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Chester County Press

Balint's three-run homer and two-hit pitching leads Avon Grove to 10-0 win

03/31/2015 02:13PM ● By Richard Gaw
The harsh wind that whipped around Avon Grove High School late Monday afternoon was not reflective of the 57-degree temperature, and the thatchy brown grass of the girls' softball field was more indicative of late winter than early spring.

However, Avon Grove's Maggie Balint's performance against Coatesville proved that she was already in mid-season form.

In a game that was halted after five innings because of a ten-run "mercy rule," Balint tossed a two-hit gem while knocking a three-run home run, in leading the Red Devils to a 10-0 victory. The win gave Avon Grove its third win in three attempts on the early season, joining Sun Valley and East as the only undefeated teams in the Ches-Mont.

For all of Balint's attention-grabbing headlines, however, the real-break-out star for Avon Grove was in the play -- and possibly emergence -- of shortstop Logan Needham.

After Balint struck out the side in the top of the first -- three of the eight strikeouts she recorded on the day -- Needham led off in the bottom half of the first by drawing a walk. She promptly stole second base, then third, and was driven in for the game's first run on an opposite field single down the left field line by Courtney Coppock, who later scored on a wild pitch by Coatesville starter Alexis Lichtner.

In the second, Needham reached base on a bunt single, advanced to second on an infield single by Courtney Gall, and both came around on Balint's home run over the left center field wall, which spotted Avon Grove to an early 5-0 lead.

Needham continued her pesky on-base performance when in the bottom of the third, she reached first on an error by Coatesville third baseman Jackie Walsh. She then stole second, and scored on Gall・s single to center. In the fourth, Avon Grove catcher Alyssa Herion doubled off of the center field fence, and came in to score the Red Devils' seventh run on a single by first baseman Rachel Butler.

"Logan broke out today. It was a long time coming, and it was so great to see her finally be that player she knows she is,・ said Avon Grove Head Coach Julie Hatfield. "We have a handful of silent leaders -- like Logan -- who come through in the clutch in those big moments with timely hits."

In the bottom of the fifth against new Coatesville pitcher Laura Henry, Avon Grove finished its scoring -- and the game -- beginning with a lead-off single by left fielder Ally Volko, who moved to second on a ground out by Needham. Gall then drew a walk, and Coppock grounded out, moving Volko and Call to scoring position. The bases became loaded when Balint drew a walk, which set up another walk to Herion, which brought Volko in for the eighth run. Gall and Balint then tallied the Red Devils・ last two runs on Butler's single to right.

Although they are only a quick 3-0 start into the 2015 season, it is not too early to begin to make comparisons to the team that came before it, one that easily won the Ches-Mont handily and became the first Avon Grove team to reach the State finals. Although Balint, a junior, attracts the most attention for her pitching prowess, Hatfield said that the 2015 club is one defined -- and led -- by its senior corps of Herion, Gall, Coppock and Needham.

"I think hands down, our senior group has what it takes to take this team where we want to go," Hatfield said. "We preach that if everyone's a leader, we can all be leaders, and it would make our team that much stronger. It・s really starting to show. They're really starting to jell.

"This is our third game, so we're starting to see them come together, and they know each other well, which is an advantage on any team."

The Red Devils play at Kennett on April 1, while Coatesville, now 1-1, hosts Bayard Rustin on April 1.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected] .