Denny Bentley has exceeded his coach's expectations.
But his coach kind of expected that.
"I don't know if that makes sense, but we saw it," Williamstown coach Jim Ambrosius said of the development of his sophomore pitcher. "He's surpassed what we thought he would do. But I kind of thought he would."
Bentley has confounded hitters as well as his coach. A lefthander with a live fastball, a sharp curveball, and a change-up that stops traffic, he is 4-1 after Thursday's masterpiece against Kingsway.
Bentley pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and one walk as visiting Williamstown beat its Tri-County Conference Royal Division rival, 4-0, and kept alive its hopes for an automatic berth to the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
"We knew how important this game was," Bentley said. "We knew it meant a lot for the Diamond and for the conference."
Senior third baseman Justin Keegan snapped a scoreless tie with a two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning, and junior leftfielder Nick D'Alessandro was 2 for 4 with an RBI single and a run for Williamstown (7-5, 4-1 division).
Senior lefty Jason Phillips pitched six innings for Kingsway (6-7, 2-3).
"He did a good job," Kingsway coach Ian Enders said. "He battled, but we're in a situation right now where when we make a bad play, it hurts us."
The outcome eliminated Kingsway from contention for an automatic berth to the Diamond Classic, but the Dragons still will have some say in the race to be the Royal representative.
Clearview will visit Kingsway on Friday, and the Pioneers can clinch the berth with a victory. A Kingsway win would open the door for Williamstown, which then could secure the spot by beating Cumberland on Saturday.
The Braves also could be in contention for an at-large berth to the prestigious 16-team tournament, which will start May 10. The field will be announced Sunday night.
"We play a great out-of-conference schedule, and we have some good wins," said Ambrosius, whose team has victories over three teams in The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10.
Bentley made sure Williamstown stayed in the hunt for the automatic berth. He buzzed through Kingsway's lineup, facing just 24 batters - three over the minimum.
Bentley pitched five 1-2-3 innings. His only jam came in the fourth, when Ron Ippolite singled and Matt Schintz doubled to left with two outs.
But Bentley induced a ground ball that Keegan gobbled up and fired to first for the final out.
"I've known him since he was 9 or 10," Enders said of Bentley. "You knew he had the potential to be really good. He pitched great. He was fastball in, fastball out. He changed us up."
Bentley said his varsity success has been a bit of a surprise, even though his coach was kind of counting on it.
"I didn't think I'd do this as a soph," Bentley said. "Maybe as a junior or senior. But I worked really hard in the winter, and it's paying off."
Williamstown 000 220 0 - 4 7 1
Kingsway 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
WP: Denny Bentley. LP: Jason Phillips. 2B: W-Justin Keegan; K-Matt Schintz.