Di­a­monds force Game 5

The Colonial - - SPORTS - By Rick Kauff­man rkauff­man@21st-cen­tu­ryme dia.com

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.”

21st Cen­tury Me­dia photo / RICK KAUFF­MAN

Norristown catcher Mike Mul­h­ern sits af­ter be­ing thrown out try­ing to ad­vance from first to third against Skip­pack.

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