Conor Larkin, Spring-Ford eliminate Upper Dublin By Ed Morlock
UPPER DUBLIN >> The Spring-Ford baseball team doesn’t need to score many runs to win games when ace pitcher Conor Larkin has the ball. The No. 10 seed Rams scored enough for Larkin in the first couple of innings Tuesday aftetrnoon against the No. 3 seed Upper Dublin, but they didn’t stop there. They totaled nine runs on 13 hits and cruised to a 9-0 win to stay alive in the District 1 Class AAAA fifth-place bracket. Larkin, a Penn State commit, threw six innings of three-hit ball. He struck out nine batters and walked two.
“That’s what he’s been all year for us,” Spring-Ford coach Bruce Brobst said. “Very consistent and just very good. Then of course the offense just carried the day. You put those three things together — you’re going to pitch like that, you’re going to hit like that and you’re going to play defense like that, that’s a win every time.”
After Cardinals pitcher Cole Swiger set down the first five Spring-Ford batters, the Rams offense started to figure it out. Nick Brauer worked a walk with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the second inning and Ethan Hellberg followed with an RBI double to get the scoring started.
“Getting that first run in the second inning, we had two outs and nobody on base,” Brobst said. “We get a walk, wild pitch gets him to second and Ethan gets a big double to score him. Playing with a lead is great. It’s always great to play with a lead.”
Sean McHugh had an RBI single in the third inning to double the lead to 2-0 and the game really broke open in the top of the fourth. The Rams first four batters got hits, including RBI singles from Hellberg and Owen Gulati. Brian Varani added another run with a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-0 Spring-Ford lead. It was more of the same in the fourth inning. Brauer plated a run with a sacrifice fly, Quinn McKenna scored on a firth-and-third steal situation and Varani hit a two-run, two-out single to make it a 9-0 game.
“Contributions up and down the lineup,” Brobst said. “It wasn’t just two-three-four guys, it was the everybody. We executed a bunt. Everything just went our way today. It was a great day of baseball.”
Upper Dublin had two legitimate scoring opportunities and could not capitalize either time. In the third two runners reached with one out and the top of the order up, but the Rams turned a double play to end the threat. In the sixth, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with no outs and the 3-4-5 hitters due up. Larkin sandwiched two strikeouts around a fly ball to center to close out his day on the mound.
“Larkin is a hell of a pitcher,” Upper Dublin coach Ed Wall said. “Fastball velocity, on top of that a nasty deuce. That’s hard to hit. I can see why he’s been as popular as he has been and rightfully so. He’s a special talent that they have over there.”
The Rams will face No. 9 seed Marple Newtown Thursday at a site and time to be determined in the fifth-place game. The winner earns a trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs and the loser goes home. Spring-Ford beat Marple in the first round of the district playoffs last season.
“We finished the season very strong,” Brobst said. “I said, ‘you guys are definitely good enough to make the state tournament.’ Then it just becomes can you get the breaks? Can you do the things you need to do to get there? So far we have. We have one more time to make it happen.”
Upper Dublin’s season ends with the loss. “I’m really proud of these guys,” Wall said of the Suburban One League American Conference champs. “Getting two conference championships in two years is a hell of an accomplishment for these guys. This senior group will be missed a lot.”
—- from SuburbanOneSports —–
#10 Spring-Ford 9, #3 Upper Dublin 0
We heard it all season: “Spring-Ford has that one pitcher who’s unbeatable.”
Upper Dublin ran into him. Conor Larkin gave up three hits in six innings. He also struck out nine. “Larkin was A-plus. He has a fantastic fastball for a junior. And he was throwing his curve for a strike,” Upper Dublin coach Ed Wall said. “He was tough to hit, that’s for sure. He’s one of the toughest pitchers we’ve faced all year, if not the toughest.”
Larkin’s fastball clocks in the high 80s. He has reached 90. In the fourth, the Rams pounded 13 hits and plated three runs to make it 5-0. They added four more runs in the fifth. The playback semifinal loss ends Upper Dublin’s 2016 season. The Flying Cardinals were outscored 19-0 in their last two district playoff games. They lost 10-0 to CR North in the quarterfinals.
“Council Rock North’s pitchers were really solid. I was also real impressed with their bats 1-9. They didn’t give us anything, didn’t chase anything, or swing at curves,” Wall said. “And everything they hit was gap to gap.Then we ran into Larkin, who’s a complete buzz saw. He made it tough to make contact,” Wall said. “Plus everything Spring-Ford hit seemed to fall. They are a good, well-coached team though.”
UD still enjoyed a banner 2016. “I’m really proud of our guys,” Wall said. “Getting a win in the playoffs and playing past Memorial Day, there’s something to be said for that.”
The Cardinals also won their second straight SOL American championship. Wall’s 2012 Cardinals made states and lost to La Salle, the eventual champion, in the first round. “Other than that, this team got the furthest. So they were the second best I’ve had here,” Wall said. “They were both great teams with a lot of talent. Last year too. Coaching these guys was a lot of fun.”
Upper Dublin will lose eight seniors, including two starting outfielders, two starting infielders, and top catcher Thomas Juelke. Cole Swiger and Conor McFadden—UD’s top two pitchers—are part of that gang of eight.
“They had a fantastic four years,” Wall said. Wall kept Swiger and McFadden on varsity as freshmen in 2013. The decision paid off.
“It got them ready and ended up helping us win back-to-back conference titles,” Wall said. “Hats off to them for a lot of hard work.”
Shortstop Justin Horn, pitcher Jason Greene, second baseman Thomas Reilly, and outfielder JT Breslin will be back in 2017. “We’ll have some depth,” Wall said. “The first question is always, ‘What’s our rotation going to look like?’ This year’s fell into place with Cole and Conor stepping up. Next year, Justin, Jason, and Tommy should be the core.”
Upper Dublin (14-7) will play somebody next March.
Spring-Ford 0-1-1-3-4-0-0 9
Upper Dublin 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 0