UPPER MERION — Dominic Proietto’s overpowering fastball and just enough offense enabled Valley Forge to even up its Perky League semifinal series with Plymouth.
Proietto struck out 16 in six innings, the right-handed Norristown grad now at Kutztown University twice battling his way out of bases-loaded jams unscathed in Tuesday night’s Game 2 at Heuser Park.
Host No. 3 seed Bucks, meanwhile, broke a 2-2 with a run in the bottom of the third then held on to edge the No. 2 Diamonds 3-2 and knot their best-of-five series at a game apiece.
“Going to the fastball, both sides of the plate early and often,” said Valley Forge catcher Eric Beideman of Proietto, who also hit an RBI single in the first. “They velocity was up, he had some late movement to it and when he can stay down in the zone, lot of swings late on balls and a lot on top of them.”
Proietto’s night, however, had an unfortunate finish. After switching over to playing first base in the seventh, Proietto injured his wrist as Owen Petrich reached first on a two-out error and had to leave the game. The next batter grounded out to second for the final out.
Colt Narciso was 2-for-4 with a double and scored two runs – the second the winning run in the third for defending league champ Valley Forge, which visits the Diamonds in Game 3 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
“We had to get offense going right from the beginning,” Narciso said. “Usually right when I get on it starts going. So that was kind of the game plan, just starting to get things going.”
Proietto began Tuesday striking out the side in the first. After giving up a leadoff single to Kevin Reilly Proietto proceeded to strike out the next three batters. The righty, who also struck out the side in the fourth, gave up two runs – both earned – on six hits in six innings. He hit one batter and walked two.
Matt Yost pitched the seventh inning to earn the save.
“It’s basically a three-game series at this point,” Beideman said. “Normally you look at a series and you don’t consider it a series until a road team wins a game but at this point it’s kind of more of a dead sprint then it’s anything else.
“They’re a really good team, they’re young, they run well, they play very fundamental ball and they’ve got a lot of the arms we do and depth so we knew that this was going to be a slugfest, so we were ready for it.”
Mike Hutchinson went 2-for-4 with a double, triple, RBI and run scored for Plymouth, which won the series opener 2-1 Monday.
Diamonds starting pitcher Mason Keller took the loss in a complete-game effort. The Dock Mennonite grad now at Immaculata allowed three runs – one earned – on eight hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out four.
The Bucks took a 2-0 lead with two runs in the bottom of the first before Plymouth tied the contest in the top of the third on Mike Hutchinson’s RBI triple to right center and an Anthony Swenda RBI single to right the next at-bat.
Swenda advanced to second after an error on Owen Petrich’s fielder’s choice while a Kevin Reilly walk had the bases loaded with one out. But Proietto recorded back-to-back strikeouts to keep things level.
“We were working fastball heavy early,” said Beideman of Proietto. “And when you’re not showing the breaking ball ‘til later in the game – and it was tight tonight so got a lot of early-count swings and misses on fastballs and that opens it up later in the count.”
Narciso started the bottom of the third with a single, went to second on Francisco Taveras’ sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a groundout and scored as Andrew Curran reached after an error on his two-out grounder to second.
“Just the fastballs, I was kind of just hunting fastball basically and they were staying in,” Narciso said. “So I was fine with that.”
In the top of the fifth, Hutchinson hit a leadoff double to right center while a Swenda walk and Petrich dropping a single into right gave Plymouth bases loaded with no outs. Proietto, however, posted three consecutive strikeouts to maintain the Bucks’ one-run advantage.
“I think he’s a high-energy player as well,” said Beideman of Proietto. “So in those kind of moments when the pressure’s on, I know you kind of saw a little bit of a jump in the fastball velocity when runners got on, you know he was kind of feeling it. And those big-time moments, he’s definitely made for.”
Narciso led off the bottom off the first reaching on error and advanced to second on a balk. Proietto’s one-out single through the left side plated Narciso to put the Bucks up 1-0. A Curran double off the fence in center scored Proietto for a 2-0 lead.