Caln – Avon Grove junior pitcher Rachel Butler picked a great time to hurl one of her best games of the season, limiting No. 3 seed Coatesville to three hits and no runs for a 2-0 win in the PIAA District 1 6A semifinals Wednesday at Caln Park.
With the victory, the 10th-seeded Red Devils (18-5) advance to the District 1 6A championship finals against No. 5 seed Perkiomen Valley Thursday at 4 p.m. at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. Perkiomen Valley reached its third district final in as many years by defeating top seed Spring-Ford, 5-1, Wednesday. Last year, Perkiomen defeated Avon Grove, 1-0, in the District 1 AAAA championship final.
Butler had to navigate through a tough Coatesville lineup which is batting .396 as a team, averaging nine runs a game, and featuring power hitters such as catcher Ashley Mendenhall (.488 batting average, 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 1.000 slugging percentage), pitcher Brianna White (.414 batting average, seven home runs, 828 slugging percentage) and shortstop Maggie Kane (.423 batting average, six home runs, .794 slugging percentage).
In fact, the Red Raiders (18-5) had played Avon Grove twice during the regular season, winning 17-6 and 5-3.
“Rachel pitched a phenomenal game today, and her catcher, Olivia Kunitsky, called a great game,” said Avon Grove head coach Mike Diluzio.
In addition to calling the pitches for Avon Grove, Kunitsky, a sophomore, is batting well over .400 this season, and was the starting catcher for the Red Devil squad that made it to the PIAA Class AAAA state finals last spring.
Butler, who has posted a 2.53 ERA and struck out 78 batters in 139 innings pitched, said, “[Kunitsky] called a nice game today. I was just trying to spin the ball on all my pitches so the defense could make the outs. My screwball and curve were getting the hitters off-balance today.
“I know it’s hard to beat a team three times, but still, we knew we had to play our hearts out today to beat Coatesville, and we did.”
The game shaped up early as a pitchers’ duel, as Butler and White, both first team All-Ches-Mont National League hurlers, retired the first eight batters of the game.
In the top of the second inning, Avon Grove left fielder Carly Raymond stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases empty, and on a 3-2 pitch she rapped the first hit of the game to right field. She moved to second when Mack Van Sciver beat out an infield hit, then Laura Thompson beat out a short hit in front of the plate to load the bases.
Kelly Murphy hit a bloop single that dropped into short right field, scoring both Avon Grove runs.
In the bottom of the second, Coatesville put two runners on when White drew a leadoff walk and Ella Vetter punched a single to right. With two outs and runners on second and third, Butler struck out Kayla Bock on a 3-2 pitch.
Avon Grove threatened in the top of the third when Butler drew a two-out walk and Kunitsky lined a single to left field. Raymond lofted a fly to short center that Coatesville center fielder Dominique Ricevuto made a nice running catch on to end the inning.
The Red Devils were retired in order in the top of the fourth (including a couple of groundouts to deep shortstop that Kane handled deftly), then Coatesville mounted a two-out threat in the bottom of the fourth. Vetter doubled to right field on a 1-2 pitch, then Maddie Fleming hit a dying quail that looked like it was going to drop in right field for a run-scoring hit.
Hard-hitting Avon Grove junior first baseman Allyson Wallauer, a first team All-Ches-Mont National League infielder who leads the Red Devils in extra-base hits, flashed some leather this time, making a leaping catch for the final out.
“That was a terrific catch,” said Coatesville head coach Bill Mendenhall. “We have a good hitting lineup, and I thought we hit some balls hard today, but Avon Grove made good defensive plays. Rachel threw a phenomenal game – her change-up was working really well. We were swinging [too] early in the count at times.”
Coatesville had the meat of its order up in the bottom of the sixth. Mendenhall, who is headed to LaSalle University to play softball in the fall, fouled out to Raymond in left field. White, who plans to play basketball and softball for Millersville University starting this fall, flied to right field, and Ricevuto popped to short.
In the bottom of the seventh, Vetter flied to center, Fleming lined out to left and Natalie Florschutz grounded to second baseman Megan Nolan, who threw to Wallauer for the game’s final out.