Brian Bosco is not the most imposing figure when he steps on the mound, standing 5 feet, 8 inches with a fastball that he hopes reaches 80 m.p.h.
Strath Haven's junior righthanded pitcher says he focuses less on striking out batters and more on forcing hitters to hit one of his three different pitches into play.
The strategy was efficient enough to hold top-seeded Holy Ghost Prep to one run on four hits and give the Panthers their first PIAA District 1 Class AAA baseball championship, with an 8-1 victory on a sunny Wednesday at Upper Merion.
The Panthers (15-6) wasted no time getting their offense started, as senior cocaptain Mike Raimo worked a full count before lining a home run over the leftfield fence for his 11th home run of the season and his first to lead off a game.
In the bottom of the first, Bosco worked himself into a one-out, bases-loaded jam, walking two straight batters.
Coach Brian Fili opted against making a mound visit to talk to his pitcher, and instead let Bosco work it out himself.
"I thought about it," Fili said, "but he's a gutsy kid and I knew he was confident, as he pitched a lot as a sophomore."
Bosco said he knew he had to focus and settle in at that point, and he quickly got himself out of the inning. He retired the next nine batters he faced before giving up a solo home run to outfielder Timothy Lazor in the fourth inning.
Entering the game, Bosco noted that he had little knowledge of Holy Ghost Prep, but knew his team had to limit starting catcher Greg Olenski. The high-socked, curly-haired junior did just that, holding Olenski to no hits or runs, and two walks.
With two outs in the third inning and a runner on first, Strath Haven cocaptain Mike Stranix chased a curveball in the dirt, which would have ended the inning and kept the score at 2-0.
But the ball got away from Olenski, allowing Stranix to reach first base as the catcher's throw to first was off line. The Panthers capitalized on the opportunity, scoring two runs on consecutive singles by James DeVita and Sean Mohollen, extending the lead to 4-0.
"As I was running to first, I was just thinking 'get to the bag,' " Stranix said.
In the ninth, Bosco found himself back to where he was in the first inning: bases loaded with one out, although he had a far more comfortable seven-run lead.
Fili decided on a mound visit this time, and the next batter Bosco faced grounded into a game-ending double play, capped by a terrific diving stretch by DeVita, a 6-4 first baseman.
"I had to hold onto the bag and just reach," DeVita said, "I know I'm a big guy, but that pushed it to the limit."
Holy Ghost Prep 0001000 - 142
Strath Haven 2023001 - 890
WP: Brian Bosco. LP: James McDade. 2B: SH-Jake Enterlin. HR: SH-Mike Raimo. HGP-Timothy Lazor.