When he’s on the mound, Glenelg’s Tad Henley fixates his mind on only two things: pound the strike zone and paint the corners. When he’s executing that mentality, the Gladiators are poised to contend with anyone in their path, as long as they take care of the rest.
But for the most part, 2019 hasn’t necessarily gone according to plan for Glenelg, as coach Steven Tiffany estimated 30 unearned runs allowed in nine games entering Monday’s contest against Pallotti at Blandair Regional Park in Columbia.
“It’s outrageous,” Tiffany said. “But I tell the guys, you’re never as good as you think you are when you’re winning, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you’re losing.”
Even though it entered the 10th game of the spring season with only one win to show for, Glenelg ended with a string of five clean innings behind Henley’s masterful performance to beat Pallotti, 7-2, amid blustery conditions.
Henley pitched six innings, allowing just four hits and two hits while punching out eight. Both runs he allowed were unearned and after a two-out error in the first inning.
“He’s our best,” Tiffany said. “When he’s on the mound, when he’s on, we can beat anybody in the county, anybody in the state.”
Between Henley and reliever Garrett Walker, who polished off the victory with a clean seventh inning, Pallotti could only reach base three times over the final five innings.
In the bottom of the first inning, however, the mishaps that have plagued them to this point in the season relapsed. After Henley retired the first two batters of the game, Pallotti’s Blake McConty tripled off the right field wall, and when the third out was a groundout away, an error scored McConty. Christian Hobson then came around to score on a double steal to give the Panthers a 2-1 edge after one frame.
“We just have to focus,” Walker, the middle infielder, said. “We’ve faced a ton adversity this season with the conditions. We just have to stay focused and trust we are going to make the plays.”
At that point, the Gladiators (2-7 overall) took care of business. From the last out of the second inning — a nasty slurve from Henley that got McConty swinging — to the last out of the fifth inning, Henley retired 10 of Pallotti’s last 11 batters. In fact, the only base runners Henley allowed after the second inning was a base on balls to lead off the fourth and an infield single to lead off the sixth. Five of Henley’s strikeouts were looking, a testament to his go-to, hard-cutting slurve.
“I just wanted to pound the strike zone and hit the corners,” Henley said, “and then trust my teammates behind me.”
In the fourth inning, Glenelg’s offense got going by plating three runs and batting around the order to power ahead, 4-2. Eddie Dello Russo started the three-run inning with a one-out base on balls, which then spurred a bases-loaded situation for Walker (4-for-4, RBI, stolen base) on second and Hunter Koele on first. An error brought home Dello Russo, while a two-RBI single up the middle by Henley scored two more.
Small ball netted Glenelg two more runs — one in the fifth and another in the seventh. The Gladiators also received a jolt on the base paths in pinch runner Cooper Suncomb, who stole six bases and scored two runs.
“If we can get quality pitching, which we did today; timely hits, which we did today; and play any resemblance of defense, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Tiffany said. “If we can put all three phases together, we’re going to be tough.”
Pallotti (8-5), meanwhile, just couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm offensively. Ryan Leonardi’s infield single to lead off the sixth inning was the Panthers’ lone hit to lead off an inning. After starting the year 6-0, coach Ryan Albright will look to regain traction in the MIAA B Conference when they play Park School and Severn School on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
“Their pitcher is one of the best around,” Albright said. “Our guys, we battled. We had some guys get some work in today who haven't played in a while. Non-conference, we’re just trying to get everybody better and get rolling.”