WHEN THE WEATHER cooperates, an ideal day for Malvern Prep's Matt Maul likely begins on a golf course. The senior shortstop isn't necessarily keen on hacking up the links; he likes the calm and relaxation of fishing.
"I'm just a laid-back guy," Maul said. "I don't get too worried. I've always been pretty laid back. I'll get fired up if it comes to that, but I like to keep teammates calm, focused and not all hyped-up and nervous."
Maul, one of three captains for Malvern, helped the Friars stay focused in yesterday's 7-5 triumph against host Penn Charter. The win gave the Friars (20-5, 6-2) sole possession of first place in Inter-Ac play with just two games remaining.
Ask his head coach, Freddie Hilliard, and he'll tell you the same thing about the 6-foot, 160-pound Maul, who will play baseball at Saint Joseph's University next season.
"He's just a steady kid," Hilliard said. "He just doesn't rattle."
His error in the first inning could have done just that, but Maul (1-for-3, RBI) recovered at the plate in the fourth inning with the Quakers (15-5, 5-3) in rally mode. The Friars parlayed four first-inning hits into a 3-0 advantage before Penn Charter added single runs in the second and third.
After senior Mike Styer (2-for-2) blooped a single into right-center and junior Parker Abate bunted his way on with two outs, Maul smuggled a single down the rightfield line that he promises was fair.
Groans from the Penn Charter faithful suggested otherwise as pinch-runner Mark D'Agostino scored to put the Friars ahead, 4-2.
"Right down the line," Maul said, smiling. "I think it got the chalk."
"I knew it was huge," he added. "Runs were coming at a premium. We were both hitting well and I knew they were going to come back and score some runs, but I knew it was huge to get a couple runs across the plate and take that big lead and put them away."
Maul wasn't the only calm one. All of Malvern's runs came with two outs and all 11 of the Friars' hits were singles. They added three more runs in the fifth for a 7-2 lead before Penn Charter answered with its own three-spot in the bottom half.
"I feel like one of my biggest roles on this team is to be that even-keeled guy, stay calm and lead the team in that direction and let the other captains get everyone pumped up," Maul said.
Senior captains Dan Grandieri and Gardner Nutter did their part. Grandieri went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs while Nutter started on the mound, struck out five, walked two and gave up an earned run on 70 pitches. Due to a strict pitch count, Nutter's day ended after three innings. Junior Chris Butera finished the final four frames and earned the win. Offensively, junior Tim Quinn added a pair of hits.
Penn Charter had its own opportunities, but Nutter and Butera held the Quakers to 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Senior Zach Kurtz went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Junior Dillon Malandro drove in a pair of runs while senior T.J. Pagan and junior Gabe Smith each hit doubles. Freshman Matt Gorman started and pitched five innings in defeat.
Smith, who also made several nice defensive plays in centerfield, including a gorgeous diving grab in the second, got a little too frisky in the sixth after mashing a leadoff double to left-center. Smith rounded second too wide and was eventually tagged out in a rundown with the Quakers trailing, 7-5. Penn Charter had other chances later, but couldn't capitalize.
As for our fisherman, Maul doesn't have a favorite spot per se, but the Concord Country Club is five minutes away from his home in Glen Mills and has plenty of water-holes. He'll also occasionally play some golf. Ocean City, N.J. is another locale he frequents. The family rents a house in the summer where he'll either fish off the beach or from the bay.
However, it hasn't always been smooth and relaxing. In November of 2012, the family chartered a boat in Florida and fished in the Gulf of Mexico where Maul said he hooked a 6-foot barracuda.
"It was a little bit stressful," he said. "You just try to keep it on the line and not let it get away."
Wait, this isn't one of those those "fish stories," is it?
"I just asked my dad," he added later. "The barracuda was about 4 1/2 feet. Sorry, I wish it was 6 feet."