The opponents, the Norchester Big Dawgs, are a seasoned baseball franchise, and the experience showed in a 6-0 victory over the Steal.

Left-hander Dan Willauer fashioned a three-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and three walks for Norchester (1-1) on 91 pitches. Willauer also went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs batted in and one run scored as the Big Dawgs recovered from a 9-5 loss to Pottsgrove the previous night.

Norchester took advantage of eight Phoenix errors, leading to five unearned runs.

Still, Willauer and Phoenix's Jon Hogga hooked up in a pitchers' duel that stood at 1-0 until the hosts scored four runs on three hits and three errors in the fifth inning.

Hogga pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed five hits and one earned run with eight strikeouts and two walks on 93 pitches. Steve Cimino, who started the game at shortstop, relieved for 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and no earned runs with two strikeouts and one walk.

"It might have been nerves or first-game jitters," said Phoenix manager A.J. Gray, who is assisted by coaches Bob Ulisny and Steve Otis. "I tried to explain to the kids that this is a higher level. You have to be mentally focused and ready to play on every play. You have to make plays at this level, the routine plays, and we didn't make them tonight. We also made a lot of mental mistakes that coaches see."

In the top of the first inning, the Steal's Matt Pannella picked up a one-out single and Cimino walked. But Willauer escaped a possible jam with a strikeout and groundout to first base.

Norchester scored once in the bottom half of the stanza. Hogga fanned the first two batters, but George Kochu launched a triple down the left-field line to the fence on a 3-2 pitch and scored on a throwing error on the play.

Leadoff man Kyle McKernan, the center fielder, second baseman Matt Pannella and left fielder Chaz Ferko collected hits for Phoenix.

Kochu, the shortstop, and first baseman Matt Murray had two-hit outings for the winners.

Willauer is the third member of his family to play baseball for Owen J. Roberts and Norchester. He looks ready to follow in the footsteps of brothers Ryan and Greg.

"Willie has been a Junior Legion player for three years," said Norchester manager Ken Long. "He is a quality kid and a big, strong kid. He works hard and has a lot of experience. His brothers have both played and helped him out.

"We had a few key hits and we played a good team game, I thought, tonight."

Gray was still happy with the way the Steal contended in their first time on the field together in a new program, sponsored by the Phoenixville Babe Ruth League.

"I am proud of the kids and the way they battled," Gray said. "I am happy with that. But we can't be satisfied. We know we can play better.

"Their pitcher did a good job. He kept us off balance. When we threatened, he made good pitches."

Phoenix plays again Saturday at Pottsgrove at 1 p.m.

comments powered by Disqus