GLEN ROCK — Mount Wolf's Mark Burnside and Glen Rock's Nick Cicio are exceptional left-handed pitchers.
They both throw fairly hard with decent movement and strong off-speed stuff. They also both tend to win more games than not.
They share another thing in common, too. A few years ago, Cicio was a coach for the Catonsville Community College baseball team at the same time that Burnside, a former York Catholic standout, was there.
Fast forward two years later. The apprentice and the mentor were on opposite sides to start the Central League Playoff Championship Series on Tuesday night in Game 1 at Glen Rock.
To no one's surprise, both southpaws were tough to hit.
Cicio, however, a one-time prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, had an ace up his sleeve — veteran Dan Rhodes.
Rhodes, who played on numerous Glen Rock clubs that won championships over his career, may not be the same player he was back then. But the 38 year old has never lost his good baseball sense. That paid off for his team against Burnside, when he stretched a single into a double. He later scored on a single when a ball was misplayed, helping 'The Rock' earn a 2-1 triumph.
Glen Rock, the regular-season champion, now leads the best-of-3 series, 1-0. Game 2 is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Mount Wolf.
Rhodes makes key play: "That's what we've done all year," Cicio said of Rhodes' heads-up play in the fifth inning. "Credit to Dan. He always plays with his head up. He's an inventor and that's what he does for the rest of the guys. He kind of teaches (the younger guys) to do that and that's what we've done all year."
On a night when much of the contest was played under a slow but steady rainfall, Rhodes ripped a one-out pitch from Burnside into the left-center gap. Glen Rock's captain ran hard the whole way and kicked it into gear for second when he saw center fielder Dan Dierdorff slide on the wet grass while attempting to cut the ball off.
After a foul out and a Burnside pitch that hit Dan Rogers in the back, Scott Merkel stroked a single into right. Rhodes was initially held up at third on the play, but the ball trickled past the Mount Wolf right fielder, allowing Rhodes to score the go-ahead run.
"That's the freaking captain coming through man," Glen Rock manager Marty Heyne said. "I didn't want to put any pinch runner in (for Rhodes). He still does good for his age."
Heyne was just as pleased with Merkel, who has helped anchor the team's offense in the No. 5 spot.
"That guy (Merkel) has been coming through for us all year," Heyne said. "(Batting) fifth is a good spot for him. He's a good all-around ballplayer."
Cicio vs. Burnside: Such was also the case with both Cicio (seven innings, three hits, one walk, eight strikeouts) and Burnside (six innings, seven hits, three walks, one strikeout). Both southpaws surrendered runs off of wild pitches, which was the extent of both teams' offenses for much of the night.
"This was a well-pitched game from both sides," Heyne said. "Burnie we struggle against him. And the fact that those two guys know each other is great, with how they got hooked up together down in Catonsville."
The two pitchers chatted with one another after the game, with each talking highly of the other.
"I wish I had his height," Cicio joked about the 6-foot, 6-inch Burnside. "But it's cool. I like chatting with him after the game. We go back a little bit."
Burnside gave credit to 'Coach' Cicio for a play that he pulled off in the sixth inning. With a runner on second and one out, Burnside snagged a comebacker up the middle. He pivoted toward second, ran at the runner and threw to the shortstop at second base to pick off the lead runner.
"He's a good coach," Burnside said. "And he's a good pitcher. I learned a lot from him. I mean, that play I made at second was because I learned that from him."
Troy Miller and Connor Hood each collected two hits for Glen Rock, while Burnside, Dustin Kuhn and Steve Pokopec were the only ones to get hits off Cicio.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.