W.C. East defeats Avon Grove on consecutive days as Rogers tosses shutout

WEST GROVE — West Chester East wasn’t expected to beat Avon Grove on consecutive days, not with Maggie Balint in the circle.

Even with the odds seemingly against them, the Vikings were up to the challenge.

“We might not have had five hits in the game to that point,’ said Vikings coach Chuck Lindsay. “But we played loose and we played like it doesn’t matter. I told them before the game that no one expects us to come here and beat a pitcher like (Maggie) Balint two days in a row, so just go out and have fun.

“Then we string a few hits together, three out of four to start the seventh, and here we are.’

On a dreary, damp and cold Wednesday afternoon, West Chester East strung together enough hits in the top of the seventh to break a scoreless tie with Avon Grove and held on for a 2-0 victory in a Ches-Mont National Division game with first place on the line.

The win gives the Vikings (5-2 league) a half-game lead in the National Division over the Red Devils (4-2 league), after defeating them in back-to-back days.

Locked in a pitchers’ duel over the first six innings, Vikings starter Olivia Rogers (7 IP, 0 R, 5H, 3K, 3BB) helped herself out, and led off the seventh with a triple deep into the gap in right center.

“All I wanted to do was stay positive and stay on top of the ball,’ said Rogers. “The few times I’ve even made contact against her I popped it up, so I just wanted to make good contact. I just knew I wanted to pick my teammates up and get us going offensively. I guess every dog has their day.’

Amelia Lark took a two-strike pitch up the middle to knock in the go-ahead run, putting East up 1-0.

“Lark is only a freshman,’ said Lindsay. “And she doesn’t care who’s pitching. She knows Balint’s all-world good, but she doesn’t care. She’s going to take my swings and see what happens. She knocked in two runs yesterday, and the winning run today. Nothing bothers her, and I love that about her.’

The Vikings weren’t done yet, though. After Lark was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Kyra Bond, Kristen Fuertes ripped a ball down the right field line, good enough to score Bond, and put the Vikings up 2-0.

Rogers then put the game away, retiring the first two hitters before issuing a two-out walk. The Red Devils’ Courtney Gall got hold of a pitch and hit a sinking liner to short center, but Steph Batog made a nice sliding catch to end the game.

“Olivia pitched a nice game for us today,’ said Lindsay. “She kept the ball down and when she keeps the ball down she keeps the runs down. You’re going to win a lot of games when you throw as many ground balls as she did today.’

Balint was solid in the circle, if not her usual dominant self. The Devils ace went the distance, allowing two runs on six hits. She struck out six, and walked just one.

On the offensive side, Courtney Coppock and Alyssa Herion each had a pair of hits.

Even with East winning its two biggest games of the season, the Vikings have plenty of upperclassmen to make sure they stays on stop of the Ches-Mont.

“We can’t think like that,’ said Lindsay. “You’ve got to realize we just came off probably our two worst games of the season. Yes, these are nice wins, but we can’t let them get in our heads. I’m sure you guys are going to write all about this tomorrow, and it will be fun to read, but the moment you start believing the hype is when things go bad for you.’

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