Three Avon Grove hurlers toss 4-0 shutout
04/19/2016 12:04PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
Three weeks into the 2016 Ches-Mont season, there was probably not a player or a coach associated with this year's Avon Grove baseball team who did not believe – if only for a moment – that the club's 0-7 start was a bellwether sign of what was to come.
They were the hard-luck kids, because five of those early losses came after the Red Devils were leading by one run going into the latter innings, but a four-run seventh inning that pulled out a win against Coatesville last week gave a glimmer of hope that the season could be salvaged.
On Monday afternoon, however, that glimmer of hope shone even brighter.
Behind the gutsy pitching of Alex Ei, Alex Gaydos and Ryan Gerenser – as well as timely hitting and slick fielding – Avon Grove defeated Downingtown East 4-0, for its second win of the season.
The Red Devils jumped on Downingtown starter Chris Donovan early, when lead-off hitter Andrew Brady led the game off with a walk, stole second, went to third on a sacrifice fly, and scored on a slap single by Ryan Guckin. With two on and two out and runners on second and third, Donovan induced Tom Jacobs to line out to short to end the first-inning threat.
Although he only logged the first three innings, Ei, a sophomore, showed the seasoned acumen of a senior, especially in the top of the second inning, when the Cougars mounted one of their only run-scoring threats of the game. Will Peiffer led off with a liner to right field, advanced to second on an interference call given to Avon Grove first baseman Luke Ferkler, and took third on an opposite side ground out. Ei then struck out Matt Szepanski on a change-up, and escaped trouble when right fielder Bryce Carey made a diving catch on a sinking liner by Austin Taylor.
Ei also got another helping hand from his defense in the top of the third, when a 4-6-3 double play started by Brent Griffin and Jim Farrow snuffed out a lead-off single by Albert Choi.
“Alex is a sophomore, and we know his strengths and he's just learning them,” said Avon Grove head coach Dave Whitcraft. “He threw a 3-2 change-up to one of their middle hitters, and it was just a thing of beauty. To have confidence in a sophomore to throw a change in that situation when you might be struggling with your fastball, is huge.”
Avon Grove notched another run in the fourth that began with a lead-off walk to Jacobs, who then went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Carey, an scored on a double to right center by designated hitter Matt Greenjack, one of three hits Greenjack had on the day.
While middle reliever Gaydos was tossing two innings of shut-out ball, Avon Grove pushed across its third run of the game in the fifth, when Guckin led off with a single to right. Ryan Arrell, pinch running for Guckin, then scampered to third on a failed attempt at a pick-off by Donovan, and scored on a chopper by Zach Long that went over the head of D-Town third baseman Chase Fike.
In the sixth, Greenjack led off with a single, went to second on a single by Brady, and came around on a ground rule double by Farrow, to close out Avon Grove scoring.
Closer Gerenser surrendered a two-out single to Kelsey Launi in the sixth, and saw Launi take third on an overthrow by Farrow on a grounder by Michael Rodriguez. Undaunted, Gerenser promptly struck out Fike to end the threat.
Whitcraft said the win showed signs of his young team's resiliency.
“I have to say, being 0-7 to start the season and losing five of those seven games by a run leading in the fifth and sixth inning can be devastating,” he said. “It's a credit to the players and coaching staff to keep our heads together and get better in bits and pieces.”
The Red Devils (2-7) will try to continue their winning ways when they travel to Octorara on April 22. On the same day, Downingtown East (5-5) travels to Kennett to play the Blue Demons.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.