Broad Street’s Justin Wiltsey strokes the first of his two hits in the fourth inning against Hamilton tonight. Photo by Amanda Ruch Photography.
By Rich Fisher
June 7: Manager Mike Petrowski wasn’t exactly sure what he had with this year’s Broad Street Park team, but he’s starting to find out.
And he’s starting to love it.
“This team knows how to win,” said Petrowski after Post 313 took a 6-1 victory at Hamilton tonight. “A lot of teams look like they have chemistry, but this team, being together the last six years now, have a special chemistry.”
Chemistry that has provided a 3-0 start and wins over two of the Mercer County American Legion League’s top teams.
“Bordentown, Hamilton, early in the year, to beat them both is huge,” Petrowski said. “I wasn’t sure if we could contend for the league. Obviously, the top five get to districts, but if we play like this we have a huge shot to win the league. It’s a huge win, especially at their place.”
Mason Fitzpatrick was the hugest of them all, keeping Post 31 off-balance and anxious in throwing a four-hitter with one walk and three strikeouts. The hurler had a sense this one was important as he took the mound.
“Before the game Petrowski said how big of a game this is, and if we can win this one we’re on our way to the playoffs,” Fitzpatrick said.
If they’re not completely on their way, they are certainly on the right track to finding their way. BSP played a solid all-around game, collecting eight hits, scoring four two-out runs, stealing five bases and playing errorless ball. Conversely, Hamilton (2-1) committed three errors that led to three unearned runs, and mustered just one baserunner over the final four innings.
“I went with a little bit of everything,” Fitzpatrick said. “I had a little bit of trouble with the change-up, kind of over-gripping it, kind of spiking it. The curveball felt good, the fastball was in and out, working it high-low. It felt good. Petrowski did a good job calling pitches, (catcher Connor) Luckie framing, moving in and out, keeping them guessing. They were definitely off-balance, I think.”
While serving as a Nottingham pitching coach during the high school season, Petrowski’s only chance to see Fitzpatrick was during a bullpen session with Hamilton West.
“The ball just comes out of his hand easy,” the skipper said. “When it comes out of your hand easy it looks a lot harder than it is. You saw a lot of late swings, a lot of jammed swings.”
And a lot of fly balls – 11, in fact. With the wind blowing in, they weren’t going too far.
Fitzpatrick’s control was masterful. He walked Joey Sacco leading off the first, and never allowed another free pass.
His only “bad” inning was the bottom of the third. After Steven Meckel singled an eventually scored on an error, Hamilton came right back on singles by Jordan Nitti and Sacco and a sacrifice fly by Brady Plunkett (who had Post 31’s other two hits).
BSP came back for two more in the fourth when Justin Wiltsey singled, Kieffer Goss reached on an error, Brien Cardona sacrificed, Luckie hit a sacrifice fly and Sean Elefant dropped a bunt single to score Goss.
“The third baseman was playing back and Sean flies,” Petrowski said. You get it anywhere on the grass and Sean is safe. We just took advantage of what they gave us. The good thing about this is they all execute. Pitching, defense and timely hitting. You get two-out runs and it’s hard to beat you.”
Unlike the third, Fitzpatrick responded with an easy shutdown inning in the fourth and was in control.
“After that inning I really started to feel it,” said the hurler, who retired nine straight and 14 of the last 15. “Every pitch started to work. After that I just wanted to get back on the mound. They kept putting up runs and I was like ‘All right, I’m ready to get back out there.”
BSP tacked on three in the fifth on RBI singles from Darius Land and Wiltsey, and a Hamilton error. Wiltsey and Meckel each had two hits and Wiltsey and Goss each stole two bases.
“We stole eight the first game, six in the second,” Petrowski said. “We can run one through nine. I’ve always felt, as a pitcher, when you’re struggling, you want those guys to stay put and go station to station. When they start running, you get a little flustered. He shut us down the first two or three innings, we had to find a way to put pressure on them.”
It’s still early, but BSP has shown it can find its way so far.