HATBORO >> The Hatboro-Horsham baseball team found itself in an unfamiliar position Wednesday afternoon. The Hatters looked at the scoreboard in the middle of the third inning and they were trailing.
The Suburban One League American Conference champs haven’t trailed in a meaningful game in almost a month. They had six straight shutout wins to close out their league season and now, in their playoff opener, they were behind.
But that didn’t last long.
The No. 2 seeded Hatters took the lead in the next half-inning and held on for a 5-4 win over No. 18 Avon Grove in the second round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs at Hatboro-Horsham High School.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning, the Hatters had a runner on second with two outs. Colin Kennedy singled to score Eddie Schultz and cut the deficit in half. That was followed by a textbook hit-and-run that took Avon Grove’s shortstop out of position and Drew Passerini singled to put runners on first and second.
Ryan O’Donnell followed and put the Hatters ahead for good. He hit a three-run homer over the left field fence to make it a 5-3 game. It was his second home run in the past week after hitting one in a non-conference game against Central Bucks West. Prior to that, he hadn’t hit a homer in four years.
“We knew we were going to have to face some adversity,” O’Donnell said of playing from behind. “As a team we were confident that we were going to overcome it. We didn’t know who was going to step up because each game someone else steps up.
“I got a fastball in and I just hopped on it first pitch. I found something I could drive.”
“We talked some (Tuesday) about in baseball you’re going to have to overcome adversity at some point,” Hatters coach Pete Moore said. “When they put up that three-spot against Edge (Hatboro pitcher Brian Edgington), that was a wake up call — wow, we’re going to have to do something. A lot of seniors in that lineup don’t want to stop playing with each other. They didn’t wait long to respond, we answered right back that next half-inning. That was really good to see.”
The Red Devils didn’t go down without a fight. Andrew Brady hit an RBI double in the top of the seventh inning to knock Edgington out of the game and cut Avon Grove’s deficit to one, 5-4, with runners on second and third and one out.
Kennedy entered the game for the Hatters and recorded a three-pitch save.
“It may have looked easier but it didn’t feel very easy,” Moore said. “(Colin’s) just a competitor, somebody that — like Edge (Edgington) — you have a lot of confidence in making moves like that. The ability to throw multiple pitches — he started both those kids with breaking balls. Two hitter and three hitter you figure they’re going to be aggressive up there with men in scoring position, so he started them both with breaking balls then got in on the last kid’s hands. Tremendous job by him to come in and have that kind of composure.”
Pat Campbell lined out to first for the second out and Shane Kelleher grounded out to first to end the game.
“You have to tip your hat to (Hatboro),” Avon Grove coach Tim Thompson said. “Had infield up and line drive to first. We had our opportunity. I was really proud of the fact that we didn’t quit, came back and kept playing hard all the way til the last out.”
Edgington got the win. He allowed four runs over 6.1 innings. He struck out five batters, walked one and surrendered nine hits.
Ryan Gerenser took the loss for Avon Grove. In five innings of work he gave up five runs on seven hits. He struck out two batters and walked one.
“Gerenser made the one mistake,” Thompson said. “You also have to tip your hat to Edgington, he pitched a really sweet game and stayed in it even when we hit him.”
The Red Devils sent all nine batters to the plate in the third inning when they took a 3-1 lead. Brady knocked in Ryan Arrell to tie the game at one and Matt Greenjack plated Matt Pettoruto and Brady to put his side ahead.
Edgington helped himself at the plate in the bottom of the second inning. He hit a two-out single to score O’Donnell and give the Hatters a 1-0 advantage.
Hatboro-Horsham will face No. 7 Perk Valley in the quarterfinals Friday after the Vikings beat No. 10 Garnet Valley, 2-1. Kennedy will be on the mound for the Hatters in a game where the winner earns a spot in the state playoffs and the loser goes home.
“This is a great group of guys and a group I’d like to make a similar run with,” Moore said, talking about his 2012 team that went to the state semifinals, “but we have to do it one at a time. That starts Friday. A win Friday gets us in the state tournament and that’s where our goal is. We’re going to come out — I know we’re going to have energy Friday. It’s going to be exciting.”
“Super confident,” O’Donnell said of the team going forward. “It’s not every day you get two pitchers like Brian and Colin going back-to-back.”
The loss brings Avon Grove’s season to an end. After missing the playoffs last year, they finished the season strong to earn the No. 18 seed in District 1 and beat No. 15 Conestoga, 10-0, in the first round.
“I’m happy,” Thompson said. “Proud of the guys. I think we made a little noise. (Hatboro) knows where Avon Grove is. So does Conestoga. We’ll be back. We have a lot of young guys coming back that showed a lot of promise.
“This year we really didn’t have any one guy that was the star. The whole team was just a good team. A lot of better-than-average players that knew baseball.”
Hatboro-Horsham 5, Avon Grove 4
Avon Grove 003 000 1 — 4
Hatboro-Horsham 014 000 x — 5
WP: Brian Edgington 6.1 IP 5 K 1 BB 9 H 4 R 4 ER
LP: Ryan Gerenser 5 IP 2 K 1 BB 7 H 5 R 5 ER
S: Colin Kennedy .2 IP 0 K 0 BB 0 H 0 R 0 ER
2B: AG: Andrew Brady.
HR: HH: Ryan O’Donnell.
TOP PHOTO: Hatboro-Horsham’s Ryan O’Donnell rounds the bases after hitting a go-ahead three-run home run in the third inning against Avon Grove in their District 1-6A second round game on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Jeff Davis/For Digital First Media)