Northeast Times

The voice

Can you hear me now?: First base­man Scott Si­ley (front) serves as Wash­ing­ton’s vo­cal lead­er when not pro­tect­ing Jake Wright in the lineup. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

At George Wash­ing­ton base­ball games, odds are Scott Si­ley will be both seen and heard by the spec­tat­ors in at­tend­ance, es­pe­cially if one of his team­mates reach­ing first base is the tar­get of a pick-off at­tempt.

Any­time the op­pos­ing pitch­er tosses over to keep an Eagles base run­ner hon­est, a fa­mil­i­ar chor­us of chants erupts from the G.W. bench, with Si­ley ar­riv­ing de­lib­er­ately late as the con­ver­sa­tion’s ex­clam­a­tion point.

“Back!”

“Back!”

Five to 10-second pause…

“YOU’RE GOOOOOOOOOD!”

The ju­ni­or first base­man’s ac­cen­tu­ated, over-the-top bel­lows from the team’s dugout serve as much-needed com­ic re­lief, a way to keep things light dur­ing a tense ballgame. Si­ley’s antics have bon­ded his team, giv­ing the Eagles a sense of to­geth­er­ness both on and off the field.

“It star­ted out on my old travel team, the Ben­s­alem Ram­blers, where every­one was al­ways up against the fence scream­ing, kind of like I do now,” he said. “It just stuck.”

Si­ley was speak­ing after Thursday’s 4-3, eight-in­ning Pub­lic League Di­vi­sion A win over Cent­ral, and just like his dugout cheers, his prowess at the plate proved to be bet­ter late than nev­er at all. 

Chosen by head coach Ken Geiser to bat be­hind sen­sa­tion­al cleanup hit­ter Jake Wright (who gets about as many pitches to hit as Barry Bonds in his prime), Si­ley took ad­vant­age of every op­por­tun­ity giv­en to him, go­ing 2-for-4 with three RBIs, in­clud­ing a tower­ing walk-off double that scored Wright from first. (After a sub­sequent 7-3 loss to Frank­ford on Monday, Wash­ing­ton sat in a three-way tie for second place in the di­vi­sion at 4-3, a game be­hind Frank­ford and Cent­ral.)

After Wright was in­ten­tion­ally walked with a run­ner on second in the first, Si­ley de­livered a sharp two-out single to left to give Wash­ing­ton a 1-0 lead. The score stayed that way un­til the sixth when Wright — who had giv­en up just two singles on the mound — sur­rendered three runs to the Lan­cers. Un­deterred, Wright reached on a two-base er­ror in the home half of the in­ning and ad­vanced to third on a wild pitch. Si­ley re­spon­ded with an RBI groun­dout to short (he reached when the field­er flubbed the ball), then raced home on catch­er Chase Al­ex­an­der’s double to left to knot the score again.

When Wright walked again to lead off the eighth, Geiser gave Si­ley the bunt sign, but the first base­man couldn’t get it down. With two strikes and the steal sign on for Wright, Si­ley rock­eted the win­ning double to­ward the gap over the left field­er’s head. The only thing Si­ley didn’t do was par­ti­cip­ate in his nor­mal yelling the­at­rics when All-Pub­lic League starter An­thony De­Vito threw over to first to keep Wright close.

“I didn’t, but I was think­ing about it,” Si­ley said with a laugh.

Last sea­son, Si­ley’s first on varsity, Wash­ing­ton prob­ably wouldn’t have won this game. A young team that limped to a 5-8 di­vi­sion fin­ish, Si­ley and his team­mates ded­ic­ated them­selves to im­prov­ing in the off­season. They’ve hit to­geth­er as a team since Novem­ber, in the out­door bat­ting cage at G.W. or at the new in­door Slug­gers­ville hit­ting fa­cil­ity at 9490 Blue Grass Road. 

What’s emerged is a new­found con­fid­ence, which has been through the roof for Si­ley while hit­ting be­hind such a feared play­er like Wright.

“It’s awe­some bat­ting be­hind Jake,” Si­ley said. “You know he’s go­ing to be on base, wheth­er they walk him or he hits his way on. He’s that great of a hit­ter, one who barely makes outs. My eyes light up when I have the op­por­tun­it­ies like I had today.

“My con­fid­ence has grown. I’m bat­ting be­hind Jake Wright, so how could it not? They’re giv­ing me op­por­tun­it­ies, and I’m cap­it­al­iz­ing.”

Dur­ing the game, Si­ley drew com­par­is­ons to Mi­chael Young from his team­mates. Young, who com­piled more than 2,000 hits while play­ing for the Texas Rangers, was signed by the Phil­lies this past off­season to pro­tect Ry­an Howard in the bat­ting or­der. Howard, a known slug­ger and home run threat like Wright, of­ten gets pitched around in late-game situ­ations, open­ing the door for a hit­ter like Young to come through in the clutch, as Si­ley did.

“We have pretty much the same team as last year, so we’ve grown to know and trust each oth­er,” said Si­ley, who re­trieved his game-win­ning ball from a ground­s­keep­er after the game. “The cheer­ing and en­cour­age­ment, those things help, es­pe­cially in a game like this. We be­lieve in that kind of stuff.”

After the game, Geiser said the key to Wash­ing­ton’s suc­cess would be put­ting com­plete games to­geth­er, which stood out in the win over Cent­ral. The Eagles got clutch hits, strong pitch­ing (after Wright ran in­to the trouble in the sixth, ju­ni­or Ro­ger Han­son re­tired the fi­nal eight bat­ters he faced) and they played ex­cel­lent situ­ation­al de­fense. 

When Cent­ral’s leadoff hit­ter reached third base with no outs in the fifth, Wright struck the next two bat­ters out. The next hit­ter reached on a two-out walk, and got greedy try­ing to take second in an ef­fort to con­fuse the de­fense in an at­tempt to score the run­ner from third. The cre­at­ive idea didn’t fluster Wash­ing­ton, as Wright fired to second base­man Mi­chael Honick, who then de­livered a bul­let to the plate to end the in­ning and pre­serve the pre­cious 1-0 lead.

“When I see us make a high-pres­sure de­fens­ive play like that, it gives us so much con­fid­ence,” Si­ley said. “We spend so much time work­ing on those first and third situ­ations; today, it worked. That was great to see.”

It’s safe to say self-con­fid­ence will con­tin­ue to not be a prob­lem for the be­spec­tacled, bearded Si­ley, es­pe­cially if the Eagles con­tin­ue to win. 

“Scott’s a great kid, and he’s really worked hard on his swing,” Geiser said. “Today, he de­livered for us, and he didn’t fold when he had two strikes on him in the eighth. He stayed in there and got a big hit. He’s a good hit­ter, and he’s bat­ting fifth for a reas­on.”

And what about Si­ley’s in­ter­est­ing per­sona, coach?

“Scott’s not a pitch­er, and he still comes up to me be­fore prac­tice some days and says, ‘Coach, I’m go­ing to pitch today,’” Geiser said. “I’m like, ‘Right, Scott.’ He’s the kind of guy teams need, a guy that keeps things light and fun. And I like that, be­cause that’s the kind of guy I am, too. But when I step between those lines, I’m com­pet­it­ive as hell. So is he.”

With still three weeks left in the reg­u­lar sea­son, con­tin­ued con­tri­bu­tions from someone like Si­ley can only help the Eagles real­ize their pre­season ex­pect­a­tions. Frank­ford has won the last two Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ships, but Wash­ing­ton is a team that has the tal­ent to be there in the end. Close wins over a team like Cent­ral — an­oth­er per­en­ni­al top pro­gram in Di­vi­sion A — is ex­cit­ing and en­cour­aging, just like Si­ley’s per­son­al­ity in the dugout.

“It’s a great feel­ing,” he said. “You want to get a big hit and win the game for your team. Today was just my turn. I’ve been go­ing to a hit­ting coach and have worked on everything. I’m con­fid­ent, like my team.

“Jake gets on base, and I have a chance to score him. I love it. How can any base­ball play­er not like that?” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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