Sometimes it's a little hard to notice Strath Haven's Jake Enterlin. He hardly talks in the dugout during games. Sometimes, he says, some of his teammates might not even notice he's even in the dugout. That's why yesterday was so unusual for the junior righthander. The stringy Enterlin was a chatterbox. It was to burn off nerves.
When you're throwing a no-hitter, and each inning goes by, you tend to get nervous.
Enterlin didn't show it on the mound, finishing the job and propelling Strath Haven to its first-ever berth in the District 1 Class AAA championship by tossing a no-hitter against Central League rival Marple Newtown in a 3-1 Panthers victory in the district semifinals at Glen Mills.
It marked the 14th victory in the last 17 games for Strath Haven, which started the season 0-3, and the loss ended a successful year for No. 2 seed Marple Newtown, which finished 17-3 after winning its first Central League title since 1996.
The Panthers, seeded No. 3, now advance to the championship game, facing the winner of No. 1 Holy Ghost Prep vs. No. 4 Upper Moreland, next Wednesday at 4 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Much of the credit has to go to Enterlin, who struck out eight in throwing a season-high 109 pitches, and to the timely offense of Mike Raimo, who smacked a solo homer in the third, and Anthony Gerace, whose two two-out run-scoring singles accounted for the winning and insurance runs.
"I tried not to think about the no-hitter, and I suppose it's why I talked more than usual in the dugout," said Enterlin, who notched his first career no-hitter and had the added motivation of throwing it in honor of his paternal grandfather, Joseph Enterlin, who passed away Monday night. "Some of my teammates were even looking at me a little different. They're not used to me talking as much, but I was filled with a lot of nervous energy you could say."
Enterlin used an effective curveball and a cutter that caught the outside corners. It was a special accomplishment, considering Marple Newtown entered the game with one of the most prolific offenses in the district playoffs, averaging nine runs a game.
"All credit goes to Jake," Marple Newtown coach Mark Jordan said. "We didn't make any solid contact all game. I really like the way Strath Haven is playing right now; they're coming on at the right time, and as a team in the Central League, I'm happy for them. They're good enough to be state contenders."
Strath Haven wasn't that good a few months ago. The Panthers started the season surrendering 59 hits over 39 innings in three losses. Panthers coach Brian Fili thought he had to address the situation with a meeting, explaining what had to be done if the Panthers' season was to be righted.
"We were falling behind hitters then, not playing sound defense, and we were striking out too much," Fili said. "All three areas came together and we've been on a nice ride since then."
Speaking of rides, Raimo gave a great ride to a fastball, smoking his 10th homer of the season over the 375-foot sign in centerfield in the third that tied the score at 1.
"I knew it was gone once I heard it off the bat," said losing pitcher Sean Stipa, who did a nice job despite the loss, scattering four hits.
"We've kicked things into gear, and better pitching is what really has done it for us, and Jake came back and throws a no-hitter," said Raimo, who will play for West Chester next season. "In the beginning of the season, we weren't anything like what we are now. I'm just excited to play the next game and try to make history by winning the district title."
Enterlin got them there, closing it out with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to short to end it.
"I think I'll remember this," Enterlin said. "It was a little emotional for me today, with my grandfather's death and pitching in a big game like this. I used to be able to tell every time my grandfather watched me pitch from the outfield, even though I'd have my back to him. I had that feeling he was watching me today."