Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At a Schnell’s pace: Reliever saves day for Bears

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Nate Schnell admitted he had an up-and-down (mostly down) summer on the mound.

Now that’s a wee bit hard to believe when you look at his numbers — an unbeaten 6-0 mark and a 1.93 earned average. But the Boyertown right-hander wasn’t fibbing.

Throughout the regular season he did in fact struggle.

But he sure did an about-face once the playoffs began last month.

And he probably was never better than Thursday afternoon, when he rescued ace Shayne Houck and his teammates with six superb innings of relief to help the Bears get by Gaithersburg, Md., 11-10, in the Mid-Atlantic Regional here at Shepherd Stadium.

“Nate was the star of the game,” said right fielder Cody Kulp, who may have gotten some votes of his own after slamming a pair of home runs to go with a triple and single. “He did a heck of a job.

“We were scoring runs, but he shut (Gaithersburg) down.”

Schnell, who came up big in the Berks County, Region Two and state tournaments to help the Bears get to this juncture of the postseason, credits his quality innings to the extra time he spent working on drills and mechanics with pitching coach Pete Hiryak.

“There was a time I was struggling,” Schnell said. “I couldn’t get my curveball over the plate, and I had trouble with my fastball, too. I just didn’t know where the ball was going when I was throwing earlier this season.

“But then something clicked. Everything just started coming around. I just think working hard on my mechanics and getting some

experience helped me turn it around for tournaments like this.”

Schnell was expecting to throw a couple of innings Thursday — so-called mop-up innings after Houck and Bears built up a big lead.

That never happened, of course, and Schnell found himself warming up in the third inning ... and traipsing to the mound in the fourth.

“I was told the most I’d throw would be two innings,” he explained. “But we were forced to throw all the chips in.

“I was watching (Houck) and saw that all (Gaithersburg) was hitting was fastballs. They’re good hitters on that team, but they didn’t hit the curveball like they did the fastball. So I made sure I got my curveball over, stayed ahead of the hitters, and spotted my fastball, maybe taking something off it at times like a change-up.”

Schnell’s assortment of offerings baffled Gaithersburg. Except for an unearned run — no fault of Schnell’s considering he followed up the infield error with two groundball outs and a strikeout — and a fastball that he left out over the plate that resulted in a two-run homer, he kept the Maryland state champions from putting together rallies similar to the ones in the first and third innings that resulted in seven runs.

“What a yeoman’s effort,” manager Rick Moatz said of Schnell’s performance. “He got his curveball over, got his slider around the plate, and kept (Gaithersburg) totally off-balance.

“Nate pitched great, but he’s been pitching great for us the last two weeks. Today he did the job in shutting that team down.”

Considering it was the first time all year Houck hadn’t come up big, either on the mound or at the plate, Schnell’s timing couldn’t have been better.

“Houck didn’t have is normal game ... it was definitely an off-day for him,” Moatz said. “But someone else stepped up, and that’s a credit to this team because everybody knows it takes more than one person to win a ballgame.”


Gaithersburg’s starter catcher Gary Schneider is left-handed ... a rarity in baseball.

“He hears some of the things people say,” head coach Rick Price said before the game. “Until they see how well he plays.”

Schneider blocked countless pitches in the dirt Thursday and had Houck thrown out at second on Boyertown’s only stolen base attempt of the game before his teammate dropped the throw.

Oh yeah, Schneider can hit, too. He drilled a three-run homer in the second inning that, at the time, gave Gaithersburg a 7-3 lead.


Charlie Daniels is part of the local Colonial Heights’ volunteers, with his main duties making sure each team gets transported between the hotel and ballpark on time. Well, Mr. Daniels — one of 15 children —happens to know the Pottstown area quite well.

He has two sisters, Lucy Keifrider and Sandra Yanocha, who live in Pottstown and Linfield, respectively.

“And I also remember the Pottstown Firebirds, too,” Daniels said. “I remember seeing them play down here in Richmond when I was a kid.”

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