LOWER MILFORD — There’s a certain mystique to playing a baseball game at Limeport Stadium, one that gets magnified when the skies go dark and the lights come one.
Thanks to an extra-inning slugfest earlier Thursday, Central Perk and Upper Moreland saw their Connie Mack state playoff winners’ bracket game pushed back nearly 90 minutes. All that did was help set the stage for a classic pitchers’ duel and all-around great game.
CP got by on the slimmest of margins as the duo of Justin Calvarese and Jake Stasyk just edged UM’s Greg Wiley in a 1-0 thriller that went late into the night at the historic venue.
“Pulling in the parking lot, you notice everything is wood, it’s older but it’s still cool,” Calvarese said. “It’s definitely a neat experience playing here.”
Following Moore Township’s 9-8 win over Deep Run in 11 innings that knocked Deep Run out of the tournament, the pitchers from Central Perk and Upper Moreland made it clear runs would be at a premium. The game’s only run came via a wild pitch when Zach Alderfer hustled home in the bottom of the second as every other frame ended with a zero on the board.
Calvarese, who attends Spring-Ford, was electric in his five innings of work. The right-hander struck out 11 batters and at one point recorded seven straight outs via the K.
“I knew to just keep pounding fastball,” Calvarese said. “Lower in the order, I didn’t think they could really catch up and higher in the order, I wanted to try to blow a fastball by them to go 0-2 or 1-2 and then send something off-speed by them.”
Stasyk, who started the game behind the plate, finished it out with two scoreless innings on the mound. The righty, who attends Perk Valley, retired all six hitters he faced and ended the game with a strikeout to bring the duo’s total to 12 on the night against just one combined hit.
“I was thinking just pump in strikes,” Stasyk said. “My curveball was working, so I figured keep going with it and I was able to get out of it.”
On the other side, Upper Moreland lefty Greg Wiley went the distance by himself and gave a valiant effort in defeat. Wiley didn’t have the same gaudy strikeout totals as the Central Perk pair, punching out three, but he adjusted and made the key pitches he had to while also allowing just a single hit.
He also got some defensive gems from shortstop Nick Lombardo and center fielder Josh Henderson to pick up crucial outs.
It’s been a long summer of high-leverage moments for Wiley, who also played for the Morelanders Legion team and UM’s Senior Little League squad that made the state tournament in DuBois last month. On Thursday however, his focus was solely on getting the Falcons to Saturday’s title game.
“I think the biggest thing was my adjustments and figuring out the way to throw more strikes,” Wiley said. “Their pitcher dug a pretty good hole in the mound and I figured out when I landed in that huge hole it worked. I don’t know what it was, it just worked.”
Wiley also had some success against Calvarese at the plate, drawing two walks off the hard-throwing righty. The UM hurler said it was a matter of staying within himself and not trying to chase pitches he couldn’t touch.
“I think I’m starting to be able to drown out the pressure,” Wiley said. “This past year, I’ve been in a lot of high-pressure situations and I think it’s more helped me emotionally to stay calm and not let it get to me.”
Otherwise, Calvarese did a pretty good job of getting Upper Moreland hitters to chase. The pitcher was consistent in either painting the inside part of the zone or when he really needed to get a strike, going high and coaxing the batters to go after it.
His first strikeout may have been his biggest when he got a hitter to miss to leave the bases loaded in the top half of the first.
“Every day is a different day and you don’t what you’re going to get, especially on the mound,” Calvarese said. “Whether you’re feeling a certain pitch or not can change a lot of things. Luckily, I was feeling my slider and my changeup was a little iffy but the fastball-slider combo was pretty good tonight.
“Their 2-3-4-5 are pretty big hitters so coming in high-and-in or just a little bit high, you have to give a little bit so they can bite but not too high where they don’t swing.”
Stasyk said the delay didn’t bother them too much, with the Central Perk players either just relaxing or throwing and taking extra ground balls to stay loose.
Normally, Perk Valley and Spring-Ford guys are trying to beat each other but Thursday, it was all about being on the same page for five innings. Behind the plate, Stasyk got a good feel early for what Calvarese had and kept going to it.
“His first-pitch fastball was always there,” Stasyk said. “Knowing that, we could come in with the slider which seemed to just get them way off-balance.”
The win sends Central Perk to Saturday’s final and a day off on Friday. Upper Moreland on the other hand will return to Limeport to face Moore Township at 5 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.
Prior to Thursday, UM had been hitting the ball well and Wiley didn’t think one off night would derail things too much.
“We just have to keep our confidence,” Wiley said. “We know what we’re capable of doing. If we just stay within ourselves, we should be able to do well.
“You can’t let it bother you out there because then it gives the other team an advantage.”