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Late rally lifts Spring-Ford over Boyertown, 5-4

BOYERTOWN >> Even before he had the ice on his arm following last week’s season-opening win, Spring-Ford ace Conor Larkin had only one thing on his radar: the defending state champions.

Larkin delivered in timely fashion Monday afternoon, his two-run single putting the cap on Spring-Ford’s four-run rally in the top of the seventh inning during the Rams’ 5-4 comeback win over Boyertown at Bear Stadium.

“It’s a game I’ve personally been waiting for since last spring,” said Larkin. “Coach (Jamie Scheck) told me right after Methacton that I’d be up against Boyertown. Right then and there, my mindset was to prepare for this.”

Larkin got the start on the mound, where he was effective but gave way to four runs (three earned) across five innings of work. The right-hander struck out nine to go along with four scattered hits and a walk. Ryne Moore picked up the win with two hitless innings where he struck out two.

The win improves highly-touted Spring-Ford to 3-0 on the season while Boyertown (0-1) drops its Pioneer Athletic Conference opener for the third consecutive season.

Spring-Ford pitcher Conor Larkin delivers to the plate against Boyertown on April 3. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

It wasn’t the start to the season the defending PIAA Class AAAA (now 6A) champions were hoping for Monday. With experienced senior ace Pat Hohlfeld dealing with elbow issues to start the year, Boyertown turned to Mike ‘X’ Xanthopoulos for the start Monday.

“He did a good job,” said Boyertown head coach Todd Moyer of Xanthopoulos. “He changed speeds, he kept the ball down. He’s got pretty good off-speed that he can rely on.

“We have some other guys, like we saw,” added Moyer of being without Hohlfeld, “but obviously it’s tough to lose that guy.”

Boyertown’s Mike Raineri celebrates as he crosses the plate to score a run against Spring-Ford on April 3. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Boyertown’s pitching had Spring-Ford out of sync through the first six innings. Xanthopoulos got the start and limited Spring-Ford to just one run in 4-1/3 innings of work. The right-hander let up two hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts.

“I don’t want to say we looked defeated, but we looked baffled early on by their pitcher,” said Spring-Ford head coach Jamie Scheck. “I think finally, after things got rolling, we got up on them and relaxed a little bit.”

On a day where Larkin left the mound with his team facing a 4-1 deficit, the Rams certainly showed poise thereafter.

Leftfielder Nick Brauer opened up the top of the seventh inning with a lead-off double to straightaway center before coming around to score on catcher Sam Barletta’s RBI-single to right. Brad Clemens followed with a bunt single before Moore laid down sac-bunt-turned-hit to load up the bases. Jake Kelchner then drew a four-pitch walk to suddenly bring Spring-Ford within two.

Boyertown starting pitcher Mike Xanthopoulos delivers to the plate against Spring-Ford on April 3. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Two batters later, Larkin got the best of the Boyertown pitcher, winning out a long, drawn out at-bat with a bases-loaded two-run screamer back up the middle to suddenly give the Rams’ their first lead.

“We were uptight, guessing a lot at the plate,” said Larkin of Spring-Ford’s offensive approach early on. “When the time came, we were aggressive. We waited for our pitch and things happened.”

While Spring-Ford upped its aggression at the plate in the late stages, Moyer admits he’d have liked to see the same from the Bears.

“The pitches they (Spring-Ford) hit were off-speed,” he said. “They hung in there, good at-bats and they battled, but I think we could have been much more aggressive. We’ve got to be able to go right at them. It’s still early yet, but this was a really great high school game for March 3rd.”

Second baseman Michael Raineri was a bright spot at leadoff. He finished 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored while Jake DiCesare knocked an RBI-double in the bottom of the fourth before coming around to score in the inning.

It remains to be seen who will get the ball for the Rams the next time they meet Boyertown. If Monday is any indication, though, any Ram would welcome the chance, Larkin being at the front of the line.

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