LIONVILLE >> Ultimately, not getting there wasn’t an option.
At least that’s the way it seemed for the Spring City American Legion baseball team on the final day of the Pa. Region 3 tournament.
The Red Sox stacked the deck in their favor with an unbeaten run through the tournament and weren’t to be denied by upstart Wayne Wednesday morning at Downingtown East High School. Spring City shot ahead for good with a three-run seventh inning that resulted in a 6-3 victory to give the Red Sox a repeat Region 3 championship and a much-needed return trip to the Pa. Tournament.
“We have a lot of chemistry this year. It’s a great group of guys and we just keep rolling,” catcher Ryan Harvey said. “We’re hitting, we’re playing defense, we’re rolling on all cylinders right now.”
At 29-2 and on its way back to states, which will be held July 28-Aug. 1 at Bear Stadium in Boyertown, Spring City is showing why its core was highly-motivated to run it back after last season saw Chester County League and Region 3 championships but a surprising 0-2 stint in the Pa. tournament.
“From last year, it was really disappointing,” shortstop Brad Clemens said. “We have the fire behind us right now. We want to get it done this year.”
For players like Clemens, a Spring-Ford grad who played his freshman year at Eastern University in the spring, it’s their last chance to play with the same group of teammates they have had for many years. Or for Harvey, a Pope John Paul II graduate who attends Marist College but isn’t playing baseball, it’s a curtain call on his baseball career.
Spring City’s veteran core has taken individuals paths — for instance, Clemens is a Spring-Ford grad who started 32 games at Eastern in the spring while Harvey isn’t playing baseball — but each road leads back to Spring City baseball in the summer.
“There’s a group of us — Hughes, (Chris) Sparacino, Clemens, Kasey Caras and myself – that have played together almost our entire careers,” Harvey said of a group that linked up in 13-year-old Legion Prep. “We’ve been together and this is our last chance to do something together.
Harvey was the offensive hero for the Red Sox thanks to a pair of RBI doubles, including the would-be game-winning shot down the left-field line in the seventh inning that plated Patrick Jucker (hit by pitch) and triggered a three-run frame that included RBI singles by Coy Walters and Kasey Caras (2-for-4, 2 RBI).
“I’ve been in a slump for a really long time so it was really good to break out. I love playing playoff baseball and that’s when I feel I play best. I just thought it was the right time to break out,” Harvey said with a laugh.
Nick Price reached base in all four at-bats and was 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Spring City starter Thomas Hughes was solid over 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, three runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Every one of his pitches were working. He did a really good job,” said batterymate Harvey of Hughes. “He knows how to bear down. He’s a good pitcher who knows he can get people out no matter what’s the situation.”
Brad Clemens came up clutch in relief of Hughes to get out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth before a 1-2-3 seventh inning earned Spring City its celebration.
“My dad (assistant Todd Clemens) said, ‘Are you loose?’ Clemens said. “I didn’t know I was going to come in in that situation. But I was ready for it.
“In the dugout, I was telling everybody to calm me down. I asked Tom how to stay calm in this situation. He told me to believe in my ability and just throw strikes.”
It didn’t come easy, though, thanks to the surprising run of the Main Line League champions. Wayne, coached by Bryan Bendowski, entered its league playoffs as the No. 6 seed, yet commendably made its deepest run ever with a trip to the Region 3 championship round.
The deck was stacked against the Wolverines Wednesday with needing to defeat Spring City twice – the two met earlier in the tournament, a 10-0 Red Sox win – and only nine players suiting up due to injuries and other commitments.
Luke Kania (5 IP, 7 hits, 5 ER, 1 K, 2 BB) performed admirably while pitching five innings after being called into early relief in the second inning.
Wayne tied it 3-3 in the fifth on a leadoff double from Darian Pass; Cole Humes reaching on an error that plated a run and an RBI single by Evan Moore.
Wayne’s feel-good factor couldn’t derail Spring City’s apparent date with destiny though.
“It’s another championship, but this is not our end goal. We’re looking towards Mid-Atlantics — we’re trying to win this whole thing (the Pa. tournament),” Harvey said. “We got cut short last year with just having a bad run at the end. But this year I think we’re going to have a really good stretch. We’re playing good baseball right now so I think we can go deep.”
Spring City had to rally from a deficit in most of its regional games, which might be what pleased manager Mike Gancasz most.
“There’s never a point where they’re down without an opportunity to come back. They’ve proven that — in regionals we were down three of the five games we played and managed to fight back in each of them. That’s a tribute to the guys we have on the team. Up and down the lineup, guys are coming up with big hits and finding ways to get to the next guy. And we obviously have a pitching staff that can go deep.”