Haverford School rallies past Episcopal

Connor Burke struck out nine Churchmen in six innings.
Connor Burke struck out nine Churchmen in six innings.
Posted: April 10, 2014

As a three-year varsity member, Connor Burke is well acquainted with the danger of pitching on the small turf field that Haverford School calls home. For many batters, it is a launching pad.

"It's important to keep the ball low and away," the senior righthander said. "If you don't, it's going to leave the yard. You want grounders all day."

Tuesday afternoon, in an Inter-Ac League baseball opener that was switched from Episcopal Academy to Haverford because of Monday's rain, Burke mostly thrived. He fanned nine and allowed only one home run as the Fords triumphed, 4-2.

"I was pretty happy with how I pitched," said Burke, who gave up two hits in six innings. "I just let one pitch get away from me. When that happens, you can't dwell on it. That's the important thing."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Burke heads a young pitching staff. He mixed a four- and two-seam fastball, change-up, and curveball.

"He's very composed, sure of himself," Haverford coach Bob Castell said. "And that carries over to his teammates."

Burke, who also plays first base and is a cleanup hitter, was matched Tuesday against Episcopal senior righthander Russell Rhoads, who will continue his career at Penn.

"Going up against someone like Russell, who is a tough competitor, I was incredibly focused on pitching and not too worried about hitting," Burke said after improving to 3-0.

After Episcopal's Mark Washington touched Burke for a leadoff homer to right-center field in the third inning, Haverford's Kevin McGowan responded in the bottom half with a three-run shot in the same direction.

"We're very young and a lot of our pitchers are raw, but we can swing it with anyone," Burke said.

James McConnon (3 for 3) opened a four-run third with a single up the middle. Pinch-runner Benny Bagnell later scored on a throwing error. With his blast from the left side, McGowan drove in Tommy Toal (single) and Mike Solomon (walk).

The Fords, runner-up to Malvern Prep in Inter-Ac play last season, moved to 8-2 overall.

Burke, also a golfer, was used mostly as a reliever last year.

"It was a good learning experience," he said. "I was thrown into crazy situations, with the game usually on the line. That makes you a better pitcher."

The Churchmen (4-7) closed the gap to 4-2 in the sixth. Haverford junior Nick Greco steered clear of trouble in the seventh.

Episcopal Academy 001 001 0 - 2 2 1

Haverford School 004 000 x - 4 5 2

WP: Connor Burke. LP: Russell Rhoads. HR: EA-Mark Washington; HS-Kevin McGowan.


robrien@phillynews.com

@ozoneinq

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