LEGION BASEBALL: Fort Washington beats Jenkintown, forces winner-take-all Lower Montco final

From Last nights Montgomery Newspapers:

Brian McPeak Fort Washington Golden Generals
Brian McPeak, the 15-year-old right-handed pitcher has been one of the team’s best players this summer.

UPPER DUBLIN >> The Fort Washington Generals knew they were far from their best the first time they played Jenkintown in the Lower Montco Legion playoffs.

With a chance to face the Angels again and needing to win to keep their season alive, the Generals were much better the second time around. Much of that was due to Brian McPeak, the 15-year-old right-handed pitcher that’s been one of the team’s best players this summer.

McPeak pitched a complete game five-hitter as Fort Washington won 9-3 to force a winner-take-all championship game Tuesday.

“This was probably the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in my life,” McPeak, a JV pitcher at Upper Dublin in the spring, said. “I was definitely nervous, but nerves are good sometimes and I think it makes you compete better.”

Fort certainly didn’t come out like the team with the pressure on it to win. Jenkintown starter Dale Jacobs started with a little too much energy on the hill and couldn’t locate the strike zone at the outset. Jacobs threw seven straight balls to start the game, most of them floating high of the strike zone.

The result saw Justin Horn and Matt Hebling walk and Horn advance to third on a wild pitch and stolen base. After a fly out to left, Horn scored on an infield error and Hebling rushed home on a wild pitch, avoiding the tag of Dan Gordon at home plate.

“He just took a little while to settle down and sometimes that happens,” Jenkintown coach Craig Stein said. “He just put a little more pressure than he needed to. We just had a bad start, but once we all settled down, we did ok.”

Gordon, the Angels’ catcher, did throw out two runners in the first.

Stein added that being down big early took his team out of its game, which involves lots of running and movement on the base paths. Where Fort Washington lost the earlier game with a bad late inning, Stein said Monday’s game was lost with a bad early inning.

Fort starter Brian McPeak did not have much trouble in the first, retiring the side on just eight pitches. While the game was played at Fort’s home field at Upper Dublin High School, Jenkintown was the home team by value of advancing through the winner’s bracket.

So, the “away” Generals took a big step toward forcing a decisive game on Tuesday with a five-spot in the second inning. Noel Franczyk singled, Owen Lawn walked and Riley Brink singled to load the bases against Jacobs.

The Jenkintown righty was still fighting with his command and hit Jack Jamison and Horn to bring in two more runs. Matt Hebling hit a sac fly to right, scoring Brink and an error on an Angels relay throw plated Jamison.

Fort finally got a run producing hit when Dianno singled in Horn for a 7-0 lead.

“It was clearly our worst game all year (earlier in the playoffs) but luckily it happened earlier than later on and we got a chance to redeem ourselves a little bit,” Fort Washington coach Gary Bonitatibus said. “It usually comes down to pitching and defense and if we throw enough strikes and make enough plays defensively, we should be in every game and we were able to do that the last few days.”

For the next four innings, Jacobs was untouchable, holding the Generals to just one hit and two total runners from the third through the sixth. His offense also found a pulse, but couldn’t quite find the difference-making hit.

McPeak wasn’t overpowering, striking out just one batter, but he was very good at getting hitters to hit his pitches and used his defense as a weapon. Fort Washington turned two double plays and McPeak stranded six men on base.

“All year long, he’s made big pitches when he’s had to,” Bonitatibus said. “He’s gotten guys out with men on base. He got their best hitter out with two on and a hit there could have turned into a big inning. He made a great pitch and got the guy to ground out. Plus, he’s been swinging the bat unbelievably, he doesn’t get any cheap hits.”

The Angels got on the board in the fourth when Jake Gaev scored on a passed ball, but Jenkintown stranded John Contoudis at third. An inning later, Jared Smith singled home Gordon and Skylar Marsh raced home on a
throwing error trying to get a base stealer.
With Smith and Christian Geer both in scoring position, McPeak stared down Jenkintown cleanup hitter John Contoudis. The righty won the battle with Contoudis, a grizzled veteran for both Jenkintown High School and the Angels, by getting the outfielder to ground out to Horn at short.

“I just wanted to keep the ball low,” McPeak said. “You just want to throw a strike, but low where he can’t get a big piece of it. You want it down the middle, but on the low side. An out like that hypes you up and makes you want to get right back out there.”

McPeak avoided giving up the big hit all game and he found a way to help himself in the seventh inning. Horn singled to lead off, JT Breslin walked and both moved up on a one-out fly to center by Dianno.

It wouldn’t have matter what base either was on as McPeak bombed a two-out double to the fence in left field, plating two runs and giving himself a five-run lead to work with.

“It made me want to get back on the mound and finish the win off for my teammates,” McPeak said.

He had little trouble finishing things off, working around a one-out walk to wrap up the game with a scoreless seventh.

Horn reached base all four times he went to the plate and scored two runs. Marsh was 2-for-3 for Jenkintown.

Much like their win over Fort Washington wasn’t as lopsided as it seemed, Stein felt his team was closer than six runs on Monday. While the Angels are at the end of their pitching rotation, the pressure is back on top-seeded Fort Washington to win the tournament.

“Hopefully the kids will play a little more relaxed and got this one out of their system,” Stein said. “If we can keep it close early in the game, we can play our game and see what that gets us.”

 

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