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by Rick O’Brien, Philadelphia

So much for the anticipated rebuilding campaign.

 Despite losing several key starters from a team that won the PIAA District 1 Class 5A baseball title and advanced to the second round of states, Marple Newtown improved to 15-0 Wednesday with a 16-0, three-inning romp over Radnor.

“I’m not surprised by what we’ve done so far,” senior first baseman and pitcher Luke Zimmerman said Sunday. “We had a decent amount of talent coming back and we’re a confident group.”

 “The guys have responded well to having a bull’s-eye on their backs,” Marple Newtown coach Mark Jordan said. “Some team has to be the hunted one. They enjoy the challenge that goes with it.”

Zimmerman, a lefthanded thrower and batter, struck out 10 over five innings Monday in a  12-2 win at Garnet Valley.

The 6-foot, 215-pounder is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 56 whiffs in 35 innings. He mixes a fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up. “He’s good at locating, changing speeds, and varying the movement of his pitches,” Jordan said.

Zimmerman fanned 13 in a complete-game four-hitter in a 5-0 win at Strath Haven on April 9. He struck out seven and yielded only one hit in a 4-0 triumph at Conestoga nine days later.

The St. Joseph’s University recruit has also shined at the plate. He was batting .488 with 19 RBIs, 14 runs, five doubles, four home runs, and two triples through Monday.

“I really don’t take a break from getting swings in,” the 17-year-old from Broomall said. “I’m always hitting. I don’t want to lose my rhythm.”

The Tigers, who are 12-0 in Central League play, were batting .378 with 45 extra-base hits coming into this week. “The way we’ve been hitting has been pretty amazing,” Jordan said.

Junior shortstop Kevin Merrone was batting .564 with 20 RBIs and 20 runs through Monday. Next in line are junior outfielder and pitcher Alden Mathes (.540, 20 runs, 16 RBIs) and senior catcher and outfielder Luke Cantwell (.486, 16 RBIs). Cantwell’s sophomore brother, Andrew, is a starting outfielder and pitcher with a .364 batting average.

Zimmerman and Sean Standen have formed a solid one-two punch on the mound. Standen, a senior righthander who is likewise 5-0, has a 1.69 ERA and 22 K’s in 20 2/3 innings. “We knew Sean would help us out, but I never thought he would have five wins at this point of the season,” Jordan said.

Jordan is in his second stint at Marple Newtown. He guided the Tigers from 2007 to 2010, and switched to Radnor from 2011 to 2016. He led the Raiders to a district crown in 2016.

Marple Newtown has benefited greatly from having Jim Balk, who won more than 400 games in 35 years as Radnor’s head coach, as its pitching coach. Balk and Jordan have coached together for eight years at the two schools.

“He’s crazy good at what he does,” Jordan said. “He has so much knowledge to share with the kids, and he happily does it.”

Zimmerman, who spent two years at Cardinal O’Hara before transferring to Marple Newtown, is one of seven regulars who were part of the football squad. He was primarily an offensive lineman.