By Phil Anastasia
It took Ray Taylor one pitch to start something special for the Collingswood baseball team.
It took Lucas Rollins 89 pitches to finish it.
The two juniors combined to lead visiting Collingswood to a 2-1 victory over Sterling on Tuesday in the season opener for both Colonial Conference Liberty Division teams.
"I'll go to sleep with a smile tonight," Taylor said after the well-pitched and crisply-played game on a clear, cool afternoon.
Taylor, a third baseman and left-handed swinger, hit the first pitch of the season over the right-field fence for his first career home run.
"I knew he was a great pitcher," Taylor said of Sterling starter Andrew Miller. "I hate facing left-handed pitchers. I was hoping for a fastball down the middle and I got one that was a little bit inside, so that was even better."
Taylor's blast sent a jolt through the Collingswood dugout.
"That was a storybook moment for him," Collingswood coach Rob Skowronek said of Taylor.
Rollins (pictured) called Taylor's home run "awesome" and said it set the tone for the Panthers' victory.
Rollins, a crafty left-handed, pitched a complete game. He allowed five hits and one unearned run, with five strikeouts.
"He did a great job," Sterling coach Chris Hoffman said of Rollins. "He kept us off balance. We couldn't put any hits together."
Senior shortstop Brett Kuchera had two singles and reached base three times and senior catcher Paul Lunney drove in the eventual winning run on a base-loaded walk in the third inning for Collingswood.
Sterling got strong work from Miller, who allowed one earned run and struck out four in four innings, and reliever Justin Ford, who pitched three scoreless innings.
Rollins credited his defense, as shortstop Kuchera and second baseman Tylor Bene turned a key double play and centerfielder Jake Gramkowski threw out a runner at third base.
"Those guys did a great job behind me," Rollins said.
Rollins cruised into the bottom of the seventh with a 2-0 lead. After an infield single, error and sacrifice bunt, Sterling had runners on second and third with one out.
But Rollins coaxed the final two hitters into ground balls to Taylor, who fired to first for the last two outs of the game.
"This is a big win for us," Rollins said. "It gives us even more motivation."
Collingswood 101 000 0 -- 2 6 1
Sterling 000 000 1 -- 1 5 1
WP: Lucas Rollins. LP: Andrew Miller
2B: S-Ryan McGoldrick.
HR: C-Ray Taylor.
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