PERKIOMEN — JP Mascaro kept its season alive with a 2-1 win over Perk Valley in the Greater Norristown American Legion Baseball League Championship Game 1 Sunday afternoon at Perkiomen Valley High School.
The winner-take-all Game 2 is set for Monday night at Perk Valley at 7:30 p.m.
The top-seeded Haulers scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-out Daniel Carr single and that proved to be enough with Rob Maloney on the mound.
Maloney allowed one run over seven innings. He struck out two batters to two walks and scattered six hits.
“My fastball (was working best),” the rising senior at Methacton said. “I was struggling with my curve from the beginning and showed glimpses of it, but it didn’t really work out as I planned it to, so I stuck with the fastball and just located it.”
“Unbelievable,” Mascaro manager Lucas Denczi said of Maloney’s performance. “Backs against the wall. We were short-staffed today, especially with the pitching rules. We really needed seven innings out of him and he gave them to us. It was unbelievable.”
The right-handed Maloney ran into some trouble in the later innings. In the sixth he hit back-to-back batters and walked another to load the bases with one out. Perk Valley’s Ethan Crovetti delivered with a sacrifice fly to center to end the shutout, but Maloney got a grounder to second to end the frame.
“I just knew I had to keep throwing strikes and that plays would come around,” Maloney said. “I trust my teammates. I knew we could get through it. We’ve gotten through worse. I thought we could do it.
“I was just really hoping they wouldn’t hit another shot out to one of the gaps and score him. I knew that was the one run we had to keep from scoring.”
In the seventh, Perk Valley sandwiched two singles around a strikeout to put the tying run on second and championship-clinching run on first with one out. Chris Pow reached on an error to load the bases and put the winning run in scoring position.
Andrew Yannantuono followed with a low line drive to left field that looked like it was going to at least tie the game. JP Mascaro’s Chad Evans, who was named GNALBL batting champion and MVP prior to the game, came on to make a diving catch for the second out and got the ball in to keep any of the runners from advancing.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh no that’s it,’” Maloney said. “I thought it was over, but he somehow came up with it and I can’t do anything but thank him. It was a nice catch. He put it on the line.”
“I couldn’t even think it happened so fast,” Denczi said. “Diving for it — that’s usually one you don’t dive for, but it was necessary because if that gets by him or that drops in front of him — tie game and you still got a guy on third. He’s the MVP for a reason, for our team and the league. Not only does it with his bat, but in the field. He’s just lights out.”
“That was a great play by the left fielder,” PV manager Tim Tyson said. “I thought for sure that ball was down but he made the catch. What more can you do on that? You can’t ask for a better hit ball.”
Maloney closed the game forcing a hard grounder to third, where Zach Griffin made the stop and stepped on the bag to force a Game 2.
Cole Whitton took the loss for the Raiders. Over seven innings he struck out two batters to one walk and allowed two runs on six hits.
“He did a great job,” Tyson said. “They got those two runs in the first inning. I don’t think we gave them anything. I know that we walked a batter, but they put the ball in play, they made something happen in that first inning, got a couple runs. It turns out that’s all they needed. That was huge, but Cole settled down, defense played well behind him. Can’t ask for anything more than that. We just have to come back and do it again (Monday) night.”