Bucks County Herald

Baseball:

Upbeat New Hope shakes off loss

DAVID CAMPBELL

New Hope-Solebury sent 12 to the plate in the bottom of the third inning.

Of the nine Lions who reached base, six trotted to first with a bruise. Amazingly, New Hope absorbed six hit batters in a crazy half-inning that saw the host Lions put up six runs and cut the Holy Ghost Prep advantage to 7-6 last Thursday in an interesting Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) match-up.

“We crowded the plate and we were trying to get something started, so I guess that kind of rattled him (Firebirds starter Drew Smiley),” said junior Derek Smith, the third Lion to take one for the team.

“If they need to wear a pitch, they wear a pitch,” said senior teammate Kevin Dougherty, who managed to escape from being plunked.

The end result was still a 12-8 setback for New Hope, however. The Lions lost to the Firebirds for the second time in less than a month.

“That’s a great measuring stick for us,” New Hope manager Tony Vlahovic said. “I think we battled them today. We have to clean up a few things. I wasn’t happy with our defense. Our defense is usually better than that. And we threw the ball around a little bit, which I wasn’t happy about. But in terms of energy, in terms of putting the ball in play and battling until the end, I was very happy with that.”

The hiccup snapped a five-game winning streak for Vlahovic’s club, which stands at 10-6 overall and 8-5 in the BAL with one regular season game remaining.

“We’re proud of our performance today,” said Smith, who bopped his third home run of the season, a blast that cleared the centerfield fence, in a two-run Lions seventh. “We battled back; we didn’t roll over. I’m proud of our guys today.”

A .434 batter on the season, Dougherty went 2-for-3 with a couple singles and a run scored. Cam Mertz, who entered the contest hitting .447, drove in a pair with a single in the third. Deven Smith had a run-scoring single in the seventh; he was also credited with an RBI for drawing a bases-loaded walk in the third. Jack Gawason was hit twice and was rewarded with a run and an RBI.

“We hit the ball harder in warm weather. That’s been our history. I guess maybe I should play in Florida for part of the year,” Vlahovic joked.

The pitching is missing a key cog, senior Matt Benda, who suffered a season-ending injury.

“He carried us last year,” Derek Smith admitted. “He was our playoff guy. He pitched almost every game in the playoffs. He won us districts, basically.”

“We lost Benda,” Dougherty added, “but we still have Tucker (Wittman), we still have Deven, we still have Blake (Doherty) – Blake’s stepping up big time – and that’s what happened last year. It started with our defense and pitching. I still think we have great pitchers. We just have to clean up the defense a little bit and I think we can repeat [as District One Class AAAA champions] and do what we did last year.”

New Hope came in second to Lower Moreland in the latest power rankings for districts.

“I just think there’s something about this group of guys,” said Dougherty, giving a nod to, among others, John Mangan, who is hitting .372 with five doubles and a team-leading 19 RBIs. “We’re so invested in this. I think we’ve [reclaimed] the chemistry that we had last year.”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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