Phoenixville bows in state baseball opener

Blue Mountain's Shane Grapsy slides into home plate to score a run ahead of the tag of Phoenixville catcher Jack Ashburn during Tuesday's PIAA Class AAA playoff game at Pine Grove. (Photo by Barry Taglieber)

PINE GROVE - Phoenixville’s baseball team could not weave its come-from-behind magic this time around.

Not with Blue Mountain ace Jake Cryts throwing 90-mile per hour fastballs at them.

Phoenixville saw its excellent baseball season come to a close Tuesday afternoon by virtue of a 7-2 loss to the Eagles in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA State Tournament at Walter Stump Stadium.

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The District 1 champion Phantoms (16-9) managed just four hits on the day against Cryts and did not score their two runs until the top of the sixth inning.

Phoenixville had qualified for the trip to states by scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in a dramatic 8-7 victory over Upper Moreland at Skip Wilson Field on the Temple University Ambler Campus last Wednesday.

“We didn’t even put the ball in play,” said Phoenixville assistant coach Rob Huston, who was in charge of the Phantoms in the absence of head coach Jack Sturgeon, who served a one-game suspension after being ejected from the district title game for arguing a balk call.

“We shortened up. We wanted to get the bat on the ball. We focused on the fastball and were worried about his secondary pitches. He (Cryts) ws good, but we didn’t put the bat on the ball.”

Cryts struck out nine batters and walked three on 109 pitches in the complete game effort. He got plenty of support from his District 11 champion teammates, who banged out 11 hits against Phoenixville pitchers colin Ammon and Shane Allen.

Blue Mountain (14-10) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals against Neumann-Goretti (District 12-1), a 2-0 winner over Twin Valley (District 3-2).

The Eagles extended their winning streak to eight games after starting the year at 6-10. Making their fourth appearance in the state tourney in five years, the Eagles also beat last year’s District 1 winner, Upper Moreland, 5-3, in the first round of states a year ago at Spring-Ford’s Ram Stadium.

Blue Mountain also capitalized on five Phantom errors, including four in the third inning when the Eagles scored four runs on three hits to pull away.,

Joey Little (double), Jack Ashburn, Allen (triple) and Ryan Yenchick had hits for Phoenixville against Cryts, who is headed for Division I Binghamton University on a baseball scholarship.

Cryts, who also bats leadoff and is the ballclub’s top average hitter, swatted a solo home run over the left-center field fence to punctuate the performance with one out in the sixth inning.

“He (Cryts) was on today,” said Blue Mountain 20-year head coach Tom Kramer. “We use him as a pitcher and position player because he swings the bat. He played shortstop for us three years. This year we moved him all over. He was at third base, first base and center field. Today he was on and we backed him up offensively.”

Phoenixville junior outfielders Chris Demey and Yenchick will continue their seasons in the Carpenter Cup All-Star Classic in Philadelphia.

“We weren’t on our game today,” said Demey. “I was glad coach gave me the opportunity this year and I did make the most of it. Next year I will be back behind the plate.”

Next year We should have a good team (again). We will see what happens.”

Blue Mountain senior shortstop Nick Spotts finished 3-for-3 with three runs battetd in out of the No. 8 slot in the order.

Senior third baseman J.R. Karchner, senior first baseman Casey Watson and sophomore center fielder Shane Grapsy (double) had two-hit outings.

“We had a great season,” said Huston. “We won our district championship. That is something nobody can take away from the kids for the rest of their life. The district championship is what people will remember the most. They will not remember this game.”

NOTES

Ammon started on the mound for Phoenixville and went three innings, giving up six hits and six runs (two earned) with four strikeouts and no walks on 60 pitches. Allen relieved for three innings and yielded five hits and one earned run with three strikeouts and no walks on 44 pitches. ... Huston discounted the 1 1/2-hour bus ride to the Pottsville area, saying the Phantoms did a “great job” of handling that aspect of the trip.

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