Every at-bat can help determine outcomes, like Avon Grove's 2-1 victory over Phoenixville in Chester County League action Wednesday night at "Doc" Kennedy Field.
Offensive execution or a lack of it can mean as much as other mistakes. That flaw cost the Steelmen (0-2) in the American Legion setback to the Stallions (2-3).
Avon Grove right-hander Sam Heaps and Phoenixville lefty Tom Pilcicki locked up in a pitcher's duel. Both sides hit some balls hard that were right at fielders and caught.
The Stallions scored single runs in the first and third innings. The Steelmen scored in the third. Each team stranded six baserunners.
Heaps scattered seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk on 117 pitches. Pilcicki yielded five hits and one earned run with two strikeouts and three walks on 102 pitches.
"The thing we were preaching after the game," Phoenixville coach Jack Sturgeon said, "is that in a baseball game every at-bat, every inning is a different situation. Our young guys, and all the way through, have to realize you might be asked to do something different each time up. It might be moving a runner, putting the ball in play or bunting. There were two or three situations that called for that and we didn't get it done.
"The game is very intricate. In one-run games that are low-scoring you have to understand what it takes."
Phoenixville third baseman Buck Schaaf, the cleanup batter, went 2-for-3. Leadoff man Ron Puryear lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Andy Campbell (single) for the Steelmen's run.
Ben Wendle had two hits and one RBI for Avon Grove, also out of the No. 4 position in the order. Jared Stanley walked and scored on a single by Wendle in the first inning.
In the third, with two outs, Scott Lamborn walked, took third on a Wendle hit and scored on a dropped fly ball in left field on a ball hit by Heaps.
"Kudos to Tommy (Pilcicki)," Sturgeon said. "He was in the strike zone in and out with his curveball. He did the job. They hit him in the first inning and then he shut them down the rest of the way. He did a real good job and deserved a better fate."
Sturgeon also praised Heaps' work.
"He had a good curveball and a decent splitter," he said. "We faced him a couple years. He's their ace and pitched a real good game. Two guys pitched a whale of a game out there."
Avon Grove manager Scott Lamborn was pleased with his club's second straight victory after three losses to start the campaign. The other victory came against Downingtown.
"Both teams hit the ball hard," Lamborn said. "That was a good game right down to the last batter.
"Sam has been playing for four years. He just gets stronger and stronger. He knows how to create ground balls and fly balls."
He said tighter defense has been the compelling factor in Avon Grove's resurgence.
"That's what you need," he said. "We're on the upswing. We're headed in the right direction. We started a prep program three years ago and that has really improved the quality of baseball in Avon Grove.
"We're competitive. We'll go right up against anybody (in the CCL). I don't think we'll get blown out. It feels good to come out and play a game and be competitive throughout the year. All my guys play well. Everyone does their job."
Phoenixville missed a big opportunity in the sixth inning. Schaaf and Baron Ferguson stroked one-out singles and moved up a base on a wild pitch. Heaps escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
Phoenixville's non-league game against Birdsboro Friday has been cancelled. The Steelmen will play Conestoga at home at 1 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, they will travel to Ram Stadium to play Spring City in a 6 p.m. start.