Diamonds force Game 5
For the second time in the series against Skippack, Norristown has put up a flawless effort behind pitcher Craig Clark. Through thick and thin, they support the towering lefty while his menacing presence on the mound does as much to work through hitters as his fastball does.
While Clark was responsible for holding his team in contention in the first game of the series, a Diamonds win on the road, Monday night he had the benefit of runs of support early. All he needed to do was quietly go about his work, as he always does, to cruise to a 6-2 victory and force game five.
“He played the way he always plays tonight,” said Diamonds manager Vince Elsier. “He’s a work-horse.”
Clark had allowed just a single hit through the first three inningg. In the second, Norristown was able to jump out to a 3-0 lead thanks to some clutch hitting from the bottom of the lineup off Wranglers’ pitcher Eric Albaugh.
Bryan Mulhern led off with a walk and a stolen base, followed by Matt Sperling who reached on a bunt single that put runners on the corners. Pete O’Hara scored Mulhern on a flyball to left. Pat Campion added a run with an RBI-single, with Dave Wolfson scoring the third run with another sacrifice to leftfield.
“It always helps when the offense comes out and gets runs on the board right away,” Clark said. “But, even with a lead, you can’t let up.”
Working inside, outside, up and down with a varying speeds, Clark looked sharp from the get-go. The Wranglers found a bit of success in the fourth inning, plating a run after Tom Romano slapped a single into centerfield. Rob Zinsmeister followed up with a flyball to Norristown centerfielder Kyle Wenger, who erred on the throw back to first, sending the ball into the home team dugout and allowing Romano to advance to third — the sole mistake of the game — however Wenger would make up for that later. Romano scored on the Matt Albaugh RBI-groundout.
Skippack made some more waves in the sixth inning when the Wrangles scored another run on two hits and a walk. Clark, however, bookended the inning with strikeouts and avoided any real threat.
“We were only up by two runs at that point with guys on base, you’ve got to really work in that situation,” Clark said. “But, the guys in the field played awesome tonight.”
None was more evident than the final out of the top of the seventh in which Wenger laid out, full extension, on a diving catch to end the game — the third flyball Clark induced in the final frame.
With the win, Norristown forces the deciding game five back at Skippack on Tuesday, a 5:45 p.m. start.
“It’s all about momentum, they carried it from the second game into the third, and hopefully we can carry it into to- morrow,” Elsier said. “These are two good teams going at it, as a spectator it’s fun to watch, and as a coach it’s fun too.”
Norristown catcher Mike Mulhern sits after being thrown out trying to advance from first to third against Skippack.