Concord 7, Upper Darby 5

Fourth time is the charm for Concord

By Terry Toohey

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YEADON >> Concord’s bench stormed onto the field after Frank Saviski punched out Upper Darby designated hitter Dylan Everly to secure a spot in the Delco League championship series with a 7-5 victory over the Blue Sox Saturday afternoon at Kerr Field.

The Canes had reason to celebrate. This wasn’t just any series clinching win. It was historic.

By beating a gritty Upper Darby squad that gave Concord all it could handle, the Canes advanced to the finals for the first time in the 10-year history of the franchise.

More importantly, the 3-1 series victory erased more than a few old demons.

The Canes reached the league semis in 2015, only to be eliminated in five games by Wayne. Concord made the semis again in 2016, only to be knocked out by Wayne in five games again. Concord got back to the semis in 2017 only to lose in five for the third year in a row, this time to Narberth.

“It feels good to finally get there,” Saviski said.

It took a couple of years to clear that semifinal hurdle. Concord did not enter a team in the Delco League last season because general manager Joe Convery was ill and could not find someone to manage the day-to-day operation. So the club took the year off. The Canes came back this season when Saviski agreed to take over the field managing duties.

Once back in the league, the Canes did not miss a beat. Concord finished second in the regular season behind Wayne and is in the finals for the first time and will take on Wayne, of course, in the best-of-5 championship series, which begins Monday night at Devon Prep (5:45).

“We’re ready to go,” Convery said.

Knocking out Upper Darby wasn’t easy. Concord needed a big effort from Matt Maul, Alex Burman and Saviski at the top of the lineup, big hits from Joe Poduslenko and Faso in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, and a solid effort on the hill from starter Ben Faso and relievers John Convery and Saviski to hold off the Blue Sox.

Maul was 3-for-4, Alex Burman went 2-for-3 and Saviski was 2-for-4 and the trio scored two runs each. Poduslenko drove in three with three hits, including a pair of doubles. Faso doubled home a pair of runs.

“We have a great lineup one through nine,” Saviski said. “I don’t worry if the No. 9 hitter is up or the leadoff hitter is up, I know they can drive runs in. Again, we didn’t have everyone here today so we had some lineup changes, but one through nine they can get the job done no matter what the situation.”

Early on, it looked like double digits would be needed to win this game. Concord started the game with three straight hits and jumped out to a 4-0 lead only to see the Blue Sox respond with a four-spot in the bottom of the first inning. The Canes came right back and put three more on the board in the top of the second inning, the big blow their being a two-run double by Poduslenko.

“We came out here and had some fun on a Saturday,” said Poduslenko, a graduate of Malvern and Seton Hall.

After that, though, both staffs settled down and the game became a pitcher’s duel. Johnny Gonzalez took over for Upper Darby starter Ben Thorpe with one out in the top of the second. After yielding the two-run double to Poduslenko, the veteran righty found his groove and allowed no runs, four hits and struck out seven over the next 5.2 innings to keep the Blue Sox in the game. The two runs that came off Poduslenko’s double were charged to Thorpe.

“Johnny came in, settled us down and kept us in the game,” Upper Darby skipper Dave Jerdon said. “We just fell short. We didn’t come up with the hits when we needed them. We had baserunners in every inning. We just couldn’t get the hits when we needed to. It happens. That’s baseball.”

Upper Darby left 10 on base, six in the final five innings. Three of those were in scoring position. Concord’s staff had a lot to do with that.

Faso settled in after giving up four runs in the first, all of which were unearned. He gave up one run and four hits before turning the ball over to Convery in the fifth inning.

“I felt good all day,” Faso said. “I started throwing my changeup and mixing it up. I got too fastball dependent in the first inning and that hurt me.”

Convery pitched out of a twoon, one-out jam in the fifth and then stranded Joe Suppa (3-for-4, RBI, run scored) at second base in the sixth inning before yielding to Saviski over in the seventh. Saviski did give up a hit, but struck out the side to record his third save in the series and touch off a celebration that was years in the making.

“It means a lot to get to the finals because the last three years we got to the Game 5 of the semis and lost each time,” Faso said. “That heartbreak’s been with us. We know how (the Blue Sox are) feeling. They played such a good series. They didn’t go away in any of the games, but to finally get over that hump is huge for us.”