LOWER POTTSGROVE >> It was not a situation conducive to maintenance of calm nerves.
Pottsgrove and Pottstown squared off Friday in the latest installment of the series between the neighboring Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals. Four lead changes in a three-inning span — none resulting in an advantage of more than two runs — added to the anxiety.
Somehow, Owen Morton worked through the tension and emotion to nail down an 8-7 victory for the Trojans (3-10 PAC, 3-12 overall). He did it by pitching two innings of two-hit relief, securing the slide-breaking win while facing a situation of the Falcons having the tying run 90 feet from home plate with two out in the bottom of the seventh.
“I just decided to go in and throw the ball,” the Pottstown junior said after getting the win for freshman teammate Brandon Gebhard. “We all have to do our jobs. I approached it calmly.”
Morton went through an up-and-down seventh while trying to end the bad dream of an eight-game losing streak spanning 2½ weeks. He walked Adam Girafalco and Alex Stump around recording the second out of the inning, with a wild pitch moving both runners into scoring position.
That put Pottstown’s one-run lead — a lead it regained with help on the strength of Josh Gery’s two-run double to left field in the top of the sixth — in jeopardy. But Morton responded by getting Nick DeCurtis to fly out to left for the game-clincher.
“I just cleared my head and pitched the next pitch,” Morton said. “I focused more on the batters than the baserunners.”
Pottstown took the game’s first lead with two runs in the second, adding another in the third. Pottsgrove (3-9, 3-11) answered with four runs in its half of the third for a 4-3 lead that held only until the Trojans plated another three in the fourth, with the Falcons putting up their own three-spot.
“What this shows is our resilience,” Pottstown head coach Jeff Evans said. “Back and forth … this season, we had some games like that where we didn’t battle back. Today we did, and it’s a nice thing for the team.”
Pottsgrove was two days removed from a 5-3 victory over Upper Merion that halted its own six-game slide. Bailey Delp, who came on in relief of starting pitcher Adam Girafalco with two outs in the fourth, absorbed the loss after Jake Eagle and Nate Camacho (singles) scored in the sixth off Gery’s two-bagger.
“Baseball is an emotional roller coaster,” Pottsgrove head coach Jamie Nash said. “We lost our focus, and it cost us.”
Pottstown’s first scoring surge was keyed by Dalton Mullen (2-for-4) driving Jimmy O’Donnell (walk), then coming home in turn on a wild pitch. Its third-inning run saw Engle score with help from loose play by the Pottsgrove defense.
“Coming out and spotting them three runs … you can’t give that up and have hopes of winning,” Nash said.
Pottsgrove’s rebound in the bottom of the third featured Adam Girafalco’s RBI double and a run-scoring single by DeCurtis. Austin Spencer and Stump scored other runs during the Falcon bataround.
Pottstown answered in the fourth with hits by Ron Fausnaught, Eagle (RBI double), Jimmy O’Donnell and Gery (RBI triple). Pottsgrove followed with a timely response of Noah Rimel and Dean Fiorini drawing bases-full walks after Pottstown starter Seth Yergey was pulled in favor of Gebhard.
“I was hoping not to run out of innings,” Evans said of his pitching rotation for the game. “We had a number of gut checks today, and we passed some of them. I always like to see our young guys take a big leap.”
The Falcons greeted Morton in the sixth with singles by DeCurtis (3-for-5) and Fiorini. But Pottstown was able to get out of the inning without harm.
“The kids battled,” Nash noted. “They were in the game at the end. You can’t teach that.”
Gery finished as the Trojans’ leading batter, going 3-for-4 with three RBI. Mullen, Morton and Eagle (three runs scored) chipped in with 2-for-4 showings.
“I’m proud of the way the kids hung in,” Evans said. “Winning is contagious, but sometimes losing is, too.”
NOTES >> Girafalco’s three-bagger led off the game for Pottsgrove. But he ended up stranded at third with Yergey coaxing two grounders to third and a fly out to right field. … Pottstown will be hosting Phoenixville Monday at Shantz Field. The game will mark the annual visit of the field’s namesake — Pottstown High legend Bobby Shantz — and recognize the school’s 1972 team, which finished as Ches-Mont League champions.