Aston Valley 9, Narbeth 4

Davis, Aston Valley fire up, even series with Narberth


NARBERTH >> Donovan Davis’ reaction went from surprise to outrage to a need for calm Tuesday night.

The reliever stood in the Aston Valley dugout at Narberth Playground as a chaotic sequence transpired on the diamond. In an instant, Matt Domian’s single to left field in the top of the fifth inning scored Rob Caruso to nudge Aston Valley ahead, but an overthrow of the plate allowed Narberth catcher Steve Furman to gun down the Knights’ Frank Nigro after a recklessly wide turn of third base.

Nigro leapt up, cursed himself a little too voluminously, and got the quick hook from the umpire.

Like that, Aston Valley took the lead, and lost its pitcher.

So Davis scrambled to prepare, the hasty nature of Nigro’s ejection earning Davis eight extra warmup long tosses in addition to his regular eight from the rubber. The plan was for the recent Widener grad to try to subdue the Mudcats in the fifth while Tyler Campbell readied fully, then play it by ear.

But Davis wouldn’t relinquish the ball, and the enraged Knights’ bats backed him.

Davis recorded the final nine outs with relative ease around a consolation tally in the seventh as Aston Valley claimed a 9-4 win in Game 2 of the Delco League championship series.

The series shifts to Buggy Field in Aston Wednesday night with the best-of-5 even at a game apiece. Including four regular-season contests, Tuesday was the Knights’ first defeat of top-seeded and defending champ Narberth in 2017.

The hectic nature of Nigro’s expulsion, his third of the season, helped Davis get his juices flowing. Defending a 4-3 lead, he retired the first six batters he faced.

“It felt pretty good initially, and then I kind of locked up toward the end, started throwing them a little more down the middle,” Davis said. “But the adrenaline was definitely pumping. It was a pretty intense whole series of events, so that helped the arm going in.”

By the time Richie Tecco doubled and scored on Kevin McGowan’s booming triple to right, the Aston Valley bats had awakened to provide Davis five cushy runs in the top of the seventh. Davis’ contribution to that rally befitted the peculiarity of his evening.

Sammy Farnell laced a single to left to score Caruso, who reached on a pivotal inning-lengthening error, to make it 5-3. Davis dug in and showed bunt, something he admitted he hasn’t done since his days as an All-Delco pitcher at Strath Haven.

His execution was perfectly imperfect: A stabbed-at bunt that whistled past the onrushing Joe Lake at third base and into the no-man’s land near the grass in the outfield, allowing Kendall Small to score from second.

“I was just trying to stick the bat out,” Davis said. “I guess I whipped it around a little bit and it popped right off.”

“To see him get that ball between third and short was just great for us, great for our momentum,” Caruso said.

Dan Hyatt followed with a sac fly, and Davis and Nick Macey, who’d doubled, scored on Julian Kurych’s single to seal the damage.

Aston Valley took the early advantage, capitalizing on a rare bit of wildness by Narberth starter Marty McKeone, who walked the leadoff man Kurych in the first. He scored on a Caruso single. Domian tripled to deep center to score the designated hitter Nigro in the second, the Domian hustled home on a Hyatt groundout.

Even that three-run bulge wouldn’t be enough against the Narberth offensive juggernaut.

“There’s always a cool, calm demeanor that we’ll be alright,” Tecco said. “We were in the game, just Game 1 we made more plays. Game 2 they made more plays, had a couple of big hits and we made some mistakes and they fully took advantage of them.”

Aston Valley starter Pat Graham faltered in the fourth, three straight walks forcing in a run. Tecco then unloaded a two-run single to even the score.

McKeone minimized the damage in the fifth, in part via Mike White’s outfield assist to nab Nigro. But he hit the wall in the seventh, failing to record an out against four batters.

The loss puts the Mudcats in a similar position as last year, when they split the first two games as the top seed at home against Wayne before lifting the trophy, the first in franchise history, in five games.

“We’ll be ready tomorrow,” Tecco said. “We were in the same position last year, one and one. We’ve just got to find a way to win the next two.”

Aston Valley’s belated onslaught might have just padded a result already beyond doubt. But the catharsis against a team it has struggled to get by all season and the confidence it endows the Knights in the first of three games in as many days feels like it could be a series-changer.

And Caruso’s choice of tense echoes that.

“They had our number this year,” he said. “… It gives us a lot of momentum going back to Buggy. I think we’re in a real good position for tomorrow night.”