WESTTOWN - A season of inconsistency came to a close for Phoenixville Sunday while Westtown advanced in the losers' bracket of the Chester County League playoffs.
Westtown scored a run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Athletics, 7-6, at West Chester Bayard Rustin High School in the second round of the tournament. The game was postponed due to rain Saturday afternoon and moved to late Sunday morning. Phoenixville, the seventh seed, saw its season come to a close at 13-13 overall while the Express (13-12) advanced to a meeting at top-seeded Caln later Sunday afternoon.
Phoenixville scored three runs in the top of the first inning but then managed just single runs in the fourth, fifth and top of the ninth on Shane Allen's game-tying solo home run over the center field fence..
Westtown answered with single runs in the first, second, fourth, fifth, two in the seventh and one in the ninth.
'In three of our last five games, we lost in our last at-bat,' said Phoenixville manager Joe Little, who completed his first year at the helm of the A's. 'We were close. Colin (pitcher Colin Ammon) deserved better. It is the little things that we are not doing like getting bunts down. There were two or three bunts that we didn't get down. I told the boys I believe they are a talented ballclub, but not so much without doing the little things. We haven't done that, includidng this game.'
As their final record indicated, the A's were up and down all year after winning the District 1-AAA title in high school and then getting a late start with the summer American Legion baseball program.
Left fielder Nick Miller went 4-for-4 with a solo home run, three runs scored and one run batted in to lead the Express 15-hit attack. Third baseman Dylan Jenkins finished 3-for-5 with a double and one RBI. Leadoff man Matt Gosik, the center fielder, went 2-for-5 with a solo home run. Shortstop Kevin Jewitt clubbed a third home run for the hosts and went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt, walk, two RBI and one run.
Winning pitcher Chris Catenacci hurled a complete game, scattering 10 hits, with three earned runs, five strikeouts and five walks on 123 pitches.
Ammon also went the whole game with four strikeouts and two walks on 124 pitches.
In the decisive bottom of the ninth, Westtown's Miller singled with one out and moved to second base on a wild pitch. Jewitt walked after working a full count with two foul balls. Jenkins bounced into a fielder's choice, putting runners at first and third with two outs. Right fielder Gary Gregory then singled to center field on an 0-1 pitch to drive home Miller with the winning run.
'That was a big win,' said Westtown manager Lee Brandon. 'The kids were up for this game. They had a little bit of fire today. It was good to see.'
Brandon praised Catenacci for working out of jams throughout the contest, either with strikeouts or the defense making plays. The Express turned three double plays during the victory.
The two sides had split their two games during the regular season.
'Offensively, we kept good pressure on,' said Brandon. 'That (Phoenixville) is a good baseball team. After Jewitt hit his home run, they still had fire as Allen hit a home run. But Catenacci stayed strong on the mound.'
Catcher Frank Siderio, first baseman Jeremy Belack and Jenkins slammed doubles for the Express.
The two sides split their two games during the regular season.
For the Athletics, Allen finished 3-for-5 with his homer, two runs scored and one RBI. Right fielder Tom Kawchak went 3-for-4 with one RBI.
Catenacci scattered the 10 hits and escaped trouble when he had to with strikeouts or help from his defense, which turned three double plays.
'Catenacci stood strong on the mound,' said Brandon. 'He didn't give up or give in.'
Ammon fanned four batters and walked two, and Little felt he deserved a better fate. He made 124 pitches.
In Westtown's decisive ninth inning, Miller singled to left field with one out. Jewitt walked, and Jenkins bounced into a fielder's choice, putting runners at first and third. Right fielder Gary Gregory then stroked a run-scoring single through the midddle on an 0-1 pitch to end the contest.
Little said another problem the A's showed this season was an ability to hold on to early leads. That factor also contributed to their inconsistency.
Little spoke about his first year in charge of the team.
'I had a lot of fun,' said Little. 'They are a great group of kids. I enjoyed coaching this group. I've enjoyed watching them play since they were 7 or 8 years old. It has been a joy watching them mature as baseball players and as young men.'
*** Phoenixville dropped its opening game in the CCL playoffs to Spring City, 13-3, in seven innings of their scheduled nine-inning game Friday evening at Ram Stadium.
The Athletics managed just three runs in the seventh inning on three hits. Joe Little, Shane Allen and Ryan Yenchick (RBI) had hits for the A's against Spring City pitcher Tyler Eckman, who struck out four and walked one.
Spring City's David Gulati went 4-for-4 with three triples, three RBI and two runs scored. Gulati, the Red Sox' shortstop, bats outs of the No. 6 position in the lineup usually.
'I want to go out there and hit every inning,' said Gulati. 'I want to put a good swing on the ball and hit it there wherever they weren't.'
Spring City's Richie Michaud, Cody Clarke and Louie Vining had two-hit games for the Red Sox. Michaud had a double and one RBI. Clarke had a double, triple, three RBI and two runs scored. Vinings had a double, RBI and run scored.
The Red Sox finished with 14 hits off Phoenixville pitchers Shane Allen and Bryan Furr.