PALMYRA – He has the face of an angel, the body of a basketball player, the composure of a fireman. And the heart of an assassin.
Bobby Dorta picked a fine time to pitch the game of his life – just when his team needed him the most.
On Thursday afternoon, the unflappable Dorta, a lanky sophomore righty, pitched the Palmyra baseball team to a 1-0 non-league win over West York, with the operative word there being ‘pitched’. Dorta scattered six hits, but more importantly made the pitches – and the plays – when the outcome was on the line.
And this wasn’t your typical late-season non-league contest. The atmosphere of the game was more akin to that of a playoff.
With the win, Palmyra, now 10-6 overall and currently ranked 11th in the District Three Class AAA power rankings, inched closer to securing a postseason berth. West York, the defending PIAA Class AAA champion, came in ranked sixth in the district, but slipped to 9-7 on the year.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Palmyra head coach John Karavage of Dorta. “But at 7:20 this morning he came into my class room, and I looked into his eyes and I knew he was going to pitch well. He woke up ready to play baseball today.
“It’s his work ethic too,” Karavage continued. “He’s pushing his hardest to be the best he can be. He’s a tall kid and his build is justifying his performance right now.”
“I completely remember that,” said Dorta of the early morning meeting with his coach. “I woke up this morning thinking about the game. I thought about it all during school. I couldn’t wait to play. I knew it was going to be a big game.
“I felt great,” Dorta added. “I was in the zone. I just tried to throw strikes and trust my fielders. I trust every one of those guys out there.”
But Dorta’s effectiveness was based on precision more than it was on power. Dorta fanned five and walked three in his route-going effort.
He also made the two errors made behind him meaningless.
“He threw great,” said Karavage of Dorta. “He was focused ever since I told him he was going to start yesterday (Wednesday). He’s a player. He’s got instincts.
“What he did today was locate his fastball,” added Karavage. “He was making them (the Bulldogs) hit the ball. His curve-ball was on today. He’s a tall, lanky kid and when all those things are flowing, he’s a heck of a pitcher.”
“I did good in those games too, by just pitching my game,” said Dorta of his previous outings. “Yeah, I guess you could say that this was my best game. But it was a team effort. It wasn’t about me.
“The key for me is throwing strikes and letting them (the Bulldogs) put the ball in play,” Dorta added. “I don’t need to strike everybody out. That’s not our game.”
Dorta protected the run his teammates gave him in the third inning like a bulldog.
“He’s a big, tall lefty,” said Karavage of West York starter Brandon Kinneman. “That’s (West York) a great program. They’re well-coached. And he threw well. When you can do things in practice, that’s one thing. But if you can learn it and do it in games, that’s huge.
“I thought our approach was good,” continued Karavage. “We hit the ball, and we’ve been practicing knowing the count. We should’ve had a few more runs, but we’re understanding the count. We want to hit. We’re a hitting team.”
“Every game is big,’ said Dorta. “We started off in a little bit of a slump. Now we’re putting it all together and we’re playing well,
“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time,” Dorta continued. “One inning at a time. One pitch at a time. And keep on grinding.”
Dorta retired the Bulldogs in order only once, but he didn’t surrender more than one hit in any of West York’s at-bats.
Dorta was at his finest in the sixth, after the Bulldogs had gotten a lead-off single to third with one out. On a squibber in front of the plate, Dorta fielded the ball, faked a throw to first base and then caught the runner too far off third for the second out of the inning.
“My job is to pitch for my team,” said Dorta. “We have a lot of good players on this team. I just want to get the job done, and when I get the opportunity, play to my full potential.”
“It was a big game. It doesn’t matter if it was a non-league game,” said Karavage. “We knew they (the Bulldogs) were in the top six of our (Class AAA) power rankings. They’re a good team. But beating a good team is what this team has been pushing to do. We play a lot of good team, but this game, at this point of the season, it’s a good way to start to a tough stretch.
“We’re a young team that’s putting everything together,” Karavage added. “Everything’s flowing. But we’ve got some tough games coming up. We’re on a stretch where we beat Manheim Central and now these guys. Our hitters are putting the ball in play, and we’re genuinely having a good time playing.”