By BARRY SANKEY
ROYERSFORD - Erratic play has been the synopsis of Phoenixville's baseball season.
Up one game and down the next or streaky play in both cases.
It happened again Monday afternoon in what turned out to be the Phantoms' season finale against Northeastern York, 12-7, in the first round of the PIAA Class AA state tournament at Spring-Ford High School's Ram Stadium.
Mistakes, especially three errors and another misplayed fly ball, cost the District 1 champions considerably in a game that featured three grand slam home runs, two by the District 3 runners-up Bobcats (21-4) and one by the Phantoms' Dan Gallagher.
Phoenixville (13-11) found itself in a 6-0 hole in the fourth inning before the locals rallied to take a short-lived 7-6 lead with five runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth.
"Defense was the difference in the game," said Phoenixville coach Jack Sturgeon. "There were three or four routine plays that you have to make. Not fancy plays, but routine plays. They (Bobcats) are a good hitting team and you can't give extra outs to them."
The Bobcats won the contest with six runs on two hits, a throwing error and three walks in the top of the seventh inning. They batted around in the process.
The Bobcats recorded nine hits with grand slams by Josh Reeser in the second inning and Nate Fry in the seventh. Chris Deitrick added a solo shot in the fourth inning. Catcher Derek Kline also had a big day for the winners, going 4-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored.
Mike Schaaf started on the mound for the Phantoms and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up two hits and four earned runs with two walks and no strikeouts. Mike Wagner relieved for 5 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and eight runs, two of them earned, with six strikeouts and five walks for the loss. Tom Pilcicki came on to register the last out.
Fry started on the hill for Northeastern York and he hurled 4 1/3 innings, with five hits and seven earned runs, five walks and no strikeouts. Left-hander Jon Malehorn came in from left field and relieved for the victory. He blanked the Phantoms on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Phantoms catcher Baron Ferguson picked up a pair of hits, one a double to center field, a walk and sacrifice bunt. Shortstop Andy Campbell also rapped a run-scoring double to put the Phantoms on the scoreboard in the fourth inning.
After Campbell's double, designated hitter Bill Shirk and Mike Dettra drew walks to load the bases. Junior left fielder Gallagher, the No. 8 batter, then jacked his grand slam over the right field fence 340 feet away on a 3-2 pitch to give Phoenixville new life.
"Danny Gallagher has picked us up all year," Sturgeon said. "He probably deserved to be moved up in the lineup. But he hits well out of that spot all year, especially for a small guy like he is. Danny had been fouling the ball down the line. They kept pitching him inside, and he turned on one like he can. They didn't expect it."
Shirk and Dettra stroked RBI hits to give the Phantoms the lead with two outs in the fifth inning.
"To be down 6-0 in a state game and come back and take the lead says something about the character of the kids," Sturgeon said. "Mike (Wagner) ran out of gas. He was doing a good job, but it was his second complete game in a week."
Wagner pitched Phoenixville's 11-1 victory over Harriton in Thursday's district title game.
The Phantoms dropped two infield popups and misplayed a third into a hit that figured in scoring in the third and fourth innings.
Northeastern York coach Don Kauffman said his club lost a 4-3 encounter to Brandywine Heights for the District 3 title. This time the Bobcats reversed their fortunes in the last stanza.
"These guys showed a lot of heart," Kauffman said. "Today we were up 6-0 and Phoenixville made a heckuva comeback. We got flat and had to make a move.
"They are pretty resilient kids. We have had some good, tight games where we came from behind. The guys really responded well. We put the ball in play. The team that has the least amount of mistakes is going to win."