Kennett drops season-opener to Great Valley, 6-1
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett opened the 2015 baseball season on Monday against Great Valley—one of the perennial powerhouses of the Ches-Mont League and the defending American Division champions.
Kennett jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, capitalizing on a balk by Great Valley starting pitcher John Hammerschmidt.
Great Valley struck back in the top of the second inning when Austin Lenker and Carter Rubin hit back-to-back singles off Kennett starting pitcher Joe Zirolli. A walk loaded the bases with two outs. Mike Malloy delivered a clutch two-out single to plate two runs.
In the bottom of the second inning, Hammerschmidt started to settle into a groove, relying primarily on a good breaking ball that he effectively changed speeds on. Hitters from both teams were already challenged by the cold, blustery conditions.
In the bottom of the third, Hammerschmidt struck out four because one hitter reached base on a passed ball on the third strike.
Zirolli surrendered a walk to Rubin to start the top of the fourth inning. Rubin stole second base but then, after multiple throws to the base, the Kennett pitcher picked him off. The score remained 2-1.
Kennett batters were doing a good job of making Hammerschmidt work hard and throw a lot of pitches, but they had just one hit through the first four innings.
Zirolli continued to battle, keeping Great Valley’s powerful offense in check. The Patriots loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth without the benefit of a hit that reached the outfield. Zirolli coaxed a ground out to third for the second out. Then Lenker delivered a line-drive single off the base of the right field wall. Two runs scored, making it 4-1. Great Valley pushed another run across on an error.
Kennett put two runners on in each of the next two innings, but couldn’t come up with a timely hit. Hammerschmidt got the first out in the sixth and then turned the ball over to reliever Allen Barry. Hammerschmidt struck out seven and surrendered two hits—both singles to Kennett's Drew Massetti.
Great Valley tacked on a run in the seventh, then Barry closed out the game by striking out the side.
New head coach Matt Royer said that he saw some things that he liked during his first game with Kennett.
“I thought we competed early on,” he said. “Our defense was good in the first four innings. Joe pitched well for his first time out there this season. He worked out of a couple of situations.”
Royer said that his team took too many called strikes, especially when runners were on base.
“We had some opportunities,” he explained. “We need to be more aggressive at the plate when we get runners on base.”
Royer has 33 years of coaching experience, including stints at Kutztown University, Liberty University, and most recently Twin Valley High School. At Kutztown University, he took his teams to the Division II College World Series in 2001 and 2002. Kutztown standouts that Royer coached include John Rozich, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Ryan Vogelsong, who still pitches for the San Francisco Giants and was a member of the 2012 and 2014 World Series championship teams. The Twin Valley squad enjoyed unprecedented success under Royer’s helm, winning a district championship.
Royer said that his goal for the 2015 season is simply getting his team to play hard and to play good, fundamental baseball.
“I want them to play the game the right way,” Royer explained. “I want them to play hard. We’re concerned about the process.”
Kennett has games coming up against Sun Valley on March 25, Downingtown West on March 27 and East on March 30. Great Valley plays Downingtown East on March 25, Sun Valley on March 27, and Unionville on March 30.