UPPER MORELAND >> For the second time in seven days, first place Upper Dublin defeated second place Upper Moreland. This time, the win clinched a second straight Suburban One League American Conference championship. The Cardinals won, 6-2, Monday afternoon at Upper Moreland High School to secure at least a share of the league title.
“These guys deserve it,” Upper Dublin coach Ed Wall said. “It’s a heck of a team we have here.” Upper Dublin sits comfortably in first place with an 11-1 SOL American record with two games to play. Upper Moreland remains in second with a 10-3 mark with one game remaining on the schedule.
“It’s still good,” Upper Dublin’s Cole Swiger said of winning a second league title. “We still want to finish out these two games we have left in the league season with Springfield and Cheltenham, but beating a team like this is a big step and big momentum going into any type of playoffs and any type of seed we get.”
The Cardinals did all of their scoring in the fourth and fifth innings and put runs on the board by taking advantage of Upper Moreland’s mistakes. They entered the top of the fourth inning losing 1-0 and immediately loaded the bases on an error, infield single and perfectly placed sacrifice bunt that turned into a single. The inning appeared to be a disappointment when a grounder to third turned into a 5-2-3 double play and the would-be third out was a soft fly ball to left field. Thomas Juelke’s fly ball was dropped, Swiger and Conor McFadden scored, and Upper Dublin was ahead, 2-1.
The fifth inning started with two quick outs before Justin Horn reach on an infield single. He advanced to second on a wild pickoff throw and to third on a wild pitch. Thomas Reilly followed with a walk and stole second, allowing Horn to score on the throw. Swiger walked and McFadden hit into an error that scored Reilly to make it a 4-1 Upper Dublin lead and put himself and Swiger on second and third base. Swiger scored on a wild pitch and JT Breslin tallied the Cardinals first hit to leave the infield to score McFadden and put his side comfortably ahead, 6-1.
“We were able to take advantage of some opportunities that they presented us,” Wall said, “and put some hard hits in play.” “We just wanted to keep putting the ball in play,” Swiger said, “keep putting the bat on it. We don’t want to look at strikes because we were tending to look at strikes early in the game our first couple at bats. We just started getting more aggressive and putting it in play, because when that happens, you can usually get guys running around the bases and scoring runs.”
Upper Moreland was poised for a strong response in the bottom of the fifth, but Swiger shut it down and allowed minimal damage. The Bears first three batters reached to load the bases with no outs. Three straight ground balls got the Cardinals out of the inning with a 6-2 lead and the only run scored on a Randy Meehl RBI grounder. “I felt myself get a little tense up there,” Swiger said of the bases loaded, no outs situation. “I just kind of let go and tried to throw strikes because that was working today so far … I had the defense all day and just knowing that I can throw strikes and have that defense behind me felt very good.”
“We didn’t get a chance to kind of play our game as far as you’ve seen before,” Upper Moreland coach Ken Irwin said. “At the point of the game when we started getting leadoff guys on, we were down five runs … Maybe I should have been more aggressive to bunt or run. I was just hoping for that one double in the gap with bases runners to get us back in it, but we didn’t get it. (Swiger’s) good. There’s not doubt about it.”
That was the type of pitching Swiger had all game. In seven innings, the Bloomsburg University commit allowed two runs on four hits. He struck out three batters and walked three. “(Swiger) just went out there and battled,” Wall said. “He’s a competitor. He came out for the football team this year and got a taste of what it was like to go in Districts and compete and he did it with track and golf as well. The kid’s a heck of an athlete, he knows how to compete and that’s exactly what he did.”
Joe Bates pitched a complete game for the Bears and would have had a beautiful outing if not for the errors behind him. He allowed one earned run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven batters and walked three. “It’s tough,” Irwin said. “That’s how (Bates) pitches — he pitches to contact. We’ve made the plays all year and today we didn’t. You’re not going to beat a good team like Upper Dublin and Cole Swiger if you don’t make the plays. Hopefully we get it out of our system because we know in the playoffs in the first round we’re going to face a really good team, either Upper Perk, Phoenixville or someone like that. We’re going to have to play better.”
Upper Moreland took its 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Connor Casey hit a two-out single and scored on a Jon Searles double in the left-center gap. The two teams could still tie for the league championship, but it would be a minor miracle. Upper Moreland would need to win its final game against Upper Merion (4-8) and Upper Dublin would need to lose both of its final two games to Cheltenham (5-6) and Springfield-Montco (2-9).
By Ed Morlock
SUBARBANONE SPORTS UPDATE
Upper Dublin 6, Upper Moreland 2
What a school year for Upper Dublin sports. (Pages is green-lining me. It wants me to use a question mark instead of a period here. But this is a statement, not a question. Computer programs have no souls. Especially Pages, which is no Microsoft Word 2003. ’03 Word was the greatest word processor of all-time.) The Flying Cardinals won SOL American titles in soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball. There has never been a better time to be a Cardinal.
The baseball Cardinals won their second straight league title. Upper Dublin coach Ed Wall, how do you feel? “I’m going to Disney World!” Wall shouted at the top of his lungs. Just kidding. Wall didn’t say that. Here’s what he said: “It felt great. The boys really deserve it. They worked really hard. To have one loss at this point is quite an accomplishment.”
Before the season, Wall knew his team could repeat.
“I knew we would be solid at the plate and have decent defense,” Wall said. “But I was unsure about pitching. We didn’t have that dominant guy who could come in and throw really hard.” Christian Huckfeldt was that guy last season. Huckfeldt was the winning pitcher in seven of UD’s 12 league wins. Cole Swiger won three league games and had a 0.96 ERA in league play. “He pitched around Christian,” Wall said. But in 2016, Swiger became Christian: A number one, once-a-week league starter.
Swiger pitched a complete game and struck out three on Monday. He improved to 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA. Connor McFadden, at 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA, has developed into Swiger’s Swiger. In 2014 and ‘15, McFadden pitched 9.1 innings and went 0-2 in league play. “That’s an impressive turnaround,” Wall said. “They have really stepped it up in conference.” Jason Greene has two league wins for UD. Tommy Reilly has the other. “The pitching has exceeded expectations,” Wall said. He also praised his team’s defense.
“That was a big part of today. When we play defense well, we win games,” Wall said. “We tracked down balls in the outfield and turned a couple double plays.” “Last week, we were off defensively,” Wall said. “We gave UM a lot of runs last week when we played. This game was a flip flop. They gave us a couple extra chances.”
All six UD runs were unearned. Swiger scored two. JT Breslin drove in one. In the first, Upper Moreland took a 1-0 lead on Jon Searles’ double. Connor Casey scored the run. Upper Dublin scored two runs in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Upper Dublin (12-3, 11-1 SOL) plays Springfield Tuesday. Upper Moreland (13-4, 10-3 SOL) takes on Upper Merion at 7 p.m.
Upper Dublin 0-0-0-2-4-0-0 6
Upper Moreland 1-0-0-0-1-0-0 2