Right man, right time
With the winning run on third base and one out in the ninth, Heidelberg had the right man at the plate.
Leadoff hitter Joe Staab had already driven in HU’s only run and lined a pair of singles. He came up in the ninth with the score 1-1 between Heidelberg and Manchester.
“You’ve just got to look for something you can drive to the outfield,” he said. “Something you can lift up.”
Staab did just that, singling to center off Spartans’ reliever Bryce Murphy to score Joe Chiarappa and give the Student Princes a 2-1 victory at a frigid Peaceful Valley.
Staab’s RBI single came minutes after Heidelberg reliever Adam Manner pitched out of a bases loaded, one out situation to keep the game tied. Manner, a Bellevue graduate, relieved starter Chris Thomas.
Thomas (2-0) threw a gem, going 8 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, and unearned run, walking two and striking out two.
Thomas threw well despite temperatures in the 30s and occasional flurries.
“Obviously today’s weather makes it a little more difficult, when it’s as cold as it is, but maybe he felt like he had an ice bag on his arm all day,” Heidelberg coach Matt Palm said. “He gave us a great start. The team we played today, it’s one of the top teams we’ve played so far, probably one of the best team’s we’ll play all year.”
Manchester came in undefeated and ranked No. 20 in Division III.
Heidelberg (9-2) took a lead on the Spartans in the fifth. Arneal Squibb led off with an infield single, then moved to second on a Jordan Martin bunt and to third when Andrew Zenczak grounded out.
That left it up to Stabb, who ripped a single.
“We thought Joe would be one of our leaders coming back, he’s got that personality,” Palm said. “He’s done a great job to understand what it takes out of that spot to be great.”
Manchester evened things in the sixth. Kyle Norris reached on an error to open the inning for the Spartans. After a walk and a strikeout, Norris advanced to third on a wild pitch, then came home when the runner at first broke for second and Martin – the catcher – threw to second, creating a rundown.
Thomas went on to pitch into the ninth, going over 100 pitches.
“Just making sure to get ahead of guys,” Thomas said. “That’s our team motto this year. Get ahead, throw strikes, don’t give them free passes.”
Manchester’s biggest threat came in the ninth. With one out, Bryce Murphy and Brad Murphy hit back-to-back infield singles. Brad Murphy’s hit went off of Thomas, and spelled the end of his day. Manner relieved, and promptly threw a wild pitch, then hit Corey Merchant to load the bases.
But Manner, who has not been scored upon in 12 1/3 innings of work this season, got tough. He got Joran Niemann to hit a week grounder between the plate and the mound. Manner got to the ball and tossed it to Martin, who was covering home, for the force.
Dan Maringer then flied out to center.
“I just had to take my time; settle down,” Manner said. “I didn’t have all my pitches working for me, so I was just working fastball, changeup, trying to locate and make them hit the ball and let the defense make a play, really.”
“Today’s a tough day for relievers,” Palm said. “It’s not like we’re in the big leagues, we don’t have heated dugouts or heated bullpens… Adam’s typically a three or four pitch pitcher, and he couldn’t feel his slider, so we just went fastball changeup with him today, and he did a really nice job.
One more play from Saturday’s game stands out. Chiarappa led off the ninth, pinch hitting for Squibb. He popped up into short right field, but Manchester first baseman Brad Murphy was unable to catch it. Chiarappa, running all the way, reached second on the error.
“That’s the run that won us the ballgame,” Palm said. “You always have to play hard no matter the circumstances, because people notice you not playing hard when the ball gets dropped and you don’t get to second base. I give Joe a lot of credit for playing the right way.
Heidelberg has a doubleheader with Manchester today, starting at 1 p.m. Before the first game, Heidelberg will dedicate a veterans’ memorial at Peaceful Valley.
The idea came from and was funded by the Lowe family, which had two sons play Heidelberg baseball. Andy Lowe, a star closer, graduated in 2011. Teddy Lowe has pitched for Heidelberg the last few seasons.
“The Lowe family approached me about putting a memorial down here. (Bob Lowe, Andy and Teddy’s father) had sent me some pictures of some of the stuff that he’d done at some of his other plants. I thought it was a tremendous idea to honor all those people that we probably take for granted most days, that let us live freely in our country. It honors those that have served, those that are serving and those who will serve our country. You couldn’t have a better memorial at your ballpark.
The memorial, Patriots Park at Peaceful Valley, will be dedicated at noon.