A revolving door on the pitcher’s mound isn’t unheard of in a loss—but the West Deptford Senior League All-Stars pulled it off in a mercy-rule win over Orange, CT, in the Eastern Regional tournament Saturday, and it might just be the thing that gives them the shot at going deep this year.
Three West Deptford pitchers combined to put together the 13-3 victory at , and only one of them threw enough pitches to have to rest a day.
That pitcher—Sonny Conto—also picked up the win, throwing 43 pitches and not allowing a hit or a run in the 2-1/3 innings he tossed, putting West Deptford through in the winner’s bracket.
Conto came on in relief of starter Isaiah Easterling, who struck out two and gave up one unearned run in 1-2/3, after West Deptford leaped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game.
Conto started the game at second, and said he never had any concern shifting to the pitcher’s mound so early in the game.
“I’m mentally ready, I’m physically ready,” he said. “I just give it my all.”
Conto, who also drove in two runs and scored twice, was eventually lifted for CJ Chando, who pitched the fifth, giving up one earned and one unearned run, to close out the mercy-rule victory.
Afterward, Chando had praise for manager Ed Essig’s strategy of shuffling through the pitching staff.
“I think it’s a smart coaching move,” Chando said. “We’re going to need everyone we can get, just in case we run into jams.”
That’s exactly the thought process behind the moves, Essig said, and he credited the players for buying into the idea.
“We’re just trying to keep all our options open,” Essig said. “I’m taking guys in, out—I’m switching them around the infield, the outfield, and everyone’s really pulling together as a team. It makes it a lot easier on me.”
Getting the early runs made it easier to go to the revolving-door mound, too. West Deptford jumped all over Connecticut from the outset, scoring five runs in the top of the first.
Dave Strout scored the game’s first run off Conto’s single to left, and Easterling struck hardest to help his own cause, tripling in two runs to finish off West Deptford’s scoring in the inning.
“When you get three or four in the first, it totally changes the tempo of the game,” Essig said.
The Eagles eventually stretched the lead to 7-1 through the fourth, then grinded it out on offense again in the fifth, plating six runs—four of them on bases-loaded walks.
Though Connecticut scratched back in the bottom of the inning, it was enough for West Deptford to hold on to the 10-run victory in one of the shortest games of the tournament so far, at just one hour, 40 minutes.
It also ran the team’s streak to three straight wins after a District 15 finals loss to Paulsboro, and Chando said that puts them in a good position heading deeper into the Eastern Regional.
“(Paulsboro) amped us up a little bit, talking a little bit of trash on us,” he said. “We came out and we showed them, and it helped us out getting hot. Now I feel like everybody’s hitting the ball well.”
But the players know it’s going to take a big effort in every game to keep them pushing through into the later rounds.
“I come out here every game and play it like it’s my last,” Conto said. “I want to make a run at it—this is the best ball club I’ve ever been on.”
West Deptford will face Auburn, MA, which beat South Vineland Saturday night in the late game, in the winner’s bracket semifinals Sunday night at 7:30 p.m.