By Phil Anastasia
Mitch Walker looked comfortable on the mound.
His teammates looked comfortable everywhere else.
Pennsville opened the baseball season in stunning fashion on Thursday, dominating top-ranked Gloucester Catholic by a 12-2 score on the Rams' home field in a Tri-County Conference inter-division game.
"I don't remember the last time somebody beat us by 10 on our field," Gloucester Catholic coach Mike Rucci said. "Give Pennsville all the credit. They got off the bus ready to play."
Pitching for the first time in nearly two years, Walker allowed five hits and two runs in 4 1/3 strong innings for Pennsville (1-0), the No. 5 team in The Inquirer Top 10.
As a hitter, Walker reached base five times. Senior second baseman Josh Shimp was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs and senior designated hitter Chuck Herrmann was 2-for-3 with three RBIs for the Eagles.
"They're the best team in the state," Herrman said of Gloucester Catholic. "But we're pretty good, too."
Junior third baseman Pete Farlow was 3-for-3 and senior centerfielder Mike Garafolo delivered a two-run single and made a sensational running catch about 400 feet from home plate for Gloucester Catholic (2-1).
The Rams, the No. 1 team in South Jersey in The Inquirer Top 10 and the No. 1 team in the state in the Newark Star Ledger rankings, made six errors.
"This is the result when you play bad baseball against a very good baseball team," Rucci said.
Walker stopped pitching about midway through his sophomore season and played strictly third base as a junior because of shoulder soreness. He returned to the mound with a lively fastball, sharp curve and masterful command.
Walker threw 95 pitches. He was helped by a defense that didn't make an error and turned a key 5-4-3 double play in the third inning.
"I knew I had to throw strikes and let the guys make the plays behind me," Walker said.
The most notable aspect of the game was Pennsville's powerful and confident all-around play on legendary Joe Barth Field, where the Rams have dominated opponents for years.
Pennsville sent 42 batters to the plate. Many of their outs were hit hard.
The Eagles batted around plus one in the third. The bottom two hitters in the lineup, Herrman and senior catcher Chase Flickenger, were a combined 4-for-5 with four runs.
Senior centerfielder Eric Lankenau drove in two runs and hit a drive to centerfield in the fifth that Garafolo somehow tracked down a few steps from the playground at the Brooklawn elementary school.
"It's a statement," Walker said.
Pennsville 214 101 3 -- 12 11 0
Gloucester Catholic 020 000 0 -- 2 7 6
WP: Mitch Walker. LP: Matt Parr.
2B: P-Josh Shimp, 2, Chuck Herrmann.
3B: GC-Pete Farlow.
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