HADDON HEIGHTS – There are few things that can give a baseball team more confidence than having a chance to play behind a pitcher who controls the tempo of the game.
That was evident on Tuesday when Haddon Heights rode the 3-hit, 11 strikeout pitching of senior right-hander Matt Kennedy to a 4-0 Colonial Conference win over West Deptford.
“When Matt is on he’s pretty good and fortunately he’s been on about every time he’s been out there,” said Garnets coach Eric Newell. “He’s our guy, and we feel pretty good when he’s on the mound.”
Indeed, it’s been a banner three starts this season for Kennedy, who pitched 6 2/3 before being relieved for pitch-count reasons.
He’s now 3-0, he has two shutouts and he’s given up only two runs all season. He’s recorded 31 strikeouts, with a high of 12 in one outing this season.
His effort helped the Garnets get back into the win column after losing two straight games.
“It’s just great when he’s on fire like that,” said Heights catcher Matt DiOrio. “I just set up in the right spot, and he hits it consistently.”
According to DiOrio, that’s a wining formula.
“We all love when he’s throwing,” he said. “We have confidence in all of our pitchers but we seem to have a lot of chemistry when Matt pitches.”
Bound for St. Joseph University next year, the 6-foot-7 Kennedy has two goals for this season. He’d certainly like to help the Garnets win as many games as possible, but he’s also looking beyond this season.
“I’m getting ready for the next level,” he said. “When the schedule came out I told the coach I wanted the big games, so I could prepare myself for get ready for the next level.”
Kennedy set the tone of the game early when he struck out the side in the first inning – a feat he would match again in the sixth.
He was a little wild in the first inning, issuing a walk and hitting a batter, but he she soon settled down. Kennedy said he had a lot of pitches working for him, but he used his slider as his `out’ pitch.
“When I was throwing my warmup my slider was really good so we pitched off of that today,” he said. “We kind of pitched backwards. I threw my fast ball when I had to. In counts where I was a little bit behind I was able to execute the pitch.”
If the players feel good about playing behind Kennedy, he says he has an equal amount of confidence in his fielders making the plays.
He cited a defensive play early in the game when third baseman Jack Hammill made a diving stop to throw out a runner as the kind of effort that helped him keep control of the game.
“After that,” Kennedy said, “I was very confident that, if they put the ball in play, guys were going to make plays for me.”
Hammill also contributed a 2-run single to the effort in the bottom of the fifth and he came on to get the last out with a strikeout after Kennedy reached the 110-pitch limit.
On the other side, West Deptford’s Chris Leporati also pitched well, but he was victimized by his defense to give up an unearned run in the third inning.
Pat Speith reached base on an error to begin the inning, moved up to third on a sacrifice and an ground ball and then scored on Chris Snyder’s RBI single.
Haddon Heights broke open the game with three runs in the top of the fifth.
Evan Simonetti began the rally when he was hit by a pitch. In attempting to sacrifice, Andrew Gibson got a bunt single and Pat Durkin followed with an infield single to load the bases.
Hammill’s two run single was followed by a third run scoring on an error.
“When they opened it up for me, I was a little more confident,” Kennedy said. “It was a good win for us today.”