UPPER GWYNEDD — Valley Forge manager Mike Fazio had a premonition Mikey Anthony was set for a stellar night on the mound Tuesday at Hostelley Field.
“I had a dream last night that he was going to have a good game,” Fazio said. “So I texted him. He didn’t say until after the game, he's like 'I’ll acknowledge that now cause I didn’t want to say anything and jinx it.'”
The only jinx was the one Anthony put on Nor-Gwyn hitters, as the Bucks right-hander was dominant from the start of their Perky League contest, striking out 14 over six-plus innings as one first-inning run was enough for Valley Forge to edge the Packers 1-0.
“I was just cruising,” Anthony said. “I just kept firing. I wasn’t really trying to locate, I was just trying to hit my spots. Everything was just working. Pretty sure I was like six or seven in a row, Ks, so I was cruising. But Beidy (catcher Eric Beideman) called a great game back there.”
The Bucks scored the lone run just two batters into the game on Ryan Richter’s RBI single. Anthony pitched until giving up a Matt Blazynski leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh but Ray Gambone came in and struck out the next three Packers as first place Valley Forge (9-4) ended a four-game losing skid.
“I was expecting maybe a run here and there throughout the game but I’ll give their pitchers credit too, they showed up too,” Anthony said. “I mean it’s a bloodbath out here, every game is. There’s only 20 games and we need to win them all.”
Anthony, who gave up five hits and no walks in the win, found his groove early –after getting a groundout to start the bottom of the first the righty proceeded to strike out the next seven batters.
“Slider, splitter, fastball, I’m like all right, let’s go, I’m ready,” Anthony said. “I know that Nor-Gwyn has been on a winning streak, they’ve been moving up in the standings. And we’re on a four-game losing streak and we needed a win tonight for sure.”
Chris Ayres ended the strikeout streak in the third with a two-out single. Jimmy Kustra followed with another single to give the Packers runners at first and second but Anthony ended the threat with a strikeout looking.
“Mikey Anthony’s tough,” Nor-Gwyn manager Tony “Pep” DiBricida said. “He’s throwing pitches from all angles, he’s changing speeds on you, so it’s like they say, you’re only going to get one good pitch to hit in every at-bat and we just weren’t seeing that pitch. Lot of guys were saying they were having a tough time finding the ball on him. He’s tough.”
Anthony struck out the side in the fourth then got out of his biggest jam in the fifth. With two outs and Billy Collins on first after his fielder’s choice, Ayres singled up the middle. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, but Anthony kept the shutout intact with his 13th strikeout.
“First time around we were working fastball, slider, splitter then the second time around I just started working heavy slider, splinter cause they were just sitting on that fastball,” Anthony said. “I give credit to Beidy for mixing the pitches. We working pretty good back there, he puts it down I’m like ‘OK.’”
Blazynski singled through the left side to start the bottom of the seventh ended Anthony’s night. Left-hander Gambone came and picked up the save with three straight strikeouts – the last two looking.
“The first batter of the game scored and nobody scored the rest of the game,” DiBricida said. “It was a well-pitched game by both teams. We had a couple chances, a couple men on base – second and third one inning, first and second another inning we couldn’t cash in. So, it’s just one of those nights, so hopefully tomorrow night we’ll come out and swing the bats.”
Valley Forge hosts Stony Creek 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Heuser Park while the Packers (6-6) and Bucks meet for the second time this week 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Heuser Park.
“Everybody in this league is really good,” Fazio said. “There’s a lot of parody even though there’s only six teams it’s like some guys - because of other teams folding - picked up some other guys so everybody’s good. We’re getting really good pitchers out every night. And the guys ask who’s pitching tonight I’m like don’t worry about it, they’re going to be really good on the hill no matter what.”
Valley Forge plated Tuesday’s only run two at-bats into the top of the first. Mike Kelly opened the game with a single, stole second then scored on Ryan Richter’s RBI base hit up the middle.
In the third, Kelly started the inning reaching first on a wild pitch after striking out while Richter followed with an infield single. A wild pitch with two outs moved the runners to second and third but Nor-Gwyn starting pitcher Liam Grande prevented the Bucks from adding to their lead with a strikeout.
Ayres, a senior at Malvern Prep, was 2-for-2 batting ninth for the Packers, who had won two straight and five of their last six coming into Tuesday.
“I was getting on the guys a little bit – high school guy two hits, come one guys, let’s go,” DiBricida said. “But what are you going to say, sometimes you just got to tip your hat to the pitcher and he just beat us tonight.”
Grande took the loss despite throwing four solid innings – giving up one earned run on four hits, walking one and striking out five. Lefty Joe Harris took over in the fifth and struck out five in pitching three perfect innings.