Royersford – Losing in the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A state tournament to District 1 fifth-place finisher Council Rock North Monday was a tough blow for newly-crowned district champion Avon Grove to take.
But as the dejected Red Devil players filed out of their dugout following the 9-5 defeat at Spring-Ford High School, Avon Grove head coach Mike Diluzio made an effort to put a positive spin on his team’s season.
“I have a lot of positive memories of this season – we got hot at the end of the season, with a long winning streak that ended with the district title,” said Diluzio, whose Red Devils (19-6) made the PIAA state tournament for the fifth consecutive year. “We have a young team, with only two seniors [Megan Nolan, Kelly Murphy]. They’re a great group of kids – they’ll be back.”
On Monday, Avon Grove left several baserunners stranded in the first couple of innings and fell behind for good in the third inning when Council Rock’s Sabrina Crane belted a two-run homer over the fence in straightway center field.
Meanwhile, Council Rock gradually kept building its lead, and was ahead 9-0 by the top of the sixth inning.
“Council Rock North made some great fielding plays early, and scored when they needed to,” said Diluzio. “We had runners on early, and didn’t score; but I’m proud of how our girls fought back [with five runs] at the end. Council Rock North is a hot team right now.”
Council Rock North head coach John Engelhardt said, “We knew that Avon Grove had [solid] hitters in spots one through nine, with six or seven kids batting over .400, so we had our work cut out for us.”
Like Avon Grove, CR North came into this game on a roll of sorts. In the District 1 playback, the Indians had to win two games in a row to earn the fifth (and final) berth in the state tournament, and they did it in heart-stopping fashion by edging Council Rock South 4-3 May 30 and then beating North Penn 5-4 June 1. Against North Penn, the Indians were trailing by two runs with two outs in the seventh inning before they began their winning rally.
“Our girls have no quit,” said Engelhardt. “They’re like the ‘Cardiac Kids.’ They’re a close-knit group that continues to battle. Our bats came alive today, and we played stress-free softball.”
Avon Grove threatened to score first, when in the bottom of the second inning, Camryn Laterza beat out an infield hit and Mack Van Sciver reached first on an infield error. But the Red Devils failed to bring them home.
In the top of the third, Council Rock went ahead 2-0 when Lauren Begg drew a one-out walk and Crane pounded her home run.
Avon Grove threatened to come back in the bottom of the third when Morgan DeFeo slapped an opposite-field single to left, then Allyson Wallauer drew a four-pitch walk. But a couple of infield outs followed.
Council Rock tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth on singles by Jenna Khantzian, Elena Calibeo and Riley Sheehy.
In the fifth, Taylor Amazeen cracked a double to left center, and Khantzian’s sacrifice fly to center scored courtesy runner Rachel Lorence to make it 5-0.
Avon Grove went down 1-2-3 in the fourth and fifth innings, as Khantzian, a sophomore hurler, was hitting her stride.
“Jenna’s composure is as good as any kid I’ve coached,” said Engelhardt. “She turns her anger into motivation.”
Khantzian was aided by a couple of good fielding plays in the middle innings. In the fourth, Crane, who will play softball next fall for Bryant University, pulled down a long fly ball; and in the fifth, second baseman Madison Tomlinson made a strong throw to retire Nolan on a close play at first.
“There is no better defensive center fielder around than Sabrina Crane,” said Engelhardt.
Khantzian drove in a couple of more runs in the top of the sixth inning with a solid double to left, and by the end of the half-inning, Council Rock North led 9-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, Avon Grove began a belated comeback. Wallauer led off the inning with a ringing double to left, moved to third on Rachel Butler’s deep fly to left center, and scored on a wild throw to the infield. Two batters later, Raymond ripped a shot over the center field fence, and the score was 9-2.
The Red Devils needed seven runs in the seventh inning to extend their season, and they made a decent run at it. Singles by Mack Van Sciver, Nolan and DeFeo loaded the bases with one out, and Wallauer’s deep fly out to right field scored a run to make it 9-3. Butler reached first on an error, scoring Nolan; then Olivia Kunitsky singled past second to score DeFeo. The tying run was on deck when the next batter lined out to first baseman Lauren Begg to end the game.
Council Rock North 9, Avon Grove 5
CR North ab r h bi Avon Grove ab r h bi
Sheehy rf 5 1 3 1 Nolan 2b 4 1 1 0
Begg 1b 4 2 2 1 DeFeo ss 4 1 3 0
Crane cf 1 2 1 2 Wallauer 1b 2 1 1 1
Briggs 3b 3 0 0 0 Butler p 4 0 0 1
Shields ss 4 0 0 1 Kunitsky c 4 0 1 1
Amazeen c 3 0 2 0 Raymond lf 4 1 1 1
Khantzian p 2 0 2 3 Laterza dp 3 0 1 0
Tomlinson 2b 3 0 0 0 Van Sciver rf 2 0 1 0
Calibeo dp 4 2 2 0 Thompson cf 2 0 0 0
Haynes 3b 0 0 0 0 Kristman 3b 0 0 0 0
Lorence pr 0 1 0 0 Murphy ph 1 1 0 0
Yoder pr 0 1 0 0
Totals 29 9 12 8 Totals 30 5 9 4
Council Rock North 002 214 0 — 9
Avon Grove 000 002 3 — 5
2B – Amazeen (CRN), Khantzian (CRN), Wallauer (AG); HR – Crane (CRN), Raymond (AG).
IP H R BB SO
Khantzian, W 7 9 5 0 3
Butler, L 7 12 9 5 5