When Obama met Quaker Valley earlier this season, the tale was not a happy one: despite carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, errors eventually spelled a 7-3 defeat. Heading into tonight’s rematch, the Eagles were determined to reverse the narrative.
Things started out auspiciously: a collection of first-inning singles led to an early 1-0 lead. However, the offense stalled thereafter, and frame after frame read “0.” For their part, Quaker Valley, too, struggled to plate runs; a stellar performance from Eagles ace Nick Consentino saw batter after batter slink back to the dugout, head hung, the words “strike three” resounding through the clear night. But a miscue in right field allowed the visitors to steal a run, and the game remained a dead heat as the late innings approached.
The two teams were not without opportunities; the Eagles’ small-ball strategy placed runners in scoring position several times, but the deciding base hit eluded them. Consentino found himself in a few minor jams, but solid defense — a refreshing change of pace for the Obama squad — including a diving snag by left fielder Justin Gaines allowed him to escape relatively comfortably each time.
Consentino finished the sixth with a glove-popping fastball to record his 13th strikeout, but, having crossed the 100-pitch threshold, it was up to his co-captain, senior Zach Beckman, to finish the job. He did so convincingly, retiring the side in the top of the seventh with ease thanks to a particularly sharp curveball.
And so the fairytale ending was all but written as 9-hitter Malachi Quarles stepped into the box to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Quarles turned around a first-pitch fastball for a ground ball up the middle that barely snuck past the outstretched glove of the diving Quaker Valley shortstop. This was representative of two other positive trends for the Eagles: more aggressiveness at the plate and a productive bottom of the lineup that is increasingly able to feed into the power bats at the top of the order.
Beckman followed up the hit with a walk, and the table was set for senior Reuben Swartz. The Eagles center fielder was hitless up until that point with two weak groundballs and a popup to the catcher in foul territory, and it wasn’t entirely clear that that trend was going to turn around: he began the at-bat with a failed bunt attempt and a corkscrew on the infield grass that rolled foul.
0-2. The windup, the pitch — crack! The left fielder could only make a halfhearted jumping attempt as the ball soared over his head and landed resolutely in the outfield grass. A moment of cautious yelping as Quarles crossed the plate, and then utter pandemonium as the dugout gate was thrown open and exultant Obama ballplayers swarmed Swartz on first base.
Final score: Obama 2, Quaker Valley 1.