MARPLE — One of these years Grant Kernaghan is going to hang up his spikes and glove and call it quits. The 32-year-old veteran right-hander has been in the Delco Baseball League with the Upper Darby Blue Sox since he graduated from Upper Darby High in 2006.
The only time Kernaghan didn’t play in the league was in 2008 and 2009 when he played in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL) and the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL), respectively. Other than that he’s been a fixture in the Blue Sox’s rotation and he’s still having a blast, which is why he keeps playing.
“I’ll play until I can’t play anymore,” Kernaghan said. “Every year I start to think that maybe this is my last year and as the year builds I throw pretty well and I just enjoy coming out and playing with all the guys. I enjoy playing with Dave (Jerdon, the UD player-manager). I don’t see the end in sight.”
Those words had to be sweet to Jerdon’s ears, especially this season. It’s been a tough year for the Blue Sox. Upper Darby dropped seven straight games after opening the season with a one-run victory over Concord three weeks ago.
Thanks to Kernaghan, some timely hitting in the sixth inning and a bases-load walk by Solomon Bayuk in the eighth inning that forced home the winning run, the Blue Sox snapped that skid Saturday with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Marple Newtown Black Sox at Marple Newtown High School.
“It’s been a rough two weeks,” Jerdon said. “We haven’t scored enough runs, but the pitching has been solid for the most part.”
Kernaghan showed that he still has it. He came out of the bullpen and pitched 4⅔ shutout innings in relief of starter Ryan Buck to get the win, even though he didn’t start out so great. His first pitch was in the dirt, after which he yelled, ‘Oh Grant.”
“I ride myself pretty hard. I have high expectations for myself,” Kernaghan said. “I guess when I don’t meet those expectations I let myself know that I want to do better.”
Kernaghan settled down and allowed two hits, one walk, hit one batter and fanned five to get the win. He retired 14 of the 18 batters he faced and pitched out of a second-and-third, no-out jam in the sixth inning to keep the game tied, 3-3.
Third baseman John McNamee helped save the day for Kernaghan. With one out and Christian Moesler at third and Dante Nikko at second, McNamee made a half-diving stop on a smash by Don DiLoreto. McNamee got up and threw out DiLoreto for the second out while holding the runners in check. After Jack O’Reilly drew a walk to load the bases, McNamee scooped up a ground ball by Tom Carey and stepped on third base for the final out to end the threat.
That wasn’t the only opportunity the Black Sox squandered. Marple Newtown left the bases loaded in the first and second innings, scoring just one run in each frame. Overall, they left 12 runners on base.
“It was a tough loss, probably the toughest loss of the year so far this year,” Black Sox manager Nick Ducomb said. “We had our chances. We left a bunch of guys in scoring position.”
The Black Sox cruised into the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead before the Blue Sox got their offense in gear. Ben Mutz ripped an RBI single to get Upper Darby on the board and Sam Freedman followed with a bomb to right field that went for a game-tying, two-run triple.
“It was nice to bunch a couple of runs together,” Jerdon said. “We haven’t been hitting, especially with runners in scoring position.”
Kernaghan worked out of that jam in the sixth inning and stranded David Judge at third base in the seventh inning to set the stage for the final piece of the comeback.
Christian Strickland walked to start the inning. Joe Suppa reached base on a sacrifice bunt when the throw pulled MN second baseman C.J. Costales off the bag. That play loomed large when McNamee flew out to center field and Mutz lined out to second.
Freedman walked to load the base and Bayuk followed with a free pass to chase home pinch-runner Andrew Robinson for the go-ahead run.
“The only thing (Black Sox pitcher Steve DiStefano) threw me was fastballs so I was sitting on a fastball,” Bayuk said. “I didn’t even think about swinging at that 3-2 pitch because it was way outside and low. I was just trying to get on base and push that runner over for the winning run.”
Kernaghan took care of the rest in the bottom of the eighth. He fanned Nikko and Blaise Rantanten and got DiLoreto to pop out to Jerdon at first base for the final out.
“It’s just fun to come out and play,” Kernaghan said. “Dave gave me the opportunity to play in this league when I was 18 and I feel like when I played in the league there weren’t that many 18-year-olds playing. It was a league of guys who had played college ball and Dave gave me the opportunity. And now it’s all college kids, all young guys, and it’s nice to come back and talk to them and see all the things that are going on with baseball. It keeps me young.”
In the Mid-County Senior League:
Narberth 6, Haverford 3: Tommy Bagnell allowed two earned runs and struck out four in a complete-game effort.
Marshall Worth paced the offense with three singles. Will Thomas contributed an RBI double and a run scored. Harry Thomas stroked two singles, drove in a run and scored once.