PHOENIXVILLE - Cole Luzins began the game on the pitching mound. He wound up finishing it with a booming, bases-loaded double while batting for Phoenixville in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Luzins’ three-run double to the left field fence capped a four-run rally with one out in the ninth that gave the Athletics an 8-7 victory over visiting Westtown Monday night and allowed Phoenixville to stay alive in the double-elimination Chester County League playoffs.
The A’s faced unbeaten Lionville, which upended Spring City, 3-2; in the Final Four playoffs that began July 16 at Spring City’s Ram Stadium in the second game of a doubleheader. Avon Grove, which ousted regular season winner Downingtown, played Spring City in the first half of the twinbill.
The A’s defeated Lionville, 10-5, July 16 to stay alive in the tourney. Jordan Valenteen went 4-for-5 as Phoenixville erased a 4-1 deficit with an eight-run rally in the seventh inning to move into a meeting against Spring City 5 p.m. at Ram Stadium. The winner of the elimination game faced Lionville in the second game for the CCL title.
Left-hander Chris Kucewicz tossed five strong innings for the A’s in just his second outing of the summer. Dave Palmen closed out the last four innings.
Spring City stayed alive with a 3-1 win over Avon Grove. Louie Vining pitched 7 1/3 strong innings, and Angelo Kelly made a big play in left field to help lead the Red Sox.
“They are a good team,” said Luzins of the Express. “They battled. Again, we never gave up. We worked as a team. They are here for me and guys never gave up on me. They encouraged me. I love this team the way we play together. It was a battle, really something.
“We got great pitching from Palmen. He really helped me out and I am grateful.”
Offensively, Luzins finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs batted in and one run scored out of the number six slot in the order. He started the game on the mound and hurled the first five innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs with two strikeouts and five walks on 99 pitches before moving to third base.
Dave Palmen relieved for the last four innings and gave up four hits and two earned runs with two strikeouts and one walk to earn the victory.
Phoenixville broke out of a batting slump with 14 hits against three Westtown pitchers, namely left-hander Douglas Franks (six innings), Lawrence Kirk Jr. and Andrew Loucks, who started the game in center field before pitching the final 1.1 stanzas.
Phoenixville scored one run in the bottom of the third inning to take an early lead, but the Express (5-12) erased that by scoring five runs on three hits, one error and three walks while batting around in the top of the fifth.
The A’s put two more runs on the board in the sixth to cut the deficit tro 5-3 and then tacked on one more in the seventh to make it 5-4. Westtown cushioned its lead with two runs on three hits in the top half of the ninth before Phoenixville staged its dramatic game-winning uprising.
Rob Purcell, Jordan Valenteen and Chris Kucewicz each had two hits for the A’s. Joe Little scored two runs with one hit. Chris Demey, Kucewicz and Palmen, who slammed a run-scoring double in the sixth after one by Luzins, had the other RBI for the A’s. Purcell stole three bases and scored one run. Cameron Cook had one hit, one run and two steals.
Second baseman Stephen Valentine, Westtown’s No. 3 hitter, paced the Express attack with a 3-for-5 evening that included a double, triple and two runs scored. First baseman Brady Cotler had two hits, two RBI and one run. Conor Monigal went 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and run. Catcher Korey Leidheiser knocked in two runs with a double to left field in the fifth.
“It was the first one I got in a while so it felt really good,” said Luzins. “Everybody told me to get the next one and I was confident.”
Luzins unloaded on a 2-2 delivery that scored Little (safe on error), Demey (hit by pitch) and Kucewicz (single). Valenteen began the comeback with a walk on four pitches after Purcell lined out to second base to start the frame. Luc Luttman pinch-ran for Valenteen and came around to score on Kucewicz’s single.
“It was great to see Cole get a big hit,” said Phoenixville manager Joe Little. “It was nice to see because he has hit the ball and it has been caught all year. We’ve got a lot of fire in us, but sometimes we use it very strange ways. We didn’t quit.
“Dave gave it everything he had. Cole did a good job for five innings. He threw a bunch of pitches in the fifth (42) and that was tough. These are guys who haven’t thrown that much. They are not major leaguers. They are 18-year-olds.”
Little was pleased to see Phoenixville hit the ball hard throughout the game and found some holes after the Express took some other potential hits away early in the fray with some solid glove work.
“It was a good ballgame by both teams,” said Westtown first-year manager Jim Smedley, the former Kennett manager. “We are very young and Phoenxiville has some older players. Give Phoenixville credit for coming back and winning the game. Phoenixville is a good fastball-hitting team. They are a good hitting team. We knew that going into the game so we had to position ourselves to where the ball is going to go.”
Smedley heaped high praise on Valentine, his 19-year-old second baseman from Eastern University.
“Stephen Valentine is one of the best players in this league,” said Smedley. “He gives 150 percent every day. He is an even better young man than a player. I couldn’t be happier to coach him.”