BOOTHWYN - The defending District 1-AAA baseball champions needed a three-inning surge at the end of the game to stay alive in the first round of this year’s opening round of postseason play.
Phoenixville scored seven runs during the final three innings to rally past host Chichester, 9-6, in a quarterfinal round contest Tuesday afternoon.
The fifth-seeded Phantoms trailed 6-2 after four innings against the fourth-seeded Eagles (12-5) from Delaware County. But on a day when both defenses played shaky to say the least, the Phantoms advanced to Thursday’s semifinal round against top-seeded Holy Ghost Prep, which defeated Upper Perkiomen, 16-9, in another first-round game.
Phoenixville held a 2-1 lead after three innings, but Chichester scored five runs on three hits and and three errors in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 6-2 lead that did not hold up.
“It feels sweet,” said Phoenixville junior third baseman Cole Luzins, who had three hits, two runs batted in, two runs scored and a walk out of the cleanup spot in the batting order. “Everybody was nervous, but they soothed over and we got the job done. We couldn’t be happier.”
Phoenixville collected 14 hits and turned the game in its favor with four runs on three hits and an error in the top of the sixth inning. The Phantoms also drew six walks issued by Chichester starting pitcfher Demetrius Muse, who hurled the first five innings before being relieved by Dan Lauser; and capitalized on six Eagles errors.
Chichester collected 10 hits and benefitted from six walks, five by starter Michael Anthony and one by reliever David Palmen, who picked up the win with two-plus innings of work. The Eagles also capitalized on five Phantom errors.
“It was like last year,” said Luzins. “We had a good comeback and to win is sweet. We couldn’t be happier. Everybody did their job.”
Phantom leadoff man Cameron Cook had two hits and one run scored. Joe Little finished 2-for-3 with four runs scored and one RBI. John Hopkins went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Anthony himself had one hit and two RBIs. He drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth and then knocked in Luzins with the go-ahead run with a one-kout single in the sixth.
“It was a great comeback,” said Anthony, a sophomore pitcher and center fielder. “This is great motivation for the rest of the way.
“I didn’t have my best stuff, but I was able to come up with a key hit at the end. I try to help my team win in any way I can. It is good experience for me. I am facing the hardest competition I faced all my life, and this will make me a better pitcher, hitter and all-around baseball player. I love to play the best competition.”
Phoenixville coach Jack Sturgeon was glad his ballclub survived to advance, but he did not like the way the Phantoms performed in a number of areas.
“It was a game when you really look at it, is a game we don’t usually win the game,” said Sturgeon. “I give our kids credit for staying in there. But I told the Chichester coach, they really deserved to win the game. They deserved it way more than we did. The comeback we had was nice and there was some clutch hitting. That is sort of how it goes sometimes.”
Sturgeon thought the Phantoms had one of their poorest defensive games of the season and also made some baserunning miscues, especially early in the game.
Phoenixville did turn three double plays defensively, including one to end the game with the bases loaded and one out. The Eagles also turned one DP.
Phoenixville stranded 13 baserunners and the hosts left nine men aboard.
“We gave them the momentum and they took it and ran with it for a while,” said Sturgeon. “We stayed close enough to have a chance to win if we made a run, and we did. We are not going to escape like that again and expect to win.”
Chichester shortstop Brian Baldwin went 3-for-4 with a fourth-inning double and one RBI. Second baseman Brett Wilson, the leadoff hitter, had two hits and two runs scored. ... Muse and Dan Murray also drove in runs for Chichester.