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.
Five to 10-second pause…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org