Springfield edges Conestoga in rain-shortened district baseball opener
By Bruce Adams
TREDYFFRIN >> Minutes after No. 22 seed Springfield was declared the 4-3 winner over 11th seed Conestoga in a five-inning rain-shortened District One Class AAAA baseball playoff opener Monday, Cougar coach Brian Francis was subdued in victory.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Francis. “Here you have two good teams from the Central League, and it ends like this. Coach (Kevin) Pechin and I are good friends – he and I went to Penncrest together at the same time – and I coached some of the Stoga kids in the Carpenter Cup, and they’re good ballplayers.”
Springfield got some major help from Cougar pitcher Jared Morris, who picked up his fifth win (without a loss) and went 3-for-3 with a home run from the cleanup spot.
“Jared’s been steady, he’s been our leader all season,” said Francis.
Morris was in the middle of both of Springfield’s two-run rallies. In the top of the first inning, after Springfield shortstop Brandon DiChiachio singled and third baseman Nick Gorman walked, Morris stepped to the plate with one out and delivered a single to left to put the Cougars ahead 1-0. Springfield catcher Andrew Todaro then lofted a sacrifice fly to right to make it 2-0.
In the top of the third, Gorman drew a walk with one out, then Morris bombed a long home run to left to make the score 4-0.
Conestoga answered back with two runs in the bottom of the third. Pioneer catcher Luke Czepiel drew a walk, the third inning in a row that Conestoga got its leadoff hitter on base. With one out, on a 1-0 count, Conestoga pitcher Tim Miller ripped a home run over the left field wall to make the score 4-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, as storm clouds were brewing in the distance, Conestoga started another rally. Czepiel and center fielder Alex Lee drew back-to-back walks with no one out, and at that point Springfield moved Morris to left field, bringing in left fielder Mike Smith to pitch.
Miller forced Lee at second on a grounder to short, then Conestoga first baseman Tom Fogarty grounded to third to score pinch-runner Eric Hutchinson. After the next Conestoga batter made out to end the fifth inning, both teams were pulled off the field, as lightning was beginning to flash and rain was starting to fall.
Both teams moved to the Conestoga High School gyms to wait out the storm. The storm continued unabated, and the game was eventually called, and since five innings had been played, the contest was ruled complete and Conestoga’s season was over.
“This one hurts,” Pechin said. “I feel so bad for this group of seniors – this is the tightest group of seniors I’ve ever coached. I couldn’t be more proud of [our] seniors. To have a senior like Miller is really unique – not only is he blessed with amazing talent, but he works hard too.
“This was a good baseball game by both teams, a hard-fought game.”
Miller, who will playing baseball for the University of Richmond as a pitcher and infielder, said, “This was a tough loss, but our team got through a lot this year, and we’ll get through this. Our seniors really came together this year.”