Tanner Nulph, Summer Rams prevail in WPBL opener

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 | 10:41 PM

Tanner Nulph first helped the Summer Rams at the plate in Wednesday evening’s Western Pennsylvania Baseball League game at Valley High School.

The rising Highlands junior then brought it home from the mound in his team’s 4-3 victory over the Independent Players.

Nulph drove in three runs with a single and a double in his first two at bats and then earned the win in relief with nine strikeouts in four innings of work.

“It was a very satisfying win for us,” said Nulph, who struck out the side in the seventh — Hayden Mullin (St. Joseph), Tyler Wood (St. Joseph) and Matteo Vergerio (Valley) — after what he called a rocky sixth where he gave up a pair of earned runs.

“Coach (Jeff Campbell Jr.) told me to gas it up in the seventh and throw strikes. I just threw as hard as I could, and it worked out for me.”

The Summer Rams, consisting of a collection of players from Highlands and St. Joseph senior standout Dom Fellows, improved to 3-2 overall this summer. It was their first league game after earning a top-five finish at the Atlantic Coast Baseball Open II tournament June 12-14.

They play Jeannette on Friday at Buster Clarkson Field in Jeannette.

“For some of these guys, including the seniors, it was their first time on the field for a while. They got into it rather smoothly, and things went well,” Summer Rams manager Jeff Campbell Sr. said. “We got some good pitching and just enough hitting. It was a nice win.”

The team collected eight hits off pitchers Joe Lang (North Allegheny) and Zach Allen (Freeport) and led 4-0 in the fourth before the Independent Players attempted a rally.

Nulph came on in the bottom of the fourth in relief of starter Jett Slepak. With one run already home, he inherited a bases-loaded situation with no outs and struck out Phillip Walsh (Burrell), Mullin and Wood to get out of the jam.

He retired the Independent Players in order in the fifth before giving up the two sixth-inning runs. Billy Kwiatkowski (Fox Chapel) led off the sixth with a walk and later scored on a balk. Tom Fravel (Fox Chapel) singled home the Independent Players’ second run of the frame.

Allen finished with two of the Independent Players’ four hits and scored two of his team’s three runs.

Slepek didn’t allow a hit over the first three innings and finished with two hits and four walks allowed while striking out five. He collected what proved to be a key first-inning RBI as he singled home Seth Helgert with the first run of the contest.

Wednesday’s game also was the first one in the league for the Independent Players, managed by Valley head coach Jim Basilone. The team also plays in the Pittsburgh Prospect League.

Basilone said despite falling to 0-4 overall, the team has played four competitive games and is getting close to tasting victory. The Independent Players host Kiski Area on Thursday at 6 p.m.

“We went up there and just weren’t ready to hit,” Basilone said of his lineup’s performance at the plate against the Summer Rams.

“We have to be able to make contact when fastballs are right there. We just didn’t get it done tonight. We’re losing by one or two runs each game, so we’re almost there. We’ll get there. It’s still early.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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