PLYMOUTH >> For the past couple of years, Perkiomen Valley has been a major thorn in Avon Grove’s side. The Vikings left the Red Devils short of a District 1 title two straight years, knocking them out on semifinals in 2015, and then in the finals last year. All despite Avon Grove holding the higher seed both seasons.
This season, though, tenth-seeded Avon Grove has plowed through the District 1 Class 6A bracket like a team on a mission to show everyone that seeding doesn’t matter even a little bit.
With Rachel Butler throwing her second gem in as many days, this one a two-hit shutout, and the Devils coming up with some timely hitting, Avon Grove got the monkey off its back, topping the Vikings 3-0 for the district title Thursday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
“We’ve been referred to as underdogs most of the season,” said Butler, one of the few Red Devils around for the last Avon Grove District championship back in 2014 when they beat North Penn in the title game. “But I think we’ve really been making a name for ourselves. It feels amazing to be back here again and to get the win.”
The game was scoreless through four, though the Vikings had a couple early threats, putting runners in scoring position in the first, second and fourth innings, thanks in no small part to Avon Grove miscues with the gloves. Of those runners, only Ashley Bangert (1-for-3) reached on a base hit.
Avon Grove broke the scoring drought in the fifth. Carly Raymond led off the inning, and drilled a ball to the fence in right, and came in with a stand-up triple. After Cam Laterza walked, Mack Vansciver dropped down a beautiful bunt, and Raymond scored on the throw to first. Laura Thompson followed with a bunt of her own to load the bases, and Megan Nolan knocked in two with a single down the left-field line.
“All year long, everyone has been contributing to every win,” said Devils’ third baseman Allyson Wallauer. “If one part of the line-up doesn’t get it done, somebody else will pick us up and do what we need to get the win.”
Pitching with a lead, Butler knew the District 1 championship was theirs.
“The way things were working for me early in the game, I was really confident the game was ours,” said Butler, who picked up the win with no runs allowed on two hits in seven innings of work. “I was pretty sure we’d do what we needed to do to finish this one.”
The Vikings had one last gasp in the seventh, when Taylor Hamm stroked a two-out single to left, but wound up on third when the ball scooted through the left fielder’s legs and to the fence. But Butler induced a game-ending groundout on the next hitter.
“We’re not going to win many games when we have two hits,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Dan McLaughlin said. “They had the one big inning and when we did have a few scoring chances, we didn’t take advantage. You live by the sword, die by the sword. “You can’t wait until the end of the game all the time. Sooner or later it’s going to come back and bite you. That’s what happened today.”
After throwing back-to-back shutouts against two of the top hitting teams in District 1 in Coatesville and Perkiomen Valley, Butler’s confidence is growing by leaps and bounds. That has the Devils thinking they might have yet another two weeks to play. Maybe even a return trip to the state finals to see if they can reverse that result, too.
“Being able to get past those two line-ups two days in a row, I’m becoming more and more confident in my ability to get good hitters out,” said Butler. “And the way the whole team is playing, we can keep winning.”
Count coach Mike DiLuzio among the believers.
“I can’t say enough about the way Rachel has been pitching lately,” said DiLuzio. “She’s been in a groove. The whole team has really gelled, and play so well as a unit. They work hard, have fun, and perform when they have to. They are playing really well, and that can take a team very far.”