Maranatha has luxury of boasting trio of quality pitchers
Above: Marantha High School pitchers Dylan Covey (left), Cory Popham, and Danny Beckwith provide a solid punch on the mound. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXSports)
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Perception is everything. But when it comes to Maranatha High School’s baseball team, it is often misunderstood.
The most common misconception is that the Minutemen are vulnerable when sophomore pitcher Dylan Covey isn’t on the mound.
Junior Cory Popham and sophomore Danny Beckwith have had something to say about that, especially of late.
Along with Covey, Popham and Beckwith have formed what has become a formidable trio, as evidenced in the last two games.
As a result, Maranatha (18-10-1) is one win away from a CIF-Southern Section Division VI championship.
The Minutemen will face off against defending champion and No.1 seed San Jacinto (21-8) on Saturday at UC Riverside at 3:30 p.m.
“I think a lot of people overlook Danny and Cory,” Covey said. “It’s like `once you get past Dylan you can win the ballgame,’ we don’t really have a 1, 2 or 3, we have three No. 1 pitchers.”
It’s a situation far from the one-man-band theory many opponents subscribe to.
“I think that’s a common misconception about this team,” Maranatha coach Brian DeHaan said. “Those three kids are the core of the team. They complement each other well, work hard, and the reality is any given day one of them can be the star.
“We won our big games because of pitching, not hitting.”
And they all bring something different to the mound.
“Dylan’s definitely our No. 1 and our power pitcher, but if you give Cory the ball, he’s going to go out and compete,” DeHaan said. “Danny is kind of the hybrid who throws hard enough to get people out and has good movement on his pitches.”
Beckwith, Covey and Popham have been moving parts throughout the playoffs.
Against No. 2-seeded Desert Christian, Covey lasted just 5 1/3 innings but struck out 10 before reaching his weekly limit. Unfortunately, the game lasted 13 innings.
That’s where Popham and Beckwith came in.
Popham pitched the next six innings, allowing just one hit, followed by Beckwith who worked the final 1 2/3 innings to earn the victory.
“It’s really great that our coaches have so much confidence in me and Danny,” Popham said. “Bringing Danny into that game against Desert Christian was huge because now he has tons of confidence.”
Tuesday, Popham, Beckwith and Covey worked on just two days rest with what seemed liked the entire town of Bishop rooting against them and a trip to Riverside on the line.
Popham started but left trailing 2-1. Beckwith later trailed 6-4 before the Minutemen posted five runs in the sixth to take a 9-6 advantage. Covey closed the door on the host Broncos and secured Maranatha’s ticket to the Division VI championship game by striking out four in the final two innings to earn his second save of the season.
“It’s incredible that we can come back like that, especially in such a pressure situation,” Popham said. “Just for us to be able to come out and not be on top of our game and still be able to get out of that with a victory is incredible.
“I think it helps being young sometimes when we really don’t understand the severity of what’s going on.”
From gestures to fans letting them have it verbally, the Minutemen players were able to get a chuckle over what was going on in Bishop, even in the eye of adversity.
Third baseman Schafer Chulay’s errant throw over the head of catcher Myles Neimeyer gave Bishop a 5-4 lead in the fourth inning.
Chulay never heard the end of it but, according to Popham, the team turned a negative into a positive.
“Chulay was getting a mouthful over at third and after he made one of those errors, we were joking around that they were calling him `hippie’ at the start of the game and `E5′ after he made the error,” Popham said. “I think it helps that we all have a sense of humor because it’s funny to hear some of the stuff they come up with.”
Added Covey: “We have a lot of heart and our team doesn’t give up that easily and we just persevere.”
The never-say-die attitude, along with a beefed up nonleague schedule, has provided Maranatha more than enough confidence heading into the biggest game yet.
“I think we are more than ready for Saturday,” Covey said. “We’ve had a tough schedule throughout the season, playing Yucaipa and all those Division II schools, and I think we’re pretty prepared for Saturday.
“We know we’re young, but we’d really like to get a championship this year.”