PIKELAND TIMUR >> This is a trend that Phoenixville wants.
But one is hard to shake.
For the second year in a row, the Phantoms opened the District 1-5A playoffs with a game at home. And once again, they were unable to parlay their starting advantage into a full post-season run, bowing out on Wednesday with a 2-0 loss to Strath Haven.
This time, Phoenixville (14-6) ran into the Panther unit backed by a full pitching from Alex Pak and an offense that could have yielded enough support for the junior southpaw.
It proved an abrupt end to another promising campaign, one marked by a 10-0 run over Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division – one good enough to earn the Phantoms a place in the Final Four playoffs – second division champions and fourth seed. in field 5A.
“The season goes from 0 to 100, then 100 to 0,” head coach Geoff Thomas said after meeting with the players for the end. “Stomach upset.”
Mr. bid for a full-game shutout was in the race with a 103-pitch cutoff. He entered seventh with 24 left, but Phoenixville scored with Wade Carruthers and Adam DeJesus beating each other with threats to his draft.
But the man left got the job done under the limit, driving the fly to second base and beating the last batter. The lineup for seven rounds listed five hits and four strikeouts, with no runs issued.
Strath Haven will host West Chester East’s eighth seed – a 10-6 win against seed Chichester – in Friday’s 5A semifinals.
“He’s definitely against it,” Strath Haven head coach Brian Fili admitted. “One of the reasons I call time is to give him a breath, settle him down. I also want him to know where he’s in the lineup. I want him to attack the eighth and ninth hitter, so it’s easy.
“Out eight and nine is great for us.”
Three, Phoenixville got the race to third base: In the second, with Dylan Antonini hitting double and taking a wild-pitched base closer; in the fourth, Drew Kingsbury reached base on error, stealing a second and moving up off Antonini grounder for third; and in Carruthers singles in seventh. Each time, Mr. and the Panther defense could leave the Phantoms empty.
“It’s a tough loss,” Thomas said. “This was the scenario in the last two games. The team was well trained. They made the races, and we didn’t.
Phoenixville got a strong pitching effort from Avery Schwartz. Completing a left-to-left match from starting pitchers, the junior caught Haven for four hits and a pair of runs while striking out four.
He was the victim of a higher pitch count coupled with the Panthers running in fifth place. He was replaced by Antonini after just 4-1 / 3 innings, during which he threw 93 pitches and touched for SH running with the help of hits by Sam Milligan (double) and Mike Valente.
“We preach all week,” Fili said. “We’ve struggled to score. We said if he got two strikes, he had to fight … wrong pitches, dug.
“A lot has to be done with extending the bat. He did the plan.”
To its credit, the Phoenixville defense played an important role in keeping the game going. Hudson Narcissus made some big catches in midfield, and catcher Nico Nattle twice forced baserunners in front of the plate while throwing out another in second base to end the third inning.
“This is Nico’s first year,” Thomas said. “He’s going to be a very successful player.”
Reveling at the solid core of returning pitchers – Schwartz and Antonini among them – Thomas admits to feeling sad about the departure of the team’s senior players to graduate in a couple of weeks.
“I will miss being with our seniors,” he said. “We had a huddle after the game, and there were some crying eyes.”
Strath Haven, meanwhile, are guaranteed at least two more games for the postseason in a continued bid for the district championship. You have to win only once to qualify for the state playoffs, with District 1 advancing three teams.
“We’re a young team that’s been around for a long time,” Fili said.
NOTE >> One force out Nattle on the plate came in the seventh, when he blocked off Milligan after the Panthers centerfielder slid around the front of the plate and called out to leave the basepath trying to return. “He knows how to block territory,” Thomas said. … Colin Bull threw seventh for Phoenixville. He and Antonini joined for a 2-2/3 inning of two-hit relief.