CHESTER >> After getting just three hits and two runs in a loss to Marple Newtown in the District 1 Class 5A championship game last week, Springfield baseball coach Brian Francis felt a change in the batting order was needed.
Francis wanted to pump some life into an offense that has had its ups and downs over the last two months and so Francis moved Brandon DiChiacchio from seventh to second, dropped Layne Kelly, Andrew Paulus and Andrew Todaro one spot in the lineup and switched Tom Quinn from fifth to seventh.
“We wanted Tommy to see more fastballs,” Francis said.
The lineup change paid off as the Cougars rolled over Franklin Towne Charter, 15-0, in the first round of the PIAA tournament Monday afternoon at Widener University.
Moving Quinn to the bottom third of the order was the most significant switch as he, Dave Bingaman and Greg Tamaccio were a combined 5-for-6 with six runs scored and four RBIs as the Cougars earned their first state playoff win since a 5-3 triumph over Middletown West in the quarterfinal round of the 2005 Class 3A tournament.
The Cougars (18-7) also took advantage of eight walks and two errors to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals against District 3 champ Cedar Cliff, a 3-1 winner over Mars, the No. 2 seed out of District 7. The site and time of the Springfield-Cedar Cliff game has not been determined.
“Tommy hit the ball hard,” Francis said. “We have a lot of seniors and they know what’s in front of them. Hopefully, we can get the chance to keep playing and move forward.”
Quinn went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He had a single and scored as the Cougars put six runs on the board in the bottom of the second inning and added two hits and two RBIs in a seven-run outburst in the third inning.
“We just tried to hit the ball hard,” Quinn said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit trying to get runs across the plate, but today we came out swinging.”
Bingaman was 1-for-2 with a pair of runs scored and one RBI, while Tamaccio had one hit, one RBI and two runs scored. The trio also had a pair of walks.
“Hitting is pretty contagious on our team and all it takes is one spark to ignite everyone in the lineup,” Bingaman said.
“I always tell Binger to start it off, I’ll get on and then Smitty (Mike Smith) will knock us in,” Tamaccio said. “Smitty does something every time we get on base.”
Smith, Springfield’s leadoff hitter, delivered as Quinn, Bingaman and Tamaccio turned the lineup over three times. Smith had a two-run double in the second inning, and walked and scored in the third and fourth innings.
“We know if we turn over the top of the lineup will get the job done,” Tamaccio said.
Quinn, Bingaman, Tamaccio and Smith weren’t the only ones to get it done at the plate for the Cougars. DiChiacchio did not have a hit, but was on base twice and scored both times. Will Messick came off the bench and laced a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the 15-run rule into effect.
And then there was starting pitcher Jared Morris, who put on a show at the plate as well as on the hill. Morris threw three perfect innings before he turned the game over to Dave Strawley. Morris fanned seven straight batters after a leadoff ground out.
“Jared threw the ball well,” Francis said. “He’s thrown the ball well all year. We expect that from him.”
Morris came out throwing strikes and never got out of that groove.
“With our defense I know don’t have to go out there and strike everybody out,” Morris said. “We have some of the best, if not the best, fielders in the area so as long as I’m throwing strikes I have all the confidence in the world in the team behind me.”
Morris only threw 39 pitches, which means he is available under the PIAA’s new pitch-count rules to throw Thursday.
“That’s huge,” assistant coach Steve Spratt said.
Morris, who also ripped a two-run single in the third inning, was not upset about being taken out with a perfect game.
“It was a smart decision,” Morris said. “You have to look at the bigger picture here. We’re trying to play three more games so you have to look at what’s good for the team.”
The decision to change up the batting order was done for the good of the team, too, and it paid off for the Cougars.
“I thought today was really important,” Tamaccio said. “It was a good confidence booster because we’ve struggled the past few games and hopefully we’ll come out Thursday and bring it to them again.”
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