SPRINGFIELD – Andrew Cantwell didn’t have his best stuff Friday, but the Springfield ace gave a gutsy complete-game performance to force a Game 5 against Upper Darby.
Cantwell’s second strikeout of the night closed the door on a back-and-forth affair and sealed the Colonials’ 8-5 victory over Upper Darby in Game 4 of a Delco League semifinal playoff series.
Springfield and Upper Darby will play Saturday at 1 o’clock for the right to advance to the championship final next week.
Cantwell tossed 128 pitches, and it was a definite grind for the West Chester University lefty, but he was hellbent on going the distance. That’s just the way Cantwell is built. He won big games for West Chester during the spring, helping the Golden Rams get to the NCAA Division II World Series.
So even though the reigning champion Blue Sox churned out 10 hits and coaxed five walks, Cantwell wasn’t the least bit nervous and ready to wave the white flag. He was a bulldog.
“They’re a great team and they battled through at bats, they were fouling off pitches and making me throw more pitches than I needed to,” Cantwell said. “I was trying to just pound the zone, you know, just let them hit it and have my defense help me out. I mean, there’s a couple times where I let it slip through but I mean, you got to shake that off, you got to play for the next inning. Our bats obviously kept us in this game. They tied up 4-4 and then to respond like we did, that’s all I can ask for, right? Just go out and compete.”
Gabe Encarnacion was the hero at the dish. The Interboro grad belted a pair of RBI triples, including what proved to be the game winner in the bottom of the fifth inning after Upper Darby tied the game with a three-run rally in the top half. Encarnacion hit a shot the opposite way, kicking up chalk down the right-field line. Norm Donkin scored easily to give Springfield a 5-4 advantage. The Colonials plated four runs in the fifth off reliever Ben Thorpe to take an 8-4 lead. Gerard Sweeney delivered a two-run triple.
“I’ve stung the ball a little bit this year, but that was huge,” Encarnacion said. “I saw Norm was running so I wanted to put it on the right side any way I can and I got into it and put a nice swing on the ball.
“That’s just kind of how this whole series has been. You know, it’s who scores first and who scores early and often. … We haven’t been swinging too great this playoffs. So it was just nice to put some hits together, string them together and get some runs. It was a good team win.”
And knowing what Cantwell had to endure – for instance, suffocating heat – the Colonials didn’t want to spoil a gritty outing from their ace.
“He’s been our guy and he was our guy last year,” Encarnacion said. “He didn’t let up anu runs for us last year. We needed a big shutdown game and he stepped up and battled. He gutted it out and did what we needed him to do.”
Springfield took advantage of poor command from UD starter Michael Costello in the first inning. Costello plunked three Colonial hitters, walked three and allowed four runs (two earned). Frank Parrotti relieved Costello with nobody out in the second inning. After getting slugger Gerard Sweeney to roll into a 1-4-3 double play, Cole Palis smoked an RBI double to put Springfield up 4-0 in the second.
The Blue Sox got a run back in the third with an RBI single by Adam Fine. In the third Steve Theisen, Josh Hankins and Max Anastasio each knocked in a run to even the score at four.
After the game the Colonials were dancing to music and feeling pretty good about their Game 4 win. They are a win away from a finals berth, something they have done before in the franchise’s history.
“I think we’re ready to go. We’re loose,” Encarnacion said. “On any given day you know you’re going to get a good arm from (Upper Darby). We’ve just got to have disciplined at bats like we have been and make the most out of our opportunities