting out of bed Saturday morning. Gonzalez, who is the reigning Delco League championship series MVP, had thrown three straight complete games in the postseason including a 3-1 gem in Game 2 Wednesday.

Fili said he wasn’t sure who he’d give the ball to for Game 5. Don’t be surprised to see Cam Mathes, who pitched six shutout innings Thursday, in some kind of role.

Upper Darby can win its second straight title. Wayne is seeking its third in four years and 18th overall. And no matter who pitches for either team, Game 5 should be one to remember.

“We’ve got a really strong team, up and down,” Gasbarro said. “We know we are good enough. I have been in this league long enough and sometimes you know when you have it and sometimes you don’t and we definitely know we have it this year. So we just have to come out on Sunday and bring it again, execute and we feel like we can win it again”.