The Athletics defeated the Norchester Bulldogs, 2-1, in eight innings Sunday to close out the year at 6-13 in the league (8-14 overall). The victory came on the heels of a 6-5 win over Paoli Saturday in Frazer.
"It was a nice way to end the season," said Phoenixville manager Jack Sturgeon, who is assisted by Geoff Thomas, Craig Jeffers and Jon Dellaquila. "We were a factor. It gives us an indication of how we improved this summer. We played teams who were working for something. We played two good teams who beat us before and beat them. It is a credit to all the kids that battled."
On a hot Sunday afternoon, Steve Cimino's single to left field plated Mike Gatlos with one out in the eighth inning to decide the issue.
The hit made a winner of left-hander Tom Pilcicki, who pitched a complete game three-hitter, giving up no earned runs with three strikeouts and three walks on 88 pitches. He outdueled Norchester southpaw Dan Willauer, who finished with a four-hitter, giving up no earned runs with four strikeouts and one walk on 93 pitches.
"It was two good pitcher's duels," Sturgeon said. "Both guys used off-speed stuff very well to keep hitters off balance. They kept the ball around the plate. Both teams were seeing what they had."
Norchester (12-5) scored its run in the top of the seventh inning. The Bulldogs are tied with Pottsgrove (14-5) in the loss column for the top seed in the Northern Division. Norchester has make-up games remaining against Spring City on the road tonight at 7 p.m. and at West Chester at 6 p.m. Tuesday. If the two ballclubs finished tied, there would be a special one-game playoff to resolve the top seed and automatic berth in the Region 3 Tournament. Downingtown won the Southern Division with a 14-5 mark and owns the tiebreaker against the Blue Jackets.
"It is very disappointing," said Norchester manager Corbin Stoltzfus. "Danny (Willauer) did more than I could have asked of him. The rest of the team did not show up behind him. He deserved a better fate. It's disappointing. We didn't hit all day. We have to work harder. This is a tough league. Every team has at least one guy who can shut you down. We weren't mentally prepared."
Phoenixville scored single runs in the fifth and eighth. In the fifth, Jeff Fortmann reached base on a two-base error, took third on Tom Pilcicki's sacrifice bunt and scored on Jeff King's double to right-center field.
King is the lone graduating 19-year-old from the A's team that was present Sunday. King, who attended Haverford School, will be continuing his baseball career at Union College.
"Jeff got us a key hit to get us a key run," Sturgeon said. "He has been struggling a little bit this summer, but he came through with a big hit."
Sturgeon applauded Tom Pilcicki, his ace workhorse throughout the high school and Legion campaigns.
"Tommy had a nice season," Sturgeon said. "It was a good way for him to go out. He pitched real good games for us this summer to cap it off. He became a real good pitcher, mixing his pitches well. He pitched seven innings every time he went out there. He became a smart pitcher and set the hitters up."
Sturgeon said the difference in the A's not reaching the playoffs was having enough experienced pitching behind Tom Pilcicki. Younger brother Evan Pilcicki, Steve Cimino and Jeff Fortmann improved as the season progressed and they gained experience.
"We have to develop more pitchers in our system," Sturgeon said. "We had some guys not come out and we are one of the smallest areas so it hurts us more than most programs. You need five to seven pitchers in Legion and we had three or four with young kids who gained experience.
"Year in, year out, we battled all the teams. It was tough. We lost a lot of close games when we didn't have a reliever in the sixth and seventh innings."
NOTES ... Phoenixville leadoff man Huston Mattson went 2-for-3. ... The A's turned a pair of double plays, and shortstop Garrett Grejdus made a leaping stab to rob Will Kropp of a hit in the eighth inning. ... George Kochu, Ryan May and Willauer had hits for the Bulldogs.